From the viewpoint of formal research the history of design has developed as a sort of ‘deviant branch’ of art history. The problem of the aesthetic definition of material artifacts is much older than its formulation in the industrial era, when the spread of machine-made things demanded a visual reorganization of everyday life.
In this sense, the anatomical definition of the object can be seen as a genetic mutation of the anatomical definition of the work of art, in which – changing certain coordinates – the basic problem remains the same: to grant perceptible form to the ‘diaphragmatic’ relationship between man and the world that surrounds him.
This is why the linguistic exchange between art and design has never ceased. From the romantic art of the English Arts & Crafts movement to the geometric abstraction of central European Rationalism, from Italian Futurism to Postmodernism, artistic experimentation has constantly furnished design with nuclei of research to be probed and reinterpreted in ways that adapt them to everyday experience.
The relationship between the user and the object to be used is very different, in fact, from the ‘contemplative’ relationship of the viewer with the artwork. While in the latter case the aesthetic experience remains at a distance, involving mostly the sense of sight, in the case of the useful object visual experience caroms off a more complex physical and motor relationship. Art and design are not the same thing, though at times they work on the same thing.
One of the most fertile exchanges between artistic and design creativity, though perhaps less well known than others, is the one between Spatialism and furnishings, which is now finding new vigor in a series of objects of anti-volumetric development, similar to the post-sculptures of Lucio Fontana, which threaded space like open signs, deployed not to circumscribe a material in a form, as in traditional sculpture, but to condense the surrounding space, like dew on a blade of grass.
These subtle and luminous flows, held in place by proximity and inertia, interpreted space by revealing its abstract immanence, just as filaments of sprinkled in the sidereal void clutch at the force of gravity itself to avoid irremediable dispersal. In this way, the ‘aesthetic sense’ of the void and of open space is revealed.
This Spatialist spirit informs the Mobile sculpture by Anne Buscher, a game of ethereal, strand-like balances to adorn space as a jewel adorns the body. In the realm of design, the same role of environmental punctuation is played by the lamps of the Essorropia collection by Chris Basias (CT Lights Studio).
While the Lunar seat by Lara Bohinc (a designer of jewelry and decor complements) has a decisive yet soft sign, essential in its geometric lines but without that sense of ordering effort with which historic Rationalism approached the domestic dimension. If anything, it seems like an object inspired by Art Deco (and this can be seen even more clearly in the Celeste Vanity console), defined by the lightness of dance rather than the weight of matter.
The Palm Screen dividers made by Julie Richoz for Casa Wabi, in Mexico, are as daring and elegant as the cuts Fontana inflicted on canvas. Ecstatic jolts ready to trace through space in the most extreme – and delicate – of aesthetic operations: to break up the perfection of the void by tracing the first sign, that like a trail left on a cloak of fresh snow takes the responsibility of triggering a suspended potential, transforming it into a just-born form, made for a specific fate in place of many possible indefinite outcomes.
Understanding space is an aesthetic, not a rational, issue. The form, or as in this case the open sign, has a hermeneutic role, of comprehension and interpretation of what Des Cartes called the res extensa. A dimension which Des Cartes, like Newton, thought of as objective and neutral, though Einstein has proven that space is not indifferent to the matter that inhabits it, and is actually bent, sculpted, deformed by it. Likewise, the Spatialist sign reacts with the space of decor, carving it and theorizing it through the articulation of its presence.
This is the ultimate import of ‘theory,’ from the Greek theorein which means ‘to see’ and ‘to think.’ The slices of space of the Collision lamp by Lara Bohinc, like those of the Riflessioni mirrors by Marco Brunori for Adele-c, are simply this: aesthetic theories (not rational) of the way things inhabit the expanse, shaping it and making it perceptible.
Or at least noticeable: the Echo table by Bartoli Design for Laurameroni separates, with surgical poetry, the gloss of the sign from the dullness of matter, capturing the concrete invisibility of space in its mystical trap.