Through the Lens of Momomi

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Guest Interview n°52: Antonio Aricò

“Family” and “traditions”, the two words everything revolved around during the Christmas holidays and New Year’s Eve. It was the perfect time to ask a few questions to the Italian designer Antonio Aricò, who decided to leave Milan 3 years ago, and return back home with his family, in Calabria.

3 years ago you decided to go back home. Can you tell us something about your home in Italy and why you decided to return to your origin?
In the South of Italy the idea of “home” is still something big and strong, something that goes beyond the concept of “house” or “furniture”. It concerns family stories and moments, it is about a continuous sharing and it is based on the idea of hospitality and cosiness. I was deeply missing the good feelings and positive emotions that have always been present in my childhood. The reason why I made this decision was because I wanted to recover that feeling before becoming an “adult”, in this way I could learn again its meaning and keep it with me forever. This decision was not based on a rejection of Milan, I just wanted to start a personal research and I thought that in order to do so, home was the place.

What does the word “tradition” mean to you?
To me, tradition is not only related to the aesthetics of an artefact, but to the process and the method that are used. For me it is based on the idea of dying and on the respect of values and meanings… Tradition is “old school” and often I think that we are almost “the last generation” that can see the old ways and methods disappearing. I feel as if I have the duty to mix them with a modern touch.

How does the design process with your family look like? Do you discuss everything around the kitchen table?
Sometimes I start doing a lot of doodles and other times I see an old object in my grandfather’s carpentry, then I ask myself questions and finally draw some ideas. I usually show them to my parents, but also to my uncle Fedele and to my grandmother – hearing their opinions is really interesting. For many years, I have received opinions from professional designers or architects and honestly, I find my family’s point of view enlightening: they go straight to the point. I am lucky, because we all live in the same building. But the person who inspires me the most is my grandfather, nonno Saverio. He works without wasting material or time and usually does not talk that much, he just says “certu si poti fari, chi ci voli?” that translated from the Calabrese dialect means “of course it can be done, it’s easy!”

Looking back, has the return to your roots influenced the way you work nowadays?
After 3 years, I can say that this has totally influenced my way of working. Before going back home, I was really into 3D modelling and now sometimes I do not even sit in front of the computer anymore. Nevertheless, I think that the biggest influence came with the use of “tasty” and natural materials, really typical in Calabria. This region is a beautiful “piece” of Italy, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea and with beautiful and eclectic landscapes.

You work a lot with different kinds of wood, where did you get your carpentry skills?
I definitely did not learn about wood at school, I learnt it at home, in Calabria. Woodworking is something common in my family. I make small objects and I help my grandfather with the sanding, but when it comes to the real building of the piece, he does it himself. While on one side I leave the making to the “artisan”, I really like to select the wood, not only the kind of wood but also the piece of wood! I like to imagine which part of the wood will “dress” the design of the object by studying the colour of the wood and its veins. I choose a particular wood for a specific design, and I like to caress the surface of the wood, because I think the wood is a “living material”.

Your works carry narrative titles such as Welcome Tree Carpet, Back Home, Olive Oil Tasting Set and Still Alive, what is the narrative behind your work?
People think that in the end an object is “just an object”. I know it can seem “old style” being too narrative, taking the risk of not being straightforward. However, I often like to imagine that objects are like people: every piece has its own character and story. However, the majority of people are used to reading stories, instead of “perceiving” them behind objects. Therefore, the narrative title is a “resume” of the story of the object – so that it is approachable to everybody.

During the last Salone del Mobile 2013, your work was part of the exhibition Nomadismi curated by Lidewij Edelkoort & Raffaele Carrieri, do you consider yourself a “third millennium” nomad?
I definitely feel closer to a nomadic nature rather than to a sedentary culture. When I was studying, I had the chance to change city almost every year. Now that I am in my family’s home in the south, I feel a sense of freedom that I had lost. The beautiful thing about the fact that you can think about yourself as a nomad is that you are never scared to lose something and you can easily adapt yourself to different situations. I think that a nomad approach to life is more spontaneous and for this reason it is closer to my personal idea of what creativity should be.

How do you see yourself working in the future? What will your work ethos be in, let us say, ten years?
I know that what I am doing now has been a playing and learning process, an important step in my life and career. I would like to keep studying in a practical way to learn what design is for me. One day, I would like to put this personal process into mass production and at the same time stay close to artisanal techniques, which are softly dying. I have a dream: to always work on the natural and spontaneous side in the creative industry, but there is no “business plan” for dreams. In ten years I will be 40, then I see myself working with young people and sharing what I have learned but also learning from them, their new ways of approaching design, so I can always deliver new and evolved narratives to design companies and to people.

Lisanne Fransen – Image courtesy of Fedele Zaminga 
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Visiting Martino Gamper’s Home in Glasgow

Have you ever wondered what would it be like to enter into your favourite designer’s home? What would his chairs and tables be, what kind of lighting would he or she choose, what would the carpets, blankets or shelves look like? For his latest exhibition at The Modern Institute in Glasgow, one of our favourite designers, Martino Gamper, has showcased just that: a home.

Tired of the usual design exhibitions, which show isolated pieces of furniture, lonely objects displayed on pristine white tables, totems or shelves, so far away from their daily use and, unfortunately, oh so common for design shows, Gamper has decided to try a different approach. Titled Tu casa, mi casa, this exhibition presents itself as what may appear like a typical Gamper-ish house: colourful tapestry, colour-blocking room dividers, geometrically sharp and yet somehow spontaneous and slightly goofy furniture. Yet, as we all know, appearances can deceive and you should know better than to think that Martino’s objects are designed through sheer chance and improvisation. In fact, the sheer number of different techniques used to produce the objects specifically for the show – Carpentry, glass blowing, enamelling, parchment work, joinery, bronze casting, wiring, fusing glass, moulding, wood turning and anodisation – demonstrate a deep knowledge of craftsmanship and technical ability.

For this very reason, we cannot but snark when reading Gamper’s work described as “infused by spontaneity” or “improvisational”, since “incorporating faithfulness to the history of Italian design”, showing an “interest in the psychosocial connotations of furniture and use of space” and creating a “homage to craft, design and domestic functionality”, requires much, much more than sheer good spirit, spontaneity and a free mind.

Rujana Rebernjak 
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Style Suggestions: Back To Work

It’s not always easy going back into the office after the holiday break but it always helps to start the first day by feeling confident and cool. Try a tailored jacket with a straight leg pant and walk in there looking refreshed and ready to start the new year in style.

Paul Smith Shirt, Rag & Bone Blazer, Etoile by Isabel Marant pants, Asos Mittens, Marni Belt, The Taylor Headphone, Derek Lam Boots, Vintage Balenciaga Coat, Kate Spade New York Watch

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 

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Just take your time wherever you go

Watches used to be a staple in an everyday wardrobe but have over the years been replaced by digital machinery, reducing the timepiece to a more decorative state. So excusing a dreadful wrist watch with the fact that “it still works” just isn’t enough by today’s fashionable standards. If picking the right one, a watch can stand the test of time in both prestige and design. Vintage watch styles can more often than not be seen at high end fashion brands as if to show their heritage and build status.

Watches as many other fashion items of today have become part of complementing our own individuality. But how do you know which style is right? Start by defining your lifestyle. Here are some examples:

- The Splurger – For a person of expensive taste and a bank-account to match a Rolex or other high end brand such as Bvlgari will always complement an outfit due to the sheer exclusivity.

- The “I’ll do it my way” – The boyfriend wrist watch with its big dial has been one of the biggest watch trends the past year, especially when combined with rosé gold as seen at Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors. So for the person who wants to go up stream pick a small dial, as seen at Karl Lagerfeld, something that will work great in these minimalistic times.

- The GlobetrotterKitmen Keung has, by combining a simplistic dial in off white brass with a smart and sleek design, created the perfect travel companion. The primary dial is in a dark and bold color scheme. The precision of the secondary clock face has been made to almost come across like an “interface shadow” showcasing to the wearer the temporal distance between the user and someone on the other side of the globe.

It is said that time is of the essence so naturally there is a perfect watch for everyone to find, it is just a matter of answering the question what defines me?

Victoria Edman 
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The last Inuit

Sometimes it doesn’t take much time to understand a population. In this way, Robert Peroni, the italian explorer who lives between Italy and Greenland, describes the Inuit – the last descendants of the native inhabitants of the Arctic: “They live hand to mouth, only the present exists for them. If they see three seals, they kill and eat just one of them, even if they remain without food. These people don’t know the occidental concept of accumulation”.

However, this happened ten years ago when, due to ecologists pressure, seal hunting was banished in response to the massacres caused by canadian poachers. This was the final nail in the coffin for the three thousand Inuit who lived in the archipelago of Ammassalik, in west Greenland. Struggled with one of the most inhospitable land in the world, in the middle of ices and fiords, deprived of the possibility of breed and hunt seals, the Inuit started to die. Not for hunger, but for depression. They started committing suicide, when alcohol and drugs were diffused in every level of the population.

If today the Inuit are not dead, it is thanks to Robert Peroni. In the last 20 years, this explorer, born in north Italy, created a foundation for raising money to give it to Inuit and transformed an old building into a small hotel, La casa rossa, in the city of Tasiilaq, with 140 beds for tourists, who are guided in their extreme tours by the Inuit. He also wrote a book, Dove il vento grida più forte, in which Peroni explains why occidental people consider the Inuit rough and archaic people, forced not to accept help from the outside. Peroni has been one of the few, maybe the only white man accepted by Inuit in their community.

In november Peroni, who is now 69 years old and is fighting against a bad disease, came back to Greenland, after having presented his book in Italy. When he is asked if the moment to take a rest has arrived and come back permanently to his place of origin, Bolzano, the answer is: “There is nothing left for me in Italy. It is between icebergs and mountains that I feel like home”. Peroni often remembers when the Inuit were happy, before the past difficult years. In these archive pictures, they have been photographed in the 60′s.

Antonio Leggieri – Image courtesy of the Biblio Archive of Canada 
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Art Spiegelman is better than you think he is

Art Spiegelman already had an enviable career as an underground cartoonist
 and editor before hitting it big with Maus. Co-Mix, his first-ever 
American retrospective running now at The Jewish Museum, makes it clear 
that the artist never shied away from experimentation. He drew his first
 strip, The Loonies, at age 12 and hasn’t looked back. “The only thing that 
changed over the years”, he once said, “was the kind of cartoons I wanted
 to make”.

A look into his early career finds an artist struggling to forge his own
 identity in a frugal medium largely considered novel by anyone other than 
the people making it: R. Crumb, Justin Green, Bill Griffith, Kim Deitch.
 Spiegelman’s early work from the 60s and 70s, was largely published in 
projects he co-edited with other underground comics: Short Order Comix, 
Arcade, and The Comix Revue. Later he and his wife Françoise Mouly founded the
 avant-garde comix magazine Raw. On the side, he worked as an idea man at
 Topps Chewing Gum and occasionally sold strips to Playboy to supplement his

1972 was the year Spiegelman found his voice. First came a three-page comic
 (also titled Maus) in which a father mouse relates the horrors of Auschwitz 
to his son Mickey, in the form of a bedtime story. Later in the year
 came Prisoner 
on the Hell Planet, an Expressionist scratchboard comic that deals with
Spiegelman’s anguish and guilt over his mother’s suicide. Both works deal 
with extreme personal matter that would be fleshed out years later in the
 300-page Maus.

Maus, one of the 20th Century literature’s highwater marks, portrays
 Spiegelman as some mad genius at war with himself as he unknots the horrors 
from his past: his parent’s survival of the Holocaust, his mother’s
suicide, his complex relationship with his father, mental illness, 
second-generation survivor’s guilt. As in all of his later work, individual 
identity is front and center. Once asked to compare the difference between
 art and therapy, Spiegelman quipped, “Making art is cheaper”. The artist
 struggled with Maus for nearly two decades, and the amount of work that 
went into it is on full display at Co-Mix in the form of research
 notebooks displaying Nazi memorabilia, rough sketches, and recorded 
interviews with his father Vladek. There’s even a stuffed mouse he used as 
a model. Thankfully, no cats are on display.

Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize for Maus in 1992 and spent the next ten 
years making provocative covers for The New Yorker with his wife, most
 notably the 9/11 cover that would eventually blossom into his next big
work, In The Shadow of No Towers, which again found the artist nearing
 implosion due to the unbearable stress from the world around him (Art was
 living in lower Manhattan when the planes hit and allegedly developed
post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result). Scanning through the paranoia
 of No Towers at Co-Mix reminded of another panel, one seen near the
 start of the exhibit, that serves more or less as a thesis for Spiegelman’s 
career. Midget Detective Ace Hole, an early character, follows the artist, 
now in middle age, through a dark alley, muttering:
 “I tailed the little squirt as he got lost in the squalid labyrinths of his
past. He kept ducking from one memory to another trying to locate the
 moments that shaped and misshaped him! The fetid smell of his 
self-absorption made me gag, but I got closer and snarled: Stop whining, ya

Co-Mix is on display now at The Jewish Museum and runs through March

Lane Koivu 
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…and a Happy New Year!

Is there anything more cliché than a New Year’s resolution list? And yet, what else should we do as the clocks are ticking and a fabulous year is about to pass and an even more fabulous one is about to begin, but write another list. Ours is short and sweet, and it mostly involves doing what we know best: writing about exciting events, projects, people and objects from the world of fashion, photography, art, design and culture. We have done so much in the past year and hopefully we will do so much more in the upcoming one. Happy New 2014!

The Blogazine 
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