Studio Formafantasma has partnered with charcoal burner Doris Wicki for the Confrontations exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum, investigating the contradictions of charcoal.
On one hand, charcoal burning was
long responsible for the deforestation of
Europe, as charcoal remained the only
viable energy source for the metal industry
well into the nineteenth century. Although
the urban pollution of centuries
past was primarily due to coal, a product
discovered later, climate-neutral charcoal
is still considered a dirty material.
On the other hand, charcoal provides health benefits and has been used since Ancient Egypt as a water and air filter as well as for medicinal purposes. For the exhibition, and working with the glass blower Massimo Lunardon from Vicenza and a woodcarver, Studio Formafantasma developed a series of glass vessels filled with wooden filters and other accessories. In a forest near Zurich the wooden pieces were charred in collaboration with Doris Wicki. The designers also prepared charcoal drawings portraying burning trees, fume and black rain.
On 14 June, the team built a charcoal kiln next to the Vitra Design Museum Gallery while serving charcoal-filtered water and charcoal bread baked according to an old recipe to aid digestion.
The works by Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin of Studio Formafantasma are permeated by a deep vein of tradition and nostalgia. The two Italians who studied in the Dutch city of Eindhoven and continue to live and work there frequently come back to the artisanal methods of their Southern European homeland. In their various reinterpretations, however, they exhibit an approach that is unmistakably Dutch: the statement of their objects is more important to them than their function.
Doris Wicki comes from a family that has been engaged in charcoal burning for generations. She learned the trade from her father who she accompanied to his charcoal kilns in the woods of the Swiss Entlebuch region from an early age. After a career as a hairdresser, she has dedicated herself to event charcoal burning since 2004. She is the only woman in Europe currently practising in this male-dominated profession. In total, she produces up to fifteen tonnes of charcoal per season.