A ‘spiritual' narrator’ out of the ordinary and out of time, able to contaminate the traditions and folklore of his land - Calabria – with a language that is as contemporary as it is authentic, Antonio Aricò revisits design as a ritual. Art director of Materia Independent Design Festival 2020, he involved established designers and young talents in the reinterpretation of religious symbols and church furnishings

With a procession of the Madonna Viola (Purple Madonna) in an imaginary place, the fourth edition of the Materia Independent Design Festival took place in Catanzaro, Calabria, in southern Italy. To emphasize the climate of uncertainty in which we live, Materia Sospesa was held from 2 to 4 October 2020, a special edition, purely digital and focused on a mystical, contemplative and introspective and at the same time collective and community theme: Design as a Italian rite suspended in time.

The event, designed and organized by Officine AD of the Catanzaro architects Domenico Garofalo and Giuseppe Anania, led by the art director Antonio Aricò, invited well-known designers and young designers to deal with the theme of the sacred, involving them together with local and Italian artisans, in the contemporary reinterpretation of the religious images of Calabria and Mediterranean culture.

An eclectic artist and designer, with historical and popular references, Mediterranean and imaginative and with lively, often irreverent, always disruptive results, Antonio Aricò hybridizes industry, craftsmanship and self-production. And he does so by telling stories and tales, myths and legends that go beyond the project, imbued with spirituality.

Read also what storydoing is according to Antonio Aricò

Strongly linked  and inspired  to Calabria, Aricò contaminates his creative projects. With a soft design, manual appearance as if it were a scribble, and rich in details in a riot of signs, doodles and decorations, his works transcend disciplines and definitions. The beauty, tradition, folklore and sacredness of his homeland are intertwined with his personal history. The result is an authentic and immediate, empathic and genuine narration.

Leggi qui: il progetto ideato da Antonio Arico per una realtà calabrese

For the fifth edition of Materia, Antonio Aricò invited well-known Italian designers to re-read religious symbols and church furnishings according to his own stylist code and sensitivity, making use of the the manufacturing knowledge that distinguishes Italian craftsmanship in the world. The result is unusual objects – symbolic, sacral, ascetic – that re-read the Calabrian liturgical imaginary, finding and offering new ideas, both planning and spiritual.

“I started from the processions at sea, the typical religious festivals that see Virgin Mary parade on boats, and I made a list of sacred objects, such as the ostensory, the altar, the throne, the kneeling” explains Aricò. “ Then I involved designers and friends Elena Salmistraro, Sara Ricciardi, Matteo Cibic and Tommaso Spinzi to reinvent these symbols, using their style and their imagination, in collaboration with Calabrian and Italian artisans”.

“The designers involved are united by an approach to design that blends passion and personality into the project based on the themes of fantasy and dream” tells Antonio Aricò. “The result is pieces of imagination, unconventional, sometimes ironic”. So was born, from a sort of shared ceremonial, the Santa collection of furnishings and accessories.

“There is Matteo Cibic's kneeling made by Studio F (read here an in-depth analysis on the wood atelier), on which you have to balance to pray, the Madonna Viola (Purple Madonna) made with Maria Battaglia, which I designed on a graphic tablet and embroidered on black tulle; and there is the super colorful and fringed throne designed by Elena Salmistraro, according to its original chromatic universe and expertly made by the company Domenico CugliariSara Ricciardi reinterprets the ostensory with bread that becomes rock while Tommaso Spinzi draws a "mechanical" altar on the theme of the cross making it realized by Edilmarmi Mazzotta” concludes Aricò.


“Being hyperactive, when I pray I tend not to focus” explain Matteo Cibic I therefore thought that creating a physical distraction could encourage greater attention. Thinking of the Way of the Cross that was done on your knees after an extremely painful journey, I designed a kneeler on which you need to balance”. Instead, Elena Salmistraro begins with his research on the throne “I found news of the ancient rite of vattienti’: a medieval rite, soaked in blood and flagellations to atone for sins. So I imagined the throne of the supreme, the pure: a large chair, comfortable but at the same time mobile, swinging, so as to vibrate the whips, the same ones that guided him to purification”.

“I imagined going back to kneading” explain Sara Ricciardiand that the monstrance was made of wheat. This is how bread rocks are born: wheat, man and the divine. And man is reflected in it. The real gold is baking and the Church returns to the primitive object”. The Cardano altar, on the other hand, was born from the union of the passions of Tommaso Spinzi: “I imagined interlocking marble columns as if they were gears of an engine that support the base and which at the same time symbolize a spirituality capable of moving emotions, worship, divinity”.

“For about two years I had been thinking about the idea of drawing a Madonna” explain Antonio Aricò “It took me 5 minutes to scribble an image of a woman with the graphic tablet. While I was drawing I already had in mind that the design would be embroidered on transparent black tulle and the figure appeared before my eyes, generating itself spontaneously. Twirls and signs become embroideries and make up the figure of this 2 meter high icon”.

Materia Sospesa was born from the desire to give a moment of faith and imagination in an unexpected historical period”, he concludes, “being concrete also means having the courage to create an escape story that allows us to lift ourselves up as creatives and as human beings”.

Great attention has been given to the section dedicated to young people: with the call Miracles of Design, reserved for the under 40, which welcomed proposals of creations from all over Italy based on artisan techniques and elements of the cultural heritage of the territory of belonging. The winner is Lucerna project by Valentina Mancini; special mention to Stella Orlandino for Segnacoli collection.


Reference among the events of Southern Italy dedicated to design, Materia Independent Design Festival also presented objects created by designers, manufacturers and guests from the south such as Vito Nesta and Techne Contemporary Art.