After working on stage shows for singers such as Adele, Kanye West and Beyonce, Stage Designer Es Devlin has created her first solo exhibition: a multi-sensory space inspired by scent, memory and spatial experience. This talented stage designer’s work is usually seen in theatres and huge arenas, and has designed for many famous artists as well as constructed sets for the Royal Opera House and the National Theatre. Interested in kinetic sculptures, her works mesh light and film into one installation experience. Her proudest feat, was working with Take That‘s creative director Kim Gavin to design elements of the closing ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Her latest piece of work, however, can be seen in a large warehouse behind the Bussey Building in Peckham. Commissioned by Chanel and i-D, Mirror Maze is a four room installation, using video projects and sound design to explore how memories can be triggered by scent. The installation is one of five projects as part of a new campaign celebrating women in the creative industries. To document each project, an accompanying website entitled The Fifth Sense has been created. Parallel to each project, interviews and editorials featuring other creatives will be uploaded to support and encourage the ideas behind the brief. “The brief was, ‘you can create anything you like as long as it has something to do with scent.” says Devlin.
The installation begins with a face-shaped entrance hole in a wall, leading to the maze. Inside, there’s a room filled with mirrors from floor to ceiling, soft grey carpets and staircases that lead nowhere. As visitors wander the space, reaching corridors and dead ends, their reflection is projected on to the walls around them.
Lost in a mirrored labyrinth of ones own reflection, a sense of confusion and disorientation begins to swallow you up as you attempt to figure which direction you need to go. Es Devlin states,
“It’s really an expression of how I feel when I’m wandering around backstage trying to find my way, often on the phone, and realising I’ve gotten entirely disorientated.”
A different room features an immersive projection of scenes in London, Paris, Rio and Los Angeles. There are shots of busy streets and cityscapes taken on Devlin’s iPhone and footage of her children, which eventually blur into a vivid mass of colour. An accompanying soundtrack combines ambient noise with whispered sentences and some powerful music, creating a beautiful yet unsettling experience.
The final room of the Mirror Maze is filled with a reddish glow and the scent of a perfume created by Chanel perfumier Olivier Polge, which is only available at the exhibition. Devlin wanted there to be a scent that only ‘existed’ in her installation, therefore people would create a memory from the scent, remembering the installation at the same time.
This incredible personal project, inspired not just by Devlin’s creative process but significant moments in her life, is a wonder to explore. The scent created by Polge combines orange and jasmine, a reference to the colours in the installation and a candle bought for Devlin, by her husband whilst they were dating. The personal touch allows visitors to immerse themselves into Devlin’s memories. The future is looking bright for Es Devlin, who is now working on two more projects for galleries, in addition to taking part in the Serpentine Gallery’s Miracle Marathon in October. The stage designer is also busy creating an installation for a Triennale in Genk, Belgium, which opens at the end of this month. HausMag will be on the look out.
Written by Amber Weaver
Edited by Sonia Wan
Visit the Chanel x i-D: Immersive Mirror Maze by Es Devlin at 133 Copeland Rd, London SE15 3SN, United Kingdom.