Kama Sex and Design

Kama_VaginaWall-thumb-620x411-52036My new article for Cool Hunting.

The products of design are often objects of desire, but to what extent can this drive be pushed? The exhibition “Kama Sex and Design” ventures an answer to that weighty question with an analysis of the visual representation of sexual motifs. The starting point is Kama, the Indian god of sexual pleasure, who welcomes visitors into the exhibition space at the Triennale in Milan. The route runs between contemporary objects, classic design, site-specific installations and photographs.

Curator Silvana Annicchiarico tells us that the show “aims to be an exhibition on objects which have the genitals and sexual organs as morphological matrix, but also on the body that maintains sexual relations with other bodies. It is an exhibition that investigates how sex is present in everyday objects.” To achieve this goal, the exhibition is divided into eight sections: Archetypes, Priapus, Origin du Monde, Breasts, Buttocks, Orifices, Couplings and Erotic Food Design, and is accompanied by an ambitious central installation entitled “Anatomical Atlas of the Erotic Refined Body.” Among Etruscan sculptures, Greek vases and Roman artifacts we find very well known works like the Mae West sofa by Salvador Dalí, as well as provocative pieces such as “The Great Wall of Vagina” by Jamie McCartney, a relief of 400 plaster casts of female genitalia.

The exploration begins with a room by Andrea Branzi, in which the relationships between classical and modern, and sex and death, are made explicit through skulls and reproductions of classical female nudes. It continues with a black monolith by Lapo Lani, located in a dark space covered with obscene writing viewed by flashlights.

In another room Nendo‘s “Shivering Bowls” resembling female breasts move as their name suggests, moving in an unexpectedly poetic manner with a constant flow of air. The softness of Nendo’s work contrasts with the hard marble and metals in Betony Vernon‘s installation where mysterious objects of the body (and a provocatively phallic marble chair) are presented in a red space reminiscent of an elegant brothel.

Other designers and artists whose work is on display include Nacho CarbonellNigel CoatesMatali CrassetItalo RotaPiero Fornasetti, Ettore Sottsass, Gaetano Pesce. “Kama Sex and Design” runs through 10 March 2013 and is prohibited for persons under 18 years.

Space Age Lights

My new article from Cool Hunting.

The second half of the 20th Century saw design attempting to unite the tension between the function and wonder of daily objects. A new exhibit, “Space Age Lights,” which opened today at La Triennale di Milano Design Museum, shows how lamps and lighting in particular have helped solve this conundrum.

With a collection of often anonymous and never-before-seen lamps, borrowed from individuals who gathered this eye-catching series of objects both in Europe and the U.S., the show offers a rare opportunity to study even the fringes of the era. While technically the Space Age goes from the late ’60s to the early ’70s, its influence extends to various related styles that have developed over the entire century.

Curator Gianluca Sgalippa created an exhibit based on meticulous research comparing each piece with paintings, sculptures, movies and graphics that date back to Futurism, Constructivism and Machinism, including science fiction and fashion icons such as André Courrèges and Pierre Cardin.

The display (conceived by Salvo Bonura) makes the upshot of his exploration clear, as does the show’s subtitle, “Between Pop and the Avant-Garde”—these objects always balance edginess with mass appeal.

The accompanying rich catalogue, in Italian and English, compares these masterpieces from the ’60s to the ’70s with the work of many great (though obscure) authors. “Space Age Lights” runs through 5 September 2010. See more images in the gallery below.

Mega souvenir

Las Vegas

Questa sera, alla presentazione de Le Aziende In-Visibili alla Triennale di Milano, c’era Luigi Serafini, un artista e illustratore di rara sensibilità, dal tocco talmente surreale da sembrare assolutamente realista.

Una sua frase mi ha colpito: “I grandi monumenti dimostrano di essere tali solo se possono essere ridotti alla dimensione di souvenir”.

Qualche anno fa sono entrato all’hotel Wynn di Las Vegas, un monolito nero di 40 piani, ficcato in un fianco della città, visibile da ogni strada del centro, ma anche dal deserto o dall’aereo. Entrato nell’immensa hall, ho visto nel gift shop una scatola di mentine che riproduceva in tutto e per tutto la forma dell’edificio. L’ho comprata subito.

Ancora oggi non so dire se sia più convincente l’albergo oppure la scatola di caramelle.