In 1970, Edizioni di Comunità, the visionary publishing house founded by Adriano Olivetti, printed The Function of Esthetic Research, a pivotal work encompassing Enzo Mari's philosophy.
The book, one of the most elusive to find by the demiurge of self-design who passed away in 2020, caught the attention of Lorenzo Mason, founder of the Venetian graphic and design studio of the same name, who decided to rethink it for a new medium: vinyl.
The idea behind the project, which combines literary research with artistic performance, aims to make the volume accessible again, in a process of democratisation of design shared by Mari himself.
The sound rendering was achieved by converting Mari’s words into an original musical composition using a digitally-assisted singing software. The result is cathartic, surprisingly topical. At the same time, it drips with the conceptual depth of Mari’s philosophy, not without a certain reverence dictated by the historical relevance of the text.
Enzo Mari’s thoughts are brought into the public discourse, away from the printed pages”, explains Mason. “Ideas are untied from their original format, released into the world, ready to be absorbed and made their own by new minds.
The work is the culmination of a series of performance-listening sessions, which took place in Venice and Milan last year, to showcase some of the first cuts that now make up the complete album. Each track corresponds to a chapter of the original book, which also gives the album its title, Singing Enzo Mari: The Function of Esthetic Research, now available both on vinyl and digitally on Spotify.
The album cover, designed by Lorenzo Mason, makes the whole thing an artwork within an artwork, as it carries on the study of gradients, the so-called Sunsets, that in recent years have defined the practice of the Venetian studio.
“Enzo Mari’s thoughts are brought into the public discourse, away from the printed pages”, explains Mason. “Ideas are untied from their original format, released into the world, ready to be absorbed and made their own by new minds.”
At the core of the project is the dual meaning of the Italian term “opera”, which simultaneously serves to indicate an artwork and a musical composition. The words of the Compasso d’Oro-winning designer become “a sensorial performance in which the audience is able to listen to his utopia through a digital voice,” says Mason.
“Let yourself be overwhelmed by Enzo Mari’s wisdom, let his words hit you with sound waves, converted into music for your mind. You will find that his ideas will live on, long after the music has stopped, perhaps one of them might even settle, its spark might light a fire.”
Opening image: Enzo Mari, credits: Adriano Alecchi