The Speed of Light

Courtesy of Jake Dyson


The International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) kicks off tomorrow, bringing the whole lot from last month’s Il Salone del Mobile stateside. In Milan, we saw an exhibition stand made up from thousands of pieces of American Tulipwood (Established & Sons), a chair that is also a room (Studio Makkink & Bey), a lounge based on a drop of water (Amanda Levete), and Milan’s streets designed with sand (Muurbloem). We also saw a room-sized light show-meets-art installation, a collaboration by lighting artist Jason Bruges and lighting designer Jake Dyson. It was a mesmerizing light display where light oscillated between narrow and wide-angle beams, creating shapes and variant degrees of light and shadow on the walls-a timeless light kaleidoscope. The fluid art installation demonstrated the possibilities of Dyson’s exciting new light, the Motorlight a constantly changing light source he predicts will be seed to a lighting revolution.
Dyson’s father is Sir James Dyson, inventor of the “Dual Cyclone” bagless vacuum cleaner, and if junior stands out among a new generation of great inventors, it’s no doubt due at least in part to the inspiration and encouragement of his father, whose vacuum took nearly 20 years to reach the global market but upon arrival was a massive success. The Central Saint Martin’s graduate left the well-regarded art and design school with the intention of becoming an interior designer-though he’s quick to point out that he’s “an engineer, not a stylist”-and it was when designing interiors that he got his bright idea: “If you look at all the lights available in the high-end designer market, they’re [based] purely on beauty and aesthetics. [Lighting companies] haven’t really focused on what a light can do [and] the function of the light coming out of it,” he says. “I think that you should be able to offer something more from the product of a light fitting than just its beauty.”

Jake’s Motorlight offers both form and innovative function. This is how it works: the light revolves on its axis and twists at the circular joint while widening and narrowing its beam to cast a constantly changing light anywhere you like. It can stand as one light or be grouped with up to 300 lights on a wall or floor, and it can be programmed to dance continuously or controlled manually by remote control. “It makes a room breathe,” he says. “A room swells with light and then reduces and swells. It’s a bit like the sun moving around the building during the day… but it’s much quicker,” he explains. The idea is that it’s both sculptural and functional: On the transparent model, you literally see the movement of parts on the light, which look very similar to the inners of a clock, and then you see (and feel) the light change. “It’s very hypnotic,” Jake says and adds, “People stop watching TV; they stare at the light [instead]. They see the light change. They watch the movement.”

Apparently the seduction has begin, as Dyson’s Motorlight has hypnotized designer Alexander McQueen, who asked Dyson to create a Motorlight Wall in his store in Milan during Il Salone del Mobile and then again this holiday season in his store in New York, where Dyson will design a shooting star that changes shape. Dyson also has a following from design world barometer The Conran Shop, as well as orders from nightclubs, restaurants, museums and interior design firms.

This week, Dyson and Bruges are reinstalling an even bigger version of their “Focal Shift” light display installation at the Pomegranate Gallery this weekend, opposite the Moss store in Soho. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to see Dyson’s Motorlight in action.