Salone del mobile and Fuorisalone 2019

Valentina Cameranesi, a show for happy eyes

In the rooms of the famous Milanese hardware store Meazza, the designer invites visitors to concentrate on interstices, pigeon-holes and unresolved or not-completely revealed spaces.

Img.15 "Panorama, una mostra per occhi felici", exhibition view, Meazza, Milan, 2018

The question may even seem rather obvious, on reading the objectives of “Panorama, a show for happy eyes” by Annalisa Rosso, set up in the areas of Ex Meazza, 5Vie, during Milan Design Week and MiArt, from 15 to 22 April. But it is in the answers given by Valentina Cameranesi, the designer born in 1980 who works on creative direction and set design together with her partner Enrico Pompili, that banality gives way to sophisticated elegance.

What do eyes look at in order to be defined as happy?                        The sub-title that we have given comes from the book Oh happy eyes by Ingeborg Bachmann, the story told by a young woman with poor eyesight. She does everything she can to avoid wearing glasses and to not focus on reality, considering that she is completely unsatisfied with her life. In fact, happy eyes are ones which do not see, which is, in reality, a paradox.

The tale Un paio di occhiale [A pair of glasses] by Anna Maria Ortese, tells a similar story. In the post-Second World War period, a child, who cannot afford glasses, sees an unfocused world, the fruit of her imagination. You both tell a similar story: where does yours originate from?                                                                                                My studies included design, as I took Product Design at the ISIA in Rome. This was followed by numerous other professional experiences, in both Paris and the Veneto region. I worked for Diesel for many years, also in the Diesel Home Collection, in partnership with Moroso and Foscarini. Then collaborations, together with my partner Enrico Pompili, with Cassina, for which we created the book This will be the place, in celebration of the 90th anniversary of the company. Then a new set-design project with Poliform, and in the publishing world, with Icon and PIN-UP. I have strong ties with the fashion world, with image, but my personal interest lies in objects. In 2012 I produced my first collection of ceramics, which I presented at “Design Parade” in Villa Noailles, Tolone.

How has the exhibition been conceived, what is its outlook?                In reality, it is all closely tied to the concept of space. Five displays become a set: they are a point of observation into my imagination as a designer, the location of the instruments I use to communicate with, and my most intimate subjects. This environment contains semi-finished products in ceramics, metal, fabric, and objects in blown glass such as perfume bottles. They all contain stories, fiction, like invented people in their imaginary homes, shops, and boutiques. Our intent and our desire is to control how people look.

Img.16 "Panorama, an exhibition for happy eyes", exhibition view, Ex Meazza, 5Vie Design District, Milan, 2018
"Panorama, an exhibition for happy eyes", exhibition view, Ex Meazza, 5Vie Design District, Milan, 2018

In what sense?                                                                                                                For me, there has always been a kind of dualism between an object and the way it is represented. In my opinion they are created together. An object is not only an object, but also all the world which surrounds it. 

A reference to Kant?                                                                                                        If I have to imagine an object, it is hard for me to not think of the space that will contain it, of the photograph that will freeze it. There is a kind of surrounding world which is ready to welcome the object. It is not a secondary element.

The photographs of the exhibition do not seem like classic still-life shots.                                                                                                                    Photography, for example, is my favourite language for expressing that which is represented, and it is what inspires me the most. Not necessarily design photography, even though it is the art which best presents that world.  

An object begins to function when it communicates with its surrounding environment, on both an emotive and evocative level.

Together with the curator, Annalisa Rosso, we have created environments which contain disturbing elements, such as, for example, open drawers or fabrics covering the shelves. These are elements which provoke the theme of desire.

What makes us look?                                                                                                    Interstices, pigeon-holes and unresolved or not entirely revealed spaces: the eyes need to see ambiguity. A visual example: imagine a chest of drawers with the bottom drawer open.

Design usually concentrates on touch. What sense do you most relate to?                                                                                                                            For me there is an ambivalence between touch and sight. It is no coincidence that my objects can be caressed and touched. In my research, on the one hand there is a perverse passion for fabrics, while on the other there is vision in the vases and fittings. If I had to summarise, I’d have to say that the sense par excellence is tactile vision.

What materials do you present and with which companies have you worked for the exhibition?                                                                                    Mainly metal, silk and glass. Officinanove, which handles the production of furnishings in metal, is a flexible company which adapts to various creative requirements, also thanks to a range of colours and attention to detail, both in the production stage and in finishing. Punto Seta, specialised in the production of fabrics and materials in the Como area, and Remark, a producer of artistic blown glass on the outskirts of Milan, which works with borosilicate glass.

Valentina Cameranesi
Valentina Cameranesi

The latest in a long line of Milan Furniture Fairs for you, do you have any practical advice?                                                                                                Don’t try to see everything, make a plan, and go with someone who is good company. Otherwise you’ll be bored. Oh, and wear comfortable shoes.

What attracts your attention nowadays in the design panorama?       I am not very specific, but I know enough because I have studied. I am ambiguous in this sense as well, there are people I appreciate and admire. I adore Konstantin Grcic, the brilliant Formafantasma, Chiara Andreatti, Federica Elmo and Guglielmo Poletti. Then there is a new wave, such as the designer Zachary John Martin. In general, I have great respect for anyone who makes an effort, above all those who manage to go beyond small decorative objects.                                                                     And I am fascinated by those who manage to use their imagination and look just a little further beyond.

Exhibition title:
Panorama, a show for happy eyes
Opening dates:
14–22 april 2018
Curated by:
Annalisa Rosso
Ex Meazza, 5Vie Design District
via San Sisto 9, Milan

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