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On The Razor’s Edge: Superb ‘FOIL’ Installation at the V&A

The good thing about the London Design Festival is that plenty of events are open to the public for free. At the main entrance of the Victoria and Albert Museum, I actually realised the exhibition I was coming for was on until March 2017 which is why I decided to attend another talk chaired by the British design entrepreneur Benjamin Hubert, founder of the creative agency, 'Layer'. Layer delivers experience-driven design for both the physical and digital worlds, and on this occasion, Hubert has collaborated with iconic German brand Braun to create FOIL, an immersive installation located in the V&A’s Tapestry gallery.

Prior to the artist’s introduction, visitors were invited inside the room to soak in a beautiful atmosphere. Besides the warm lighting and the colossal artwork that dominates the Tapestry Gallery, the music, by Celer - a drone music duo based in Tokyo - is enchanting. The tune, ‘Plays Schubert’ seem to resonate perfectly with the movement and brilliance of the artwork.

FOIL comprises of 50,000 mirror-finish stainless steel panels glued individually on a 20-metre by 1.2-metre undulating ribbon. The ribbon runs down the length of the gallery, and is driven by a high powered German motor in a constant sine-wave motion. And 16 lights from LEDs reflect off the panelled surface to create a slowly morphing and evocative pattern of scattered light, moving across the walls and ceiling of the gallery.

The origin of this unusual piece is actually coming from an even more curious inspiration brainstormed six months ago in a coffee shop right next to the Museum…A shaver! The shape of the metallic elements resemble the Braun shaver foil and the movement of the art piece reminds us of the 360-degree movement of the Braun shaver head. Mini-triangles, a cutting mechanism and an excellent 'metal versus movement installation' embody a remarkable technology artwork embracing the spirit of the gallery.

‘The idea is to elevate and celebrate the foil finish on the next generation of Braun shavers,’ says Hubert. 'Layer' is actually specialised in Industrial design and it is the first time the agency is working on a proper artwork. ‘The shavers are industrialised consumer goods, and most people don’t appreciate the engineering that is behind individual elements. We thought it would be interesting to take inspiration from something that is often overlooked and create a highly engineered immersive experience.’

It’s in Room 94 that 'Layer' chose to display FOIL. Light, humidity and temperature are actually carefully controlled to three 15th century hunting tapestries. Visitors are immersed in a unique and emotionally engaging environment, which the multi-sensory installation further enhances. Braun will probably tour with FOIL in different parts of the world and display the next generation of Braun shavers that we will now see differently.

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