At Homo Faber, where the difference between craftsmanship and design becomes very clear

There is design, if there is detachment from matter, a new appearance, lateral thinking. The rest are brands that enchant, but without innovation

Tradition understood as craftsmanship and luxury as a bulwark to preserve it: this is the feeling of Homo Faber, the exhibition just concluded dedicated to the craftsmanship of the Giorgio Cini Foundation on the island of San Giorgio in Venice. We were happy to see how the craftsmen work live. Enchanted the visitors and also enchanted the producers. Some of the surprise of seeing things that are not within reach of everyday life, the others in hypnosis given by the perfection of doing.

The entrance to Homo Faber on the island of San Giorgio in Venice

From the haute couture of Hermes and Dolce & Gabbana to the hand-engraved watch cases (A. Lange & Söhne), to the carved gemstones (Cartier), to the encrustes of finely punched fabric for expensive evening dresses (Maison Lemarié), to the leather mosaics (Serapian), the starting point is always a gemstone, a special fabric, a metal plate.

The beauty of the materials maintains the man as the manufacturer. In the details, there is the genealogy of the ornament, where the craft traditions have been handed down through the generations – as the title of one of the exhibitions says. Always different, but always the same.

The garden with the 12 stones. In the foreground a work by Noboru Fujima

There is no innovation, there is no design. Sometimes the traditions even produce very ugly objects. I have seen some in the Next of Europe section along with others who are very beautiful, next to some amazing for the mystery of their making. And in fact, the same curators (Blanchaert and Boeri) have described it as a “contemporary curiosity”. Feathers, alabaster, wood, glass, which the contemporary has reinterpreted by going away from the craft to experiment with art. An always difficult relationship. The creators tried to redefine gay fabs by inserting technology between creativity and substance, but in the review they were not told.

The starting point is always a gemstone, a special fabric, a metal plate. There is no innovation, there is no design. Sometimes the traditions even produce very ugly objects.

Present the flowers in an extraordinary fleeting setting, where Ikebana and Vanitas told about the beauty of nature; porcelain, celebrated in the magnificent backdrop of the seventeenth-century Biblioteca del Longhena, with objects produced by renowned producers but also by independent potters, and for all one: a work (Grégoire Scalabre) consisting of 60,000 miniature porcelain vases held together. Impressive and useless. Michele De Lucchi presents a research on paper, a material that is always fascinating for its versatility: origami and paper clothing, in order to remain in the Japanese tradition.

The work concluding the exhibition The Virtuosos of Porceain in the Longhena Library is by Grégoire Scalabre

In the Japanese tradition, craftsmanship and design are combined, two extraordinary exhibitions to confirm this: the exhibition dedicated to Bob Wilson and The garden of the 12 stones. One, set up in the swimming pool of the complex of the Basilica of San Giorgio, with costumes and objects belonging to the scenes of the American director and choreographer; the other in the Palladian Cenacle, in the presence of the huge painting of Veronese, albeit fake, with objects created by 12 National Living Treasures of Japan, the special title given by the Japanese government to some people considered examples of important intangible cultural characteristics. Here we perceive the reference between tradition and innovative techniques.

Precious substances in the exhibition curated by Tokugo Uchida together with Naoto Fukasawa to collect the items from 12 of Japan’s National Living Treasures.

But those who did not go into the Stanze del Vetro to visit the exhibition at FontanaArte after visiting Homo Faber would not understand the difference between craftsmanship and design. It starts with the Luce films about the production of tempered glass sheets and goes into the retrospective dedicated to the Milanese company, which would not have made unthinkable use of them if Gio Ponti and Pietro Chiesa had not been in charge of the art before, starting from kl. its basis. in 1932, then the master glassmaker Max Ingrand from 1954, and finally Gae Aulenti until 1996.

The sculptor Andrian Melka

Glass bonsai by Simone Crestani

A one centimeter thick glass plate can easily be thought of as a shop window, but to make a lamp it requires a tank that goes beyond that. We have to imagine that a sphere can be built with a series of isometric circles, which in reality turn into horizontal glass disks inserted in a cylindrical diffuser, and ultimately a luminous and functional object. IS 0024 pendant lamp from Gio Ponti.

Or you need to know what Duchampian ready-mades are, put four bicycle wheels under a square plate and invent a table that has never been seen before. È Tour, by Gae Aulenti, 1993.

The design is to imagine building a sphere with a series of isometric circles, which in reality turn into horizontal glass disks inserted in a cylindrical diffuser, making it an enlightening and functional object. Like the 0024 pendant lamp from Gio Ponti to FontanaArte

Or you can even imagine an architecture and find a solution to hold heavy together vertical and horizontal glass sheets to make it a bookcase. Like? With steel drawbars. È Teso, by Renzo Piano, 1989.

In one of the Magnae Chartae rooms, the artists could take turns exhibiting their works and creating in public.

In all cases, we are talking about design and not about crafts, about innovation and not about tradition. The difference lies in the author’s detachment from the material, which allows us to look at it with new eyes and imagine new and functional applications for everyday life. Here is the leap, the leap that implements the discontinuity with tradition, that is lateral thinking, that is the immateriality of culture. Knowledge of the craft and the beauty of the material remains, but we gain access to a higher step than human capacity.

The exhibition Tracing Venice with works by Zanellato / Bortolotto for De Castelli

Also a luxury. And fortunately, there is a category of people with purchasing power who can afford, otherwise many processes would have disappeared, and maybe even designed. Although this leaves some bitterness in the mouth.

In the big picture above, a flower arrangement and a vase by White Pepper Studio for Venini.

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