Studio Formafantasma
(Andrea Trimarchi & Simone Farresin) 

In 2009 Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin graduated from Contextual Design (then called IM) with the project Moulding Tradition. The title refers to a local Sicilian craft tradition and at the same time it can be read as a political statement. In the 17th century Arab-African people conquered Sicily, introducing majolica to Europe. It inspired the ‘Teste di Moro’ vases that are still produced for the tourist market in Sicily. In recent times, history seems to repeat itself. While craftsmen create vases with African features referring to Sicilian history, people with similar features are returning, not as conquerors, but as clandestine immigrants. A majority of the Italians consider these fugitives a danger for the Italian culture – an ironic twist of history. “Our project is a statement on the ephemeral concept of tradition and shows the contradictions of a decadent culture: if as Italians (and Europeans) we are able to represent our culture with a ‘Moor Vase’, at the same time we must be able to go beyond prejudice and fear, and to let our culture change in the course of time.”

Through Moulding Tradition, Formafantasma document the inherent contradictions of culture and question continued negative attitudes towards immigration, ideas of national identity and the custom of craft to mindlessly perpetuate the past. Each object speaks to some aspect of the immigrant experience – wine bottles recall the fruit in Sicily harvested by migrants and bowls represent the boats conveying refugees across the Mediterranean. The result is a collection of refined ceramic vessels garlanded with portraits of an émigré, buoy-like discs engraved with the percentage of refugees who immigrate per year, and ribbons printed with news reports on illegal immigration published during the project’s production period.

After their graduation both designers have continued to work on experimental material investigations and the research of topics such as the relationship between tradition and local culture, critical approaches to sustainability and the significance of objects as cultural conduits. In perceiving their role as a bridge between craft, industry, object and user, they are interested in forging links between their research-based practice and a wider design industry.

Works by Studio Formafantasma have been commissioned by a variety of partners including Fendi, Max Mara - Sportmax, Hermès, Droog, Nodus rug, J&L Lobmeyr, Gallery Giustini / Stagetti Roma, Gallery Libby Sellers, Established and Sons, Lexus, Krizia International and Flos. Whether designing for a client or investigating alternative applications of materials, Studio Formafantasma apply the same rigorous attention to context, process and detail to every project they undertake. The added nuance for the duo is that they do so with an eye to the historical, political and social forces that have shaped their environments.

Their work has been presented and published internationally and museums such as New York's MoMA, London’s Victoria and Albert, New York's Metropolitan Museum, the Chicago Art Institute, Paris's Centre Georges Pompidou, the TextielMuseum in Tilburg, the Stedelijk’s-Hertogenbosch, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, MUDAC Lausanne, the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in North Carolina and the MAK Museum in Vienna. In 2011 Paola Antonelli of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and design critic Alice Rawsthorn listed their studio amongst a handful of practices that would shape the future of design.

Many projects saw the light of day since 2009. Some of those recent works are featured here. For Botanica, the designers investigated the pre-Bakelite period, discovering unexpected textures, sensations and technical possibilities offered by a great variety of natural polymers extracted from plants or animal-derivatives. The organic details and plant-like forms of the pieces emphasize the vegetal and animal origins of the resins, while the palette of colours is based on natural amber tones in combination with traditional materials such as wood, ceramic and metal. Ore Streams is an ambitious investigation into the recycling of electronic waste. The project makes use of diverse media (including objects, video documentation and animation) to address the meaning of production from multiple perspectives, while offering an insight into how design can be an invaluable agent for change.

For more information, see their website.

Graduation project, 2009, and projects they created since their graduation.




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