The western aesthetic has never fully come to terms with the void. In the West creativity is seen as ‘pro-duction,’ an act that brings into being something that previously did not exist. In this sense, creating means filling a gap, saturating something that was available.
The oriental take on this is different, where the void is not a ‘lack’ but a positive presence of an ‘existential breath’ amidst things, which should be left to be in its non-being. From this viewpoint, the void is like a margin, a buffer zone, between the nuclei of being of things, between the tree and the stone, the table and the person, an existential reverberation that spreads like the waves of sand in a Zen garden.
Precisely emptiness was the leitmotif of some of the most interesting exhibits of the latest Design Week, starting with the exhibition Nendo Works 2014-2015, which on two levels of Palazzo della Permanente gathered over 100 pieces designed by Nendo over the last year and a half.
Handling emptiness is a truly complex affair, as hard as adjusting a spider web with your fingers, and Oki Sato, leader of the Japanese studio, has been its master for years, capable of using the signs of design to catalyze phases of clarity around almost ‘calligraphic’ hints of form, like a-semantic ideograms on a layer of fresh snow.
Japanese culture was also seen in the exhibition FUHA by Fabrica for Daikin, the leading Japan-based multinational in the climate control sector, where under the creative direction of Sam Baron and the ‘guest art direction’ of Formafantasma, the team of the communication research center of Benetton presented a series of works on the theme of air.
‘FU’ and ‘HA’ are two Japanese onomatopoeic expressions that indicate the breath blown out to cool and the one blown to warm. The installations were thus conceived as ‘stages’ to display the existential breath of air through sound, weight, tension, revealed as a graphic tracing of the lung capacity of a user, or as pneumatic force as opposed to solid material fullness.
Finally, the exhibition I’m Not Weird, I’m Limited Edition, organized at Residenze Litta by Secondome and Padiglioneitalia (“an alchemical collaboration that combines design and 100% Italian crafts”) touched on the theme of the void through the projects of a series of designers asked to interpret the encounter between glass, an ‘empty’ material that breaks but does not bend, and metal, a ‘full’ material that bends but does not break.
The results were objects in perfect balance on the crest between the ‘thing’ and poetry, like the transparent Coexist globe by Gio Tirotto, the Timeless hourglass by CTRLZAK and the Unbalance candle holder by Alessandro Zambelli, in which the consumption of the candle causes a weight loss that unbalances the object in such a way as to keep the flame at a fixed point on the horizon.