Through Kaleidoscope-o-rama, developed for the MECCA x NGV Women in Design Commission 2023 and presented as part of NGV Triennial 2023, Bethan Laura Wood explores the gendered history of acquiring and sharing knowledge through the lens of a kaleidoscope in this multi-piece installation.

The Commission includes two new major works: Kaleidoscope-o-rama, Carpet and Kaleidoscope-o-rama, Bookcase, each conceived in dialogue with Regency era (c. 1811–20) works from the NGV Collection and presented among an immersive audio-visual display.


As the centrepiece of her installation, Bethan focuses on creating a rotational bookcase, proportional to the stature of a woman this is a vessel for sharing knowledge.

Holding her selection of books, starting from regency to contemporary, she calls attention to the NGV & MECCA’s initiative for equal representation amongst its collection by intentionally including a minimum of 50% women-focused content.

The choice of this hexagonal of book case with accessibility from all directions, highlights  Bethan’s quest to find varying viewpoints. When in the past “viewing” has not been inherently multiple, but predominantly coming from the male’s eye. She wants to refocus on a 360-degree vision, an outlook/panorama taking into account different points of view.

This form also encourages a gathering around it, challenging the fear of a circle of women,  a prejudice these communities have historically evoked.

The surface patination is the result of developing bespoke veneer ‘book blocks’ with manufacturer Alpi. Each ‘book’ is made from stacking sheets of dyed timber, selected from their archive of colour stock. When pressed together and resliced this creates unique ‘graining ‘evoking the 18th-century passion for the imitation of highly decorative grained wood. However, this is a new material composed to tell a new history. Each block having its own unique visual story to share which is further drawn out by using bookmatch veneering placement to encourage one’s imagination.

The scale of the veneer ‘book blocks’ allows Bethan to work within systems of the mass but in a more abstract way,  Using the mini press, these veneer book blocks’ nod to both the start of industrialisation and categorisation of nature, in the run-up to mass manufacture and the crossroads we are at now,  where we are reassessing the systems and layers in place to reset a future more aware of its ecological impact.


Images by Emanuele Tortora, Stefan Giftthaler, Guglielmo Brambilla.

Video by Emanuele Tortora.