Design Academy Eindhoven Master graduates Formafantasma show two very different studies of vases at Spazio Rossana Orlandi in Milan.
Italian design curator Rossana Orlandi makes up her mind and acts on it – fast! At the recent Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, held October 17-25 2009, Orlandi visited the Academy’s Graduation Galleries and saw the work of Master graduates Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, who work together under the name Formafantasma.
The duo, both originally from Italy, explained how they met the curator, “It happened thanks to the Graduation Show at Design Academy Eindhoven where we were presenting our graduation project ‘Moulding Tradition’. We had the chance to explain our work to Rossana and she liked it. She is a really intuitive and a straight-forward person. It seems she knows exactly what she likes and what she doesn’t. The day after our meeting, she also decided to show in Milan the ‘Baked’ project featured at the exhibition ‘Getting Lost’ curated by BCXSY at the 4 Apostelen Atelier.” The show opened at the Spazio Rossana Orlandi on 29 October.
The ‘Moulding Tradition’ project came from looking at the role of craft in society, and specifically how craft can sometimes become locked into a tradition of repeating the same objects over and over again – forgetting its origins and meanings. Formafantasma studied the classic ceramic work from Caltagirone in Sicily, famous for its ‘teste di moro’ vases – copies of 17th century ceramic busts of Arab faces that refer back to the conquest of the island by Arabic forces in the early Middle Ages.
But as Formafatasma say “While craftsmen are working, making vases with African features referring back to the history of the 10th century, the same people that once occupied Sicily, bringing their culture and the material Majolica, are returning not as conquerors, but as immigrants. Every day during the summer, 500 clandestine travelers from Africa are disembarking at Lampedusa, a small Sicilian island in the middle of Mediterranean Sea.
“Based on a recent public-opinion poll, 65% of Italians believe that immigrants are "a danger for our culture and our religion". With a similar attitude towards change, craft maintains its constant repetition of objects which belong to the past.”
The duo have rethought the "teste di moro" and other traditional vases, based on the actual clandestine immigration from Africa to Lampedusa Island in Sicily. “The need to increase production speed in the craft production has impoverished details and finishing: most of the decors and handles are roughly applied on top of the vase. To avoid this way of working, we decided to emphasise it; all the elements are applied with an external material such as rubber bands, ribbons etc… “
“All the faces depicted in the ”Teste di moro” vases are characters from an unknown story.Instead, all our new designs are different portraits of an existing person. In this way, we substituted the fiction with an element of reality in order to stimulate questions and conflicts in the viewer. The traditional wine bottle has become the vehicle for us to speak about the use of clandestine immigrants for the Southern Italian fruit harvest, and the majolica flask is transformed in a personal object that shows the details of a trip from Nigeria and Lampedusa. Even the craftsman’s tools are now iconic elements to recall the African boats, now retired in the naval cemetery in Lampedusa.”
The second project Baked came from Formafantasma’s earlier work. “While we were working on our collection of vases, we decided to make some prototypes to check the proportions of a form we had designed. Not having anything else, we mixed together different ingredients we had in our kitchen, such as flour, salt, with coffee to simulate the earthenware colour. We later baked the result in our oven.”
“After that night the baked-bowl remained forgotten in our kitchen….Later on, when we were in Sicily to research on folklore for our thesis, we discovered a folk event in Salemi where bread is used as decoration for its sculptural quality and its symbolic value (Catholicism, sharing…). The invitation to be part to the exhibition ‘Getting Lost’, its topic and the venue (a church), somehow suggested us to continue working with this material waiting to be placed in a better context.
“We like the idea to play with the symmetry between the kitchen and workshop. In Baked, materials become ingredients, the kiln becomes an oven, plaster moulds substitute for cake moulds and so on…”
Moreover, Baked is a totally natural and sustainable project: the colours are obtained from filtering and boiling different natural products such as paprika, spinach, blueberries, coffee etc, it only requires low-temperature baking (50-70 degrees), it is totally biodegradable and the material doesn’t spoil because of the use of spices and salt as natural preservatives. We consider Baked as a work in progress.”
The duo finish by saying, “We are really enthusiastic about the idea of exhibiting in Spazio Rossana Orlandi: we see it has a really nice way to come back to Italy and present our work, considering that now our studio is based in Eindhoven.”
Moulding Tradition and Baked in at the Spazio Rossana Orlandi, Via Matteo Bandello 14/16, 20123 Milan until December 2009
Photography: Luisa Zanzani
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