An Interview With Italian Designers Formafantasma
Something you said about your 2017 project, Ore Streams, that made quite an impression on me, was that you claimed that in the not too distant future there will be more metal on the surface of the Earth than there is underground. This is because so much ore has been extracted from the Earth for man’s use. Beginning with this concept, and through culture and recycling, design becomes an educational instrument that can be used to embark upon an approach regarding what’s new. In this project, like the others, the object is therefore not just the end result, but like in art, it could also be a means of expression?
This project focuses the attention on a few problems. Among which, is the fact that often no thought or consideration is given to the objects’ lifespan, and eventual disposal or the way in which it could be recycled. Why do we not think beyond the functionality of a smartphone, and concern ourselves also with the impact it will have on the environment? This project has a much more practical second phase that will be launched at the Milan Triennial where, in collaboration with several partners, including ONU, with whom we have drawn up guidelines to improve the development of the objects with the aim of facilitating their eventual disposal. To give an example within smartphones there are different types of electric cables which contain different materials, but for the equipment used to dispose of them is unable to differentiate these differences. If we instigated colour-coding for each type of cable they would become identifiable and the material would be reusable.
In a few of your projects, like Moulding tradition or Autarchy we see explicit political content and sociological visions. Could your designs be considered not just an educational means, but also a channel to vent social criticism?
Design must be an instrument of censure.
Design must be political.
Design must be critical.
Although we like to say that we have not had teachers, in this case I must say that Enzo Mari was one. Obviously for him the issues were different because the historical period was different; nonetheless, we fully share his vision of using design as a political and educational tool. Designers have a real impact on the world more than anyone else. Design in the broad sense is the basis of the world; we are constantly surrounded by objects. Architects in this sense have always claimed most of the attention. In your Craftica project for the Fendi fashion house, you use leather as a starting point to create a link between man and nature and from here go into ancestral memories on the birth of man, resulting in an almost primitive form. This, like other projects, is the result of extensive research in various fields. How do you manage this great mass of information and transform it into objects? As we have already said, research is fundamental for us. To give an example with Flos, the project that is the result of five years of study. However, the first phase of the project is to create internal blogs to gather information, then we open discussion groups, and in some cases we have also involved over 150 people! The whole process moves forward between the ups and downs of ideas, research and impasse. Being convinced that a holistic view of the design process by the way in which we operate takes us to an almost magical moment from which the object springs. A last question. You are Italian and in part your training is also part of it. What made you decide to leave your country of origin? We did not escape. However, in the Netherlands there are schools, including the Design Academy Eindhoven from which we graduated, that have a vision of the project that is closer to ours. Moreover, another fundamental factor is that in the Netherlands there are, thanks to the support of the institutions and therefore political policies, many initiatives that enable young designers to join the workforce.