We live in uncertain times. This last two years of pandemic has induced a common feeling, more or less conscious, of the 'butterfly effect' - the theory developed by the mathematician Edward Lorenz in 1962 according to which a beating of wings would be enough to alter the course of the climate forever - which leads us to question the consequences of our actions on the world.
So design and above all the new generations of designers seem more interested in taking a critical and provocative approach to the project. But different from the radical design of the late sixties. Yes, there is an interdisciplinary approach that leads to experimental research and the use of new tools, but the vision is different.
Less inclined to undermine the rules and more oriented to find, even in them and in collaboration with industry, a more ethical and conscious way of doing. The theme of production holistic, attentive to the environmental impact, is central: pursued independently and disconnected from disciplinary rules.
As in others, in these three young studios - Hot Wire Extensions, Monogramma and Moon is the Oldest Television, working between self-production, industry and collectible design - we find a 'nesting' between design and art that starts from the industrial semi-finished product.
But the goal is not mere artistic experimentation, but the possibility of serialization and the investigation of that type of language. In common we find a critical pragmatism, ethically aware, which, while making use of technologies, is skeptical of the rhetoric born around them.
Hot Wire Extensions is a self-produced line of lamps and chairs, made by the Swiss Fabio Hendry, composed mainly of two ingredients: plastic nylon waste - a by-product of SLS 3D printing - and sand. The study conducts research on the geological, ecological and social aspects related to sand: from where and how the materials are found and extracted; what is the impact on the landscape due to their extensive use in the construction sector.
It is also developing blends with sands collected in situ from local rivers or quarries and partnerships with construction companies to convert waste materials.
At the same time, thanks to the high heat capacity of the sand, the studio is experimenting with the production of stoves and radiators.
Despite this pragmatic approach, aimed at sustainability, Fabio Hendry creates poetic objects between art and more serial production. "I am inspired by the ability of nature to adapt and rebuild", specifies the designer. "In general, I am interested in exploring known and unknown forms, in a dialogue between what I would like to achieve and the forms that the materials have in themselves.
Sometimes I experiment by bending strings in the studio; other times I draw inspiration from trivial occasions, for example looking at the pieces thrown into the workshop bin or abandoned structures of any kind. The Faux Species series is inspired by the lines created by vines as they grow and envelop. The collection explores the balance between man and nature, blurring the boundaries between the two to create both technological and natural objects".
The Monogramma studio of Pordenone is developing a collection of three-dimensional surfaces with Cimento, a Venetian carbon neutral company producing a registered cementitious compound, which has 90% of mineral aggregates from production waste, mixed with a cementitious binder.
"The project as a whole tries to find a balance between design and art", explains Sabrina De Franceschi of Monogramma, "starting from the semi-finished industrial". It is a case of reciprocal contamination between designer and company: "We worked together to discover the way to industrialize the product while preserving its artisan value, using natural and sustainable raw materials. Aesthetics, an essential expressive and poetic of the product, starts from the idea of nature and travel.
It testifies to the need to find a balance in the alternation between nature and artifice. We are oriented towards a design that, in an unprecedented and sometimes provocative way, draws deep inspiration from nature and less from artificial or surreal visions. We are not looking for a standardized creative process: the suggestions can be multiple and each project is a micro-system that aims to harmonize with the surrounding environment".
Moon is the Oldest Television is the duo formed by Gregorio Gonella and Daniele Misso, based respectively in Milan and in Amsterdam.
The capsule collection designed for the Apartamento gallery at the Contemporary Cluster in Rome includes a table, a lamp and a valet stand. The pieces represent the quintessence of the duo's language: a anti-hierarchical work that uses different media, from bi-dimensional to three-dimensional, from craftsmanship to automation, and that welcomes various natures, from cultural to commercial, from historical to the experimental.
They are artifacts with an evocative power, designed to resonate in the perceptual dimension rather than in the rational one. "We are not so much interested in serialization", explain Gonella and Misso, "as in ways to track down a personality within the ready made. Just as the Toio by Flos was advertised with an image in which it was superimposed on the silhouette of a car as a headlight, so we live the fascination towards mechanical and serialized elements: in the desire to reinterpret them in an unexpected way".
"The ready made in its vastness provides us with the basis to express ourselves. Our approach is not very different from that of a Renaissance architect or painter who had to work at of already defined themes: classic iconographies, solutions for the corners of a cloister, etc. The themes that inspire us are deeply human such as frivolity, passion and the hate, which is lacking in contemporary design.
We pursue and embrace the paradoxes of practice and its more chaotic aspects, looking for evocative elements, perhaps with a sense of nostalgia or that make us lose an idea of the future".
Matter and aesthetic expressiveness, to investigate new languages. What does it mean, therefore, to be radical today?
"For me it is important that design addresses the questions of its time, such as issues relating to resources, production and the environment," says Hendry. "Products must be considered in a more holistic vision: from the longevity of the object to the well-being of the people who make it. And it is important that they explore new aesthetics, so that waste materials can also offer inspiration and even become precious in the future".
While Gonella and Misso: "We don't know what it means to be radical today, nor if Germano Celant's definition of radical architecture is valid to define a radical attitude. However, the need to reform product design is palpable, because it is not alien to the feeling of decay of the company's foundations. It cannot continue to ignore the climate crisis, the idea of the Anthropocene, the issues of inclusiveness and the failures of capitalism. Being radical is perhaps more a consequence than a goal".