FORMAFANTASMA, Anno Tropico at Peep-Hole in Milan
Anno Tropico is Peep-Hole’s first initiative in the field of design, exploring the border zones between this discipline and contemporary art research.
The practice of Formafantasma reflects a deep focus on the historical, political and social implications of design, and a critical approach to materials and their use in production. The duo’s research represents an interesting fusion between two schools of design with strong identities: Italian, connected to an idea of craftsmanship and tradition, and Dutch, viewing design as an artistic discipline based on research and innovation.
The exhibition created for Peep-Hole reflects the designers’ recent interest in the functional and expressive qualities of light, presenting a series of works made with different techniques and materials, together with a site-specific installation that shifts their experimentation onto an architectural scale.
The whole project is inserted in an environmental situation, which through the construction of wall-diaphragms corresponding to several windows screens and modulates the intensity of daylight. The nature of this work transforms not just the architecture but also the functioning of the exhibition space, in which the opening hours will vary depending on seasonal changes of the lighting.
Seen as a “material,” light is at the center of a complex research process that investigates the relationship between natural and artificial illumination, shifting from reference to traditional “unplugged” systems to contemporary innovations in LED lighting and optics.
The exhibition itinerary is organized on different levels. Drawings, models and a video establish a dialogue with a selection of finished objects, all created over the last year. These objects mark an important passage in the designers’ practice, now closer to the industrial sphere than to crafts. At the same time, the working models confirm that the procedure and approach are still based on intuition and experimentation.
These models narrate the path that comes prior to the invention of the finished objects: dichroic glass, optical lenses and a parabolic mirror, assembled with industrial materials like bricks and iron rods, shape the light, generating reflections and shadows in the space.
On the walls 3D renderings printed on millimeter paper reproduce details of the objects on display, superimposed on graphics and numerical data drawn with a pencil. The details of the lamps are isolated and described from close and unusual vantage points, while the lines that define their forms seem to extend, becoming hypothetical axes of diagrams that allude to an exponential consumption of energy: digital modeling is not used as a tool of simulation and clarity, but instead makes the objects barely recognizable and even vaguely grotesque. Rather than having an informative function regarding questions linked to environmental issues, the compositions and the data have the clear purpose of triggering a relation between the designer’s profession and his implicit participation in consumption and exploitation of natural resources.
Certainly in their results, if not in their intention, all the finished objects in the exhibition hover in a liminal dimension between work and object, to the extent that they come to grips, from a formal standpoint and in terms of the materials used, with the specificities of the sculptural language: the abstraction and geometry of absolute forms that link back to the archetypal forms of an artist like Brancusi, are accompanied by the use of one of the most traditional materials of sculpture – bronze – which is applied, however, for its intrinsic characteristics of weight and reflection.
In formal terms most of the objects have been designed starting with circles and circular structures, reminiscent of astronomical rings and the armillary sphere used in the past to monitor the transformations of the cosmos. This takes us back to the video, installed at the end of the exhibition route, conveying its theoretical premises. In Anno Tropico abstract lights and shadows alternate with the presence of more familiar elements, like the gesture of a hand moving objects: the experiments conducted by the designers in their studio to get acquainted with this new material are accompanied by an off-screen voice that describes luminous phenomena on a cosmological level. The soundtrack, based on a text written together with Edoardo Tescari, an astronomer at the University of Melbourne, shifts the subject matter onto a more philosophical, existential plane.
The video becomes a compendium of that continuous alternation between the universal and the particular, inspiration and project, idea and matter that characterizes the entire show, and in this dialectic the reasons behind the exhibition are articulated and revealed: to convey the process behind the creation of an object.
Lamps courtesy Galleria Giustini Stagetti, Roma, Studio Formafantasma
Concept, Design: Andrea Trimarchi, Simone Farresin
Development: Daniele Misso, Nicolas Veschaeve, Jeroen Van Der Gruiter
Video: Filming: Nicolas Verschaeve Editing: Daniele Misso
Voice: Paul Ponessa
Text: Dr Edoardo Tescari
Photo: ©2016 Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade
Peep-Hole – Via Stilicone 10 – 20154 Milan
17 February to 19 March 2016