Swedish design duo Front presents Seven Stories About Mirrors, an exhibition that explores the complex relationship between humans and their reflections.
On show at Galerie Kreo in Paris, the exhibition features seven mirrored objects that each represent a crucial stage in the development of the mirror, from the first ever use of reflective materials, to the evolution of glassblowing.
Front designers Sofia Lagerkvist and Anna Lindgren hope to show the scale of progress involved in this journey, and how it mirrors the evolution of humanity.
“From the first stone mirror made 8,000 years ago, the history of mirrors is laced with magic and poetry, luxury and vanity, myth and faith, medieval industrial espionage and modern psychology, craft and technological advances, culture and self-consciousness,” said the duo.
“In these pieces, we see humankind’s strong desire to find the perfect reflection of ourselves,” they continued.
“We also find mirrors as tools of divination, which – as well as artistic and technical achievements like the telescope and microscope – have given people the opportunity to see beyond what the naked eye can see.”
The chronology begins with Water Reflection Table, a design that evokes a natural pool of water – the natural phenomena through which humans would have first seen their reflections.
Lagerkvist and Lindgren created this by 3D-scanning a water puddle they found in a forest, which they turned into a mould for glass. Mounted as a tabletop, the glass has a lightly rippled surface, just like a real puddle.
Obsidian Mirror is a recreation of the oldest manmade mirror in history, produced from a drawing supplied by archaeologists from Cambridge University.
The mirror is made from obsidian, a volcanic stone, set in a silver case. The stone was shaped and polished by hand using clay and water, rather than with modern tools, as it would have been 8,000 years ago.
The historic use of metal for mirrors is reflected by Bronze Mirror, a trio of wall-hung mirrors.
Taking cues from ancient Chinese designs, these pieces feature decorative edges and are supported by a hand-crafted rope – a reference to the ribbons that wealthy people in China would use to attach these valuable objects to their clothing.
However, while their predecessors would have been made from pure bronze, which would require daily polishing, these three mirrors are actually made from bronze-tinted glass.
The Convex Mirror Vase tells the story of how the first glass mirrors were made in Ancient Rome, a technique that involved creating a blown-glass globe and cutting out a lens-shaped piece.
The next progression of this is shown by the Cut Mirror Vase, which shows the first technique for creating flat glass mirrors.
In the 13th century, glass would be blown into a cylinder and then unrolled, to create a flat plate. Front has created a mirrored vase that captures this process.
The Secret Mirror celebrates the Venetian glassmakers who moved to the island of Murano to safeguard their pioneering craft techniques, producing plate glass mirrors that were highly valued around the world.
Front collaborated with the Murano-based Barbini family, whose ancestor Gerolamo Barbini was one of the makers the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, to create a design that showcases the craft of plate glass.
The final piece in the exhibition brings us to the present day, where mirrors are now an everyday item.
Reflection Vase explores how a mirror image can take on a new purpose. This glass vase appears to be offering a reflection of its surroundings, when in fact – thanks to an innovative engraving technique – the image is fixed to a point in time.
Seven Stories About Mirrors is a research project that Front has been developing over the past five years.
While the design duo is best known for furniture designs they have produced for brands – for example, their Horse Lamp for Moooi, the Resting Animals for Vitra or their bent wood furniture for Gebrüder Thonet Vienna – they’re also interested in a more experimental approach to design.
“We were interested to follow and understand how an object transforms its function, value and status through history,” they concluded.
Seven Stories About Mirrors is on show from 20 May to 24 July at Galerie Kreo in Paris. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.
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