A beautiful and colorful abyss is swallowing up visitors at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. The art installation, called Mise-en-abyme (French for “placed into abyss”), is an interactive optical illusion that distorts the viewers’ sense of perspective. Designers Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale collaborated with Johnson Tiles to create Mise-en-abyme from gradated tiles and colored acrylic sheets that transform the bridge above the V&A’s Medieval and Renaissance galleries into an immersive tunnel.
Although Mise-en-abyme’s colorful semi-transparent panels stand in contrast to its pale cream surroundings, the design was largely inspired the nearby museum galleries, particularly the Renaissance and stained glass exhibits. The design team learned that perspective line drawing was created during the Renaissance period and used that discovery as the basis for their perspective-distorting design. The multicolored vertical acrylic panels are a nod to the common use of stained glass during the Renaissance period.
The immersive installation invites visitors to walk through the tunnel, which appears to look deeper and longer than it actually is. The designers achieve the exaggerated depth by cutting irregularly sized openings into the panels that gradually become smaller towards the end of the bridge. The acrylic sheets are tinted with different hues and overlap so that the tunnel appears steadily darker along the route. The changing sense of perspective is strengthened by the custom tiles that create a gradation of color along the gridded floor, transitioning from light to dark blue at the end of the tunnel.
“We wanted to create an abstract installation with a strong visual effect that is light and floating, in contrast to the heavy marble surroundings in these galleries,” say the designers. “Mise-en-abyme is not just something to look at. It is something to experience.” The installation was created as part of this year’s London Design Festival.
Photos by Liz Eve for Inhabitat unless otherwise noted