Can a chair designed over 50 years ago inspire creative work today? Australian artist Anna Caione answers, “Yes!” with her artwork La Mamma Dispersa.
Along with five other contemporary creatives of Italian descent, Anna created the exhibition Parallel Visions to explore how design history can enrich contemporary art production.
Her inspiration came from the work and creative practices of 20th-century Italian designers.
Gaetano Pesce’s original La Mamma chair design was inspired by experimenting with materials, and Anna followed suit with her explorations in foam.
The desire to connect the past with the present
Anna and three other artists each chose a 20th-century Italian designer and came up with creative responses to their work.
Flavia Marcello, Associate Professor of Architectural History at Swinburne, collaborated with them to create a virtual reality experience inspired by the 1930s Milan Triennale.
Even the exhibition’s display system was influenced by 20th-century Italian design, resulting in a playful cross-fertilization of design, art and history.
“It’s about transforming design forms into non-functional works of art,” said Anna.
“It’s this idea of twisting meaning and interpretation — dissecting a design object while exploring and manipulating its materials and forms.”
Cabinet of Curiosities – Artist Sarina Lirosi was inspired by Alessandro Mendin’s “Quali Cose Siamo” to explore forty intriguing, playful or emotionally connected objects
Anna’s work responded to multidisciplinary superstar Gaetano Pesce. Her creative exploration of La Mamma Dispersa focused on his famous piece, the La Mamma chair.
Material and playfulness inspired Pesce’s design. His work pioneered the use of polyurethane, growing his original vacuum-packed design from a small disk to a full-size chair.
Anna took that idea and teased them apart.
“The concept was to create the idea that the chair would be cut, distributed, reconfigured and reinterpreted into a work of art,” said Anna.
“It means different things to different people. But I like the idea of the 1954 Triennial, playfulness abandoned.”
However, the exhibition goes beyond simply recreating the past and focuses on re-contextualizing it.
In particular, Parallel Visions draws on the interplay between the patriarchal and the matriarchal as contemporary creative women respond to the work of historical male designers and deconstruct it through their own lens.
“There weren’t many women designers in 20th-century design, especially in Italian design. It was a very patriarchal world,” explained Anna.
“We want to show how times have changed now and that this model is collapsing – not collapsing – but collapsing. The exhibition is also about that.”
Gold Mine (for Giò Pomodoro) – Wilma Tabacco was curious to learn more about Italian abstract artist Gio Pomadoro, as she found similarities to her own work, particularly Gold Metallic
Why is design history so important?
While creative inspiration is a highly individual process, Parallel Visions shows the important role story can play, especially when it has a personal connection with an artist.
“You have to understand the past – how it is connected to us. It creates and shapes the lives we lead today,” said Anna.
“The story opens up a world of exploration and creativity for you. It makes you a curious person. Without curiosity you create nothing.”
At this point – From the first encounter with Bruno Munari’s “Libri Illeggibili” and “Sculture Pieghevoli”, Liliana Barbieri felt an immediate connection and has drawn on it to create her latest series of works