A company that supports the production of a work of art does something commendable. On the other hand, a company that becomes a co-producer of projects does something remarkable: it gets involved in the first person, taking all the risks involved. It is not easy, in fact, to avoid falling in the commercial when asking creatives to work on behalf of a brand. It is, however, highly necessary in order not to transform a cultural operation into a farce.
Alcantara succeeds very well, celebrating ten years of collaboration with the MAXXI in Rome in Venice, simultaneously with the Architecture Biennale which opens to the public tomorrow. It does so with Studio Visit. Alcantara-MAXXI Project (at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia until 2 June) an installation that tells a process even more than a content: as in a game of Chinese boxes, in fact, it is an exhibition on the exhibitions of the Studio Visit series created in the last 4 years between the Roman museum and Alcantara.
For Studio Visit, Dardi opened the MAXXI archives and asked 4 contemporary authors to interpret the work of a master: one operation per year for four years. A simple but brilliant idea: not only because it creates creative connections and short circuits between past and present but above all because it allows us to grasp the added value of a design look – that of the designers involved – on history, its meaning and the ideas it is possible to draw from it even today.
A game of references, therefore, almost of Chinese boxes. And in fact, the structures that welcome the 4 installations at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia are precisely the large boxes: each with a video that tells it and an audio support. There is the interpretation that Nanda Vigo has made of the stellar architecture of Paolo Soleri, the study on Pier Luigi Nervi and the concrete of the Formafantasma (who draw up a curious between the master's chip archive and an instagram account). There is the exaltation of the fantastic architecture of the 60s by Konstantin Grcic, who studied the works of Sergio Musumeci, Giuseppe Perugini and Maurizio Sacripanti and the contemporary one by Bernard Khoury. While the project by Neri&Hu, dedicated to the theme of the threshold in the works of Carlo Scarpa is still in progress (it will be presented at MAXXI later on), it is told as a making of.
The place is very suggestive, the videos are intriguing, the music perfectly centered for the accompanying concepts, the principles are well explained. But it is not in the individual creations that the value of this exhibition is found but in its opening a debate on the theme of curatorship and the telling of history. What is the difference between the gaze of a historian and that of a designer? What does a designer grasp of another designer's work compared to what the scholar or archivist sees? How does he tell it, what elements does he emphasize, how does he bring it back to his world? And again: what space can companies have in the co-production of true cultural research? In our opinion, these are the questions around which this collective work revolves.
“The Studio Visit experience changed my view of the MAXXI archive”, says Domitilla Dardi. “Because where the curator – according to my conception of this work – starts his work starting from a hypothesis, he puts together pieces to support it but then disappears from the scene to give back a story to the visitor, when the person who curates is a creative, everything changes. In this case, daring connections are not only allowed but valuable. Research and analysis become elements of a process that he interprets: which does not want to be historical but contemporary. It is like reading a text made up of hyperlinks which, albeit in the apparent fragmentation, in the end give a new image to the past. One that I would never have been able to conceive as a design historian”.
What does Alcantara have to do with all this? All and nothing. The authors have in fact created a more or less strong bond – sometimes physical and real, sometimes purely mental – with this material that was imagined and dreamed before being physically made by a Japanese engineer and then produced in Italy.
The link is therefore subtle, barely suggested. But it is in this knowing how to be on tiptoe, as a widespread value rather than a concrete presence, that the secret to the success of a contemporary branded cultural operation lies.