A retrospective that will visit various cities in India is dedicated to the designer-philosopher. On display, a selection of works created in his thirty-year activity that has always made dichotomy a design theme

Andrea Anastasio is a designer who comes from the world of philosophy.

His work defies unambiguous definitions and this is evident in his recent retrospective in India, Binary Codex, which will be ongoing until June of 2023, hosted in the museums of the cities that have been most significant in its decades-long attendance of the nation.

Here the different parallel elements of his design practice emerge: artisanal and industrial, open and limited series, art and design, East and West.

We met him to retrace his steps and have his vision of things better explained to us.

The pairs of antinomies, which mark the works in the exhibition, have often been read in opposition. But in your path the dichotomy is not a negative concept, on the contrary it is the bearer of planning. Can you explain to us how you experience this constant dialogue between the elements?

It took many years of practice before I understood my design methods.

At the beginning I was motivated by formal instances and by the need to characterize my works with playful and Fauves chromatisms at the same time.

Certainly there were already design and philosophical elements that I was subsequently able to explore and focus on; but the influence of Memphis and Alchimia, the priority given to the surface, to the texture, to the totemic presence of the object strongly characterized the beginning of my career.

In the retrospective there are some works that I hadn't seen for more than thirty years and that I hardly remembered anymore.

In the lamps composed for Artemide or in the objects designed for Memphis, for example, the attention paid to the handcrafted dimension is clearly visible, in particular of Murano glass and the challenge this entailed for a company like Artemide, well rooted in the reproducibility of the object in very high numbers.

The design culture of those years, in particular that of Sottsass and Memphis, did not oppose the artisan dimension to the industrial one, but rather tried to contaminate them reciprocally, to bring back into the project all those elements that the Modern had excluded.

For me, this aspect was very important and I fully shared the requests. Over time I have learned to deal with other dichotomies and, instead of posing them as an impasse, I explore their dialogical potential.

The theme of fragility is one of the common threads of your research path. You often work with breakable materials such as glass, ceramics, porcelain: how much does the material define your reflections?

Fragility is a particularly interesting aspect not only because it is a symbol of our condition, so marked by continuous awareness of the impossibility of achieving permanent certainties, but also because I find it anthropologically very powerful.

All civilizations have generated stories and tales that speak of it.

Sometimes, meeting extremely fragile objects in museums, made many centuries earlier, moves and strikes us: it is not only luck that has made them survive over time, but also the extreme care, the desire to < to strong>preserve for a long time a beauty and a preciousness that has governed, generation after generation, gestures and attention, even and above all in times of war and looting.

From touching Roman epigraphs to Zen stories, fragility reflects us and becomes a warning.

There is also another aspect that I find significant: glass, porcelain, ceramics are all materials that pass through fire to be formed.

Although we live today in a great distance from ritual sensitivity, I cannot help reflecting on this aspect: the fire, which allows us to feed ourselves every day, serves to fix the cooking generated by its magical transforming touch over time.

Light is central to your design history: you started with lamps for Artemide and you have been working with Foscarini for several years. What is the difference between designing a light or a lamp? Do the two coincide?

No, they do not coincide in any way. Lamps are created to be able to bring light into space, be it domestic or work, secular or religious, dressing it with syntax and narrative registers capable of establishing relationships between those who experience the spaces and the light itself, enriching it with countless narrations.
They come from far away, and here we go back to the fire; they have to do, archetypically, in fact, with the ability to govern fire, which is not only heat, but also light.
The infinite range of shapes that oil, gas and petroleum lamps have taken over time proves it. Designing the light of a space is something different which, thanks also to the sophisticated technologies we have today, brings us closer to the ancient desire for dematerialisation.

The concept of time in your works and products often seems to be declined as 'duration', where repetition, gesture, action have their weight. What is 'your' time?

My dissertation focused on the difference between chronological time and psychological time in Indian philosophy.

This led me to reflect a lot on the perception of the passage of time that underlies the craft practices. I am convinced that the making of man is born from the desire to exorcise death.

The reiteration of gestures, the cyclical nature of the seasons, the suspension of the mind are fundamental aspects of doing that I bring into the project and try to make them always present.

This is also one of the reasons why I rarely create new shapes. I almost always work with archives, also transforming materials into ready-mades, as I recently did in my work with Ceramica Gatti and Foscarini.

This design process also comes from the contemplative mode: standing in front of an object and contemplating it until it begins to offer us all its potential, that 'still unsaid'. Or, as Boetti said: "Bringing the world into the world".

Your objects often challenge equilibriums, they are poised, they have a precariousness. Why?

For what I told you earlier about the illusory nature of our definition of reality: when there are very specific functions to be performed, then I make sure that the objects do it well, and that, at the same time, they manage to ignite the attention of those uses them.

In my opinion, function is never exhausted in the use of the object, and here lies for me the possibility of merging two disciplinary approaches to form, that of art and that of design.

So it is in this encounter between art and design that what you define as 'sabotage' comes into play? Can you explain to us what it means?

Sabotage allows the form to be freed from the cultural conditioning that defines it, releasing other reflections and other orders of meaning.

The most important lesson I received from extraordinary masters such as Bruno Munari, Ettore Sottsass, Alessandro Mendini, Andrea Branzi was that of investigating the object and the space of the object.

If this research initially went through the skin of things, later it brought me inside the cultural meaning of the function.

In this, contemporary art has given me much more incisive tools and allowed me to still be seduced by the object, especially when, leaving Italy in the early 1990s, I thought I would no longer look at design.

There are infinite ways of relating to function and often my projects are manifestos, invitations to look at the world with different eyes.

It is the reason that also drives me to prefer the linguistic/formal short circuits that often animate my projects. The goal is to ignite attention and re-seduce the gaze of the spectator-user.