A Projector Creates Pixelated Portraits, Using Crystal and LEDs

With the advent of cloud computing, it’s become nearly impossible to find yourself victim of a “datapocalypse.” Our digital selves are, for better or worse, permanent. Or, as London design studio Troika puts it, “in an age of endless digital image reproduction there is no longer a need to remember.”

In an installation that opened this week at London Design Museum, Troika reflects on memory and forgetting in the digital age. Hardcoded Memory, at eight feet tall and six feet wide, is essentially a lo-tech projector. The mattress-sized structure is rigged with 858 Swarovski crystal lenses, each the size of a silver dollar. Behind each lens, a motorized LED projects light through the matrix of crystals, moving closer to create a smaller circle or further away to make a blurry dot. The lenses act as pixels, creating a set of fuzzy, vague portraits on the gallery wall.

The trio of British designers behind Troika (who’ve worked with Swarovski before) explain that by pointing out the ephemerality of digital information, the installation calls attention to the blind trust we put in our machines. “Hardcoded Memory stands a metaphor for the human search for meaning and continuity, while celebrating forgetting in the digital age,” they write. Their point is fairly explicit, writ large by the featureless faces on the wall: Information is transient, just like we are.

Hardcoded Memory is part of a new show at the Museum called Digital Crystal (sponsored by Swarovski, of course). The show is a chance for Swarovski to exhibit one-off pieces they’ve commissioned over the past few years. A crystal lantern from Yves Behar, for example, and a SMS-controlled light show that Ron Arad designed back in 2004, accompany newer commissions like Hardcoded Memory.

Check out more on Digital Crystal, which runs through January 13, here.KCD