Vienna – Visitors to Vienna’s Kärntner Straße may be taken aback by the larger-than-life, seemingly breathing and dreaming female head positioned front-and-centre outside the Swarovski Kristallwelten store. Such hyperrealistic art depicting the human form – in its attempt to exist within a hair of reality – becomes surreal. Take, for example, the disconcerting, technically unbelievable sculptures of Ron Mueck or the eeriness of Gucci models holding their own 3D-printed heads down the runway. Activating an ilk sense of bended perception is something that fashion designer Iris van Herpen aspired to with the realization of five installations for the Swarovski store, which is celebrating its tenth birthday this year.
The Swarovski Kristallwelten store in Vienna is one of three in Austria in operation with the aim of fusing art and lifestyle to ‘transform [Swarovski] crystal into a living experience.’ Van Herpen’s work for the company gets straight to this point: Biomorphism – the body of installations created for the store – is the designer’s ode to the performance of femininity.
With this, one can perhaps recall back to gender studies classes of yesteryear: in her seminal 1949 book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir wrote, ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.’ Biomorphism expresses the processes of such a transformation through its thematic focus on movement and form.
Meant to evoke the fuzziness between reality and unreality experienced in the subconscious during lucid dreaming, the aforementioned glass sculpture by Valter Adam Casotto is fashioned after the real head of Dutch model Iekeliene Stange. It inhabits one of the five cubed vitrine spaces envisioned by van Herpen and set designer Rhea Thierstein.