Seventeen designers have created objects around which to imagine new ways of living and being: the new activism is rediscovering the poetic vein of design

The subtitle of the exhibition New Poetic Activism (at the ADI Design Museum in Milan, until 7 April, curated by Mario Trimarchi) should be read carefully.

It goes like this: Italian design in search of inevitable objects.

That is, things you need. Not to do but to be, you will discover by observing them in the exhibition located in the basement of the museum.

Read also: Barricades, by Mario Trimarchi at the Jannone Gallery

Those who needed these objects in the first place - and created them by doing research, especially within themselves - are the 17 authors: Italian designers between 35 and 85 years old whom Mario Trimarchi asked to "devise something around which to design a home".

Totem objects, with a soul so strong that it becomes the guideline for everything that will accompany them in space. Poetic things, full of meaning, around which to build spaces, homes, ways of living. Tools to rediscover the poetry of designing.

The objects of New Poetic Activism

In the mirrored installation of New Poetic Activism, where each object is surrounded by dry leaves, we therefore find things that suggest ways of existing: very far from the practical needs of everyday life but very close to those of the heart and thought.

There is a swing of mirrors to feel very light (by Raffaella Mangiarotti), marble columns - industrial waste reworked by Paolo Ulian - on which to display a fruit to restore dignity to what we eat, a glass carpet by Federica Biasi that marks the boundaries of a space to be contemplated, a plate by Andrea Anastasio in which a fragment of ceramic becomes the incipit of a contemporary decoration, to remind us that "an accident can be transformed into a constructive foundation", a lava stone hourglass by Francesco Meda, which communicates the passage of time only through the sound of metal balls that move inside it.

More than objects, 17 poems that tell the essence of the way of designing of those who created them.

Francesco Faccin created a raft with a wooden pole and PET bottles to tell us that "only by cultivating the dimension of risk and uncertainty do we remain in contact with the power of frugality". Formafantasma exhibited Alvar Aalto's stools from Artek made with imperfect wood, to avoid wasting material. Michele De Lucchi has put together a group of squared stones to remind us that "balance accepts imbalance, perfection recognizes imperfection".

And so on, leaving those who want to visit the exhibition the pleasure of discovery.

Italian design that finds itself

Asking designers to imagine objects that become ways of living and living, stealing the task that has always been the role of architecture and interiors, may seem like philosophizing as an end in itself but it is not at all. On the contrary.

The beauty of this exhibition lies precisely in this reversal of the gaze which gives value to things designed to create relationships.

It is a rediscovery of the essence of Italian design which has always stood out precisely for its ability to connect people, objects and spaces through a suggested, never shouted poetry.

It is no coincidence that the subtitle of New Poetic Activism, from which we started, speaks precisely of "Italian design", not of projects in general.

"There is an Italian specificity in this profession", says Mario Trimarchi. "The Italian profession, when it comes to projects, is different from that of other countries: not because it deals with higher, lower, more right-wing, more left-wing issues, but simply because it is more autonomous. It could, in its purest sense, even do without industry and be a knowledge or a profession or an art. The manifestation of an autonomy of thought".

And, actually, as Trimarchi explains in the catalogue, the exhibition asks if that all-Italian attitude to seeking unexplored design territories, independently of the world of production, is still current.

The answer is, of course, yes.

So what is new poetic activism?

“Italian design has historically worked with industry, without industry and against industry", continues Mario Trimarchi. "Today, however, it works only for industry or rather under industry. There has always been this love relationship between industry and design because design was an autonomous subject, which carried forward his thoughts and occasionally intersected with the trajectories of production. But for years the word poetry - which was once always closely linked to the word project, often even in its industrial manifestation - has been absent from design. I asked the 17 colleagues I chose to involve in this collective work to rediscover it, recover it: to rediscover the pleasure of using thought not to choose a solution to a problem but, simply, to think. So that design can help us live in a world that makes more sense and is more beautiful."

Is this a provocation towards the industry?

"A little yes", replies Trimarchi. "Because since the middle of the last century, design in our country has positioned itself not only as a profession at the service of the productive apparatus, but as a critical voice towards industry. To which - in a world populated by gray sofas sold as Italian design - New Poetic Activism reminds us that the essence of Italian design is the search for poetry and meaning".

And it's nice, every now and then, to find it again.

New Poetic Activism, ADI Design Museum, Milan, until April 7. Projects by Andrea Anastasio | Federica Biasi | Francesco Binfaré | Andrea Branzi | Maddalena Casadei | Lorenzo Damiani | Michele De Lucchi | Francesco Faccin | Formafantasma | Marta Laudani | Giovanni Levanti | Francesco Librizzi | Raffaella Mangiarotti | Francesco Meda | Elena Salmistraro | Valerio Sommella | Paolo Ulian