Last month, during London Design Festival, Dan Tobin Smith and The Experience Machine’s multi-sensory spatial installation “VOID” opened in partnership with Gemfields, world leaders in sustainable mining.
The artist created a series of large-scale projections by capturing a variety of precious colored gems, including Mozambican rubies and Zambian emeralds from Gemfields’ mines. Light, moving image, and sound combine to create a meditative journey through nature and time.
During London Design Festival, Whitewall met with Smith to learn more about the project.
WHITEWALL: Tell us about the starting point for “VOID”?
DAN TOBIN SMITH: It started for me about ten years ago. I got a photo atlas of gems, compiled probably in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I looked at it for probably a good five years, not really knowing what I wanted to do with it. Then I did an editorial for a magazine called “On the Rocks.” I was shooting these stills and felt like there was more to distill.
At the time I was getting more into film. So, we started playing around with gemological microscopes. We mounted it on a digital cinema camera and we just started filming them. Immediately I knew there was something quite beautiful about the footage. We borrowed stones from the Natural History Museum, from other people, and began building up a library of work.
I wanted to make something a bit more out of it, so it wasn’t just a film that was on the internet but something bigger and spatial. We came up with this brilliant idea of extruding the light through these boxes.
WW: As you worked more and more in depth with the material, what did you discover?
DTS: What was interesting about filming gems and lighting them, getting into the nitty gritty, is there are things that they reveal the more you work with them, and the more time you give them. We found one stone would look totally different and reveal features that you just wouldn’t have seen by the naked eye—micro bubbles, fractures, a rainbow, shadows.
WW: And where do you see this project going?
DTS: We built it so that it can move and it’s quite adaptable. For me it’s like a big hobby, shooting the stones and collecting them. And we’re finding new ways of doing that. It’s one of those things that I think I might always do. I could imagine doing it in 20 years. I don’t think I’ll get bored of it.
WW: It looks very peaceful. Almost like meditative work.
DTS: Yeah, it’s very peaceful. It’s very nice, you’re sitting at a table, you have a cup of tea and you move the stones, getting into somewhere you know.