Noam Dover and Michal Cederbaum 27.04.13

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In the basement of 19 Greek Street, two Israeli designers are showing off their new animatronic fruit bowl. When you fill it, a pressure sensor closes the bowl, enveloping the hoard like a Venus flytrap. As you hold your hand up to it, it unfurls and opens. "It's not very functional, I guess," says Dover, when I ask if the produce won't just tumble on to the table. "We're trying to create environments that are almost alive," he explains. "A room full of objects that can feel you or each other. We're interested in the ways in which we develop relations with and reflect ourselves in the objects that surround us."

Dover and Michal Cederbaum, a husband and wife team who founded their Tel Aviv design studio in 2009, have just created the props for a London International Mime Festival production at the Barbican. In Savanna: A Possible Landscape they have fabricated a marvellous robotic cast: a carnival of animals that includes a baby elephant called Johnny Walker; Eva, a large cormorant-like bird; caterpillars that bend sinuously over themselves; hyperactive snails with vision sensors for eyes and grasshoppers made out of old cassette players. These are constructed with servos originally intended for model aeroplanes, bits of plywood and other bric-a-brac. "They're not planned on the computer," Cederbaum says. "They're just made in the studio as craftwork." She describes them as "craft robotics".

The mother of the show's director, Amit Drori, devoted the final days of her life to trying to learn the piano. She never succeeded in mastering it to her satisfaction and, after her death, her son and the designers dismantled the beautiful instrument and recycled it in their automata. "The piano became a metaphor of disassembling things and reassembling them in a different way," Dover says. "It's actually very sad," Cederbaum adds. "It's very emotional, part of the process of his saying goodbye to his mother." The uncanny puppets are the stars of the show, their operators reduced to the role of stage handlers as the models perform their anthropomorphic dance of the dead.

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For their gallery show, Dover and Cederbaum (in collaboration with the London-based designer Yoav Reches) will exhibit objects that include a series of tailor-made vases, with seams left rough and unfinished, that are inspired by the silhouettes of Bedouin women when they carry large loads on their heads. There is also a table made of the shallow metal bowls used to bake pitta bread, and a shelf made out of clamps and long, bendy strips of supple steel. They are grateful for the opportunity to exhibit in central London. In Israel, Cederbaum says, "There are lots of designers but very few stages on which to showcase work, with only one gallery there devoted to design. There's a complex reality in Israel – it's kind of an island, quite culturally isolate."

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Mario del Curto



Christopher Turner

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We're interested in the ways in which we develop relations with and reflect ourselves in the objects that surround us

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