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Material Experiments

Exhibition / Installation

V&A Project

17   —    18, 20   —    25 Sep 2022

Art / Collectibles, Materials

Victoria and Albert Museum

Cromwell Road

London

SW7 2RL

#omerarbel

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The John Madejski Garden at the Victoria & Albert Museum will transform into the site of an immersive, nine day glass-blowing performance of Omer Arbel’s sculpture series 113.

Canadian multidisciplinary artist Omer Arbel, founder of design and research studio Bocci, will be presenting Material Experiments at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. For the first time in the museum’s history, the John Madejski Garden will transform into an immersive glass-blowing studio, with Arbel’s iridescent, fragile sculpture 113 taking centre stage over the course of the nine-day demonstration. During the performance, common copper and glass antiquities procured from flea markets and vintage stores will be returned to their raw materials, and used to create a series of new 113 artefacts. A delicately intricate sculpture, 113 is created as a result of an ongoing series of experiments exploring the relationship between copper alloys and glass. 113 embodies the unexpected beauty of manipulating the two materials to create significant discrepancy in their respective rates of expansion. Over the course of the nine-day demonstration, the sculptures will be carried from the museum’s John Madejski Garden in several dignified, exalted processions, into the V&A’s Santa Chiara Chapel. In the creation of 113, a glass form is blown conventionally, then molten copper is poured into the hot glass vessel. Due to the stark differences in the two materials composition, the glass form shatters off during the cooling process, leaving behind a metallic shadow of itself. The metal, when hot, does not come in contact with oxygen on the glass side of the form, leaving an iridescent finish; creating an eye-catching contrast with the coarse oxidised finish found on the inside surface. This research process has been meticulously documented in Arbel’s monograph, Omer Arbel - a dynamic, highly visual, and in-depth study of the celebrated multi-disciplinary artist and designer. The monograph, published by Phaidon, captures Arbel’s varied output, bringing together twenty of his signature projects across sculpture, lighting, industrial design, and architecture. These works demonstrate Arbel’s signature process, which is to let the intrinsic properties of a given material suggest its form, rather than impose an external idea of form upon the material. What remains of 113 are the shattered fragments of glass, and the delicate beauty of wafer-thin, fragile sculpture, like an archaeological artefact. “For many years, I have been researching and experimenting with fabrication processes, searching for novel methods that yield unique form. For 113, I explored coaxing molten glass and copper to interact in such a way that creates form neither material could achieve on its own. The performance of this work, staged by the glass blowers, requires great skill and happens at great speed, with the glass and copper at first fusing when very hot, and then, as they cool, rejecting each other. The result is a completely unique artifact capturing, mid-process, an act of unpredictable circumstance. I was inspired by the seemingly infinite collection of wondrous artifacts at the V&A... I wondered what it might mean to literally use cultural relics as raw materials to make a new work of art.” - Omer Arbel