Operæ 2015: design in the present

The sixth independent design festival in Turin presented a clear-cut, albeit constantly changing, snapshot of a design condition with which we must necessarily come to terms.

Operae 2015
By its very definition, design requires a projection into the future (pro-iecto), a “throwing forth” that suggests forward movement and a prediction. This time, however, we were asked to stop and listen carefully to the present, without being distracted by nostalgia for the future or an anxiety to define the past.
“Qui/Ora Io/Noi. Piemonte Handmade”
“Here/Now I/We. Piemonte Handmade”
This was the challenge of “Operae”, an independent design festival curated this year by Angela Rui and with a piercing argument underlying the seemingly joyful event entitled “Here/Now. Under Present Effect”. From 6 to 8 November and in conjunction with Artissima, Turin presented a clear-cut, albeit constantly changing, snapshot of a design condition with which we must necessarily come to terms. On one side, the “Here/Now Me/We.
“Qui/Ora Io/Noi. Piemonte Handmade”
“Here/Now I/We. Piemonte Handmade”.
On one side, the “Here/Now Me/We. Piemonte Handmade” project engaged 12 designers and as many Piedmontese artisans; on the other there was a more exhibition-like dimension featuring a selection of independent design productions, free from the constraints imposed by industry and played liberally between self-production and collaboration with artisans. The flourishing craft world – currently experiencing a new and florid season bordering on the ideological and detached from industry – was not, however, the core focus of the event.
Maddalena Selvini
Maddalena Selvini
Angela Rui staged a production as masterly as it was respectful of the designers and, thanks to her critical eye, the prevailing image was one of active sharing. No anti-industrial arts-and-crafts Luddism but openness to circular operational methods, thoughts and knowhows that discovered new development potential in non-casual encounters. The first two rooms of the Festival exhibition showcased the results of unusual creative couplings that generated new designs. Many of the designers summoned are accustomed to working with crafts but, this time, the curator shuffled the deck and formed unexpected pairings, forcing all the participants out of their comfort zones. “Because the designers also had much to learn from the artisans in this encounter. We often and mistakenly believe it is always the former who provide the latter with design input. Instead, I wanted to give everyone a chance to discover something they didn’t know, that they had never come up against before,” explains Angela Rui.
Paysages Desertiques di Josephina Munoz
Paysages Desertiques by Josephina Munoz
So, Ulian had to “forgo” marble in favour of metal and created a work with Reale Restauri, which specialises in the restoration of embossed-metal lighting fixtures. The starting point of a leaf decoration spawned a change in form and an almost Darwinian evolution, resulting in modular forms that can be assembled to create a vase, a tray or a tabletop. The publisher Alberto Tallone’s bookbinding workshop offered Giulio Iacchetti – normally associated with wood – a chance to come up with a never-ending book featuring a dual spine, something like a Munari game but also a Boetti-style conceptual object. Iacchetti tiptoed into the world of bookbinding but it was Sebastiano Tonelli who drew Luciano Fagnola into product design, creating a set of travel bags that look like books broken down and reassembled to serve new and unlikely functions.
Colour Provenance di Studio Laura Daza
Colour Provenance by Studio Laura Daza
Zanellato/Bortotto designed stone inlays based on Turin buildings; Zaven also used stone, prototyping an essential and archetypal module. Carlo Contin and the Piccola Falegnameria agreed on the details of highly refined table joints that mix the geometric rigour of mass production with the craft finish of a limited edition; and Antonio Aricò and Soheila Dilfanian created a dialogue between old techniques and minimal design in their Cattedrale Cabinets. ECAT Orologi e Campane pulled Blumerandfriends into a far more specialist area, developing a bell that rings without a peal or movement, relying simply on electronic sound. New decoration options were tested by Federico Floriani and Verbani Velluti to develop cloaks featuring alchemic symbols; Joe Velluto designed precious gold filigree postcards with goldsmith Roberto Figurelli; and Chiara Onida translated Anna Giroli’s furrier expertise into a garden of extremely tactile fur covers and colours. Lastly, Atelier Biagetti pursued high-level decoration to lend added distinction to the already luxurious Body Building project with an extremely iconic punch-bag featuring gold trimmings.
Sottoportico di Seraina Lareida
Sottoportico by Seraina Lareida
Twelve designs were asked to narrate the “Here” in detail, something only made possible by the geographic precision of artisans who traditionally remain in the same place. The nature of craft productions has always drawn on this local spirit but their approach to time is less predictable. Stereotypically linked to lengthy timeframes, in this case, the artisans had to accept the challenge of the “Now” that formed part of the exhibition’s title and concept. Short meetings, deadlines and a fast process were imposed almost as a provocation and produced excellent improvisation, a sublime impromptu art only ever delivered by the practised and well prepared. All the projects were developed in a timeframe that replaced months and years with weeks and days, demonstrating that often unexpected results really can be produced fast.
“Qui/Ora Io/Noi. Piemonte Handmade”
“Here/Now I/We. Piemonte Handmade”. Libro infinito

The follow-on and consequence of the Piedmontese exhibition is a number of self-productions, editions offered directly by the designers themselves and, to a lesser degree, by galleries. The latter notably included the fledgling Camp Design Gallery which stood out with works by Analogia Project, Veronica Todisco and David Lindberg, designers chosen by Beatrice Bianco and Valentina Lucio, the gallery’s founders, for their experimental and signature design.

The Festival centred on two key areas: the relationship between nature and artifice and that of relational design in the Me/We section. The Nature/Artifice pairing highlighted just how much the new directions of self-produced research owe to science, especially when nature is investigated more as a master of creative processes than a repertoire of forms. Vivid examples in this section featured glass techniques by Laura Couto Rosado, who used applied physics to grow synthetic crystals in real time as if they were pliable forms, and objects by Tijmen Smeulders which find a very intimistic raison d’être in a mono-material content and light refraction, as in the aluminium Mirror sculpture that is almost a reflecting and distorting mask, inviting us to rethink our own perceived reflection.

“Here/Now I/We. Piemonte Handmade”
“Here/Now I/We. Piemonte Handmade”. Crossover Collective di Floor Nijdeken
On the participatory design front, a great attraction in the Me/We section was Floor Nijdeken’s Crossover Collective, a publically shared loom on which symbols were spontaneously cross-stitched. Released from having to produce a virtuoso craft decoration, the participants in this collective traced the diagram of an experience, resulting in symbolic images slightly reminiscent of the Surrealist designs resulting from the game of the Exquisite Corpse, with no single storyline and drawing strength from chance combinations and the unpredictability of the unprogrammed encounter – a fine exercise in freedom that reminds us of the shared nature of making.
© all rights reserved

Latest on Design

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram