The common thread of this edition of Brescia Design Festival is the word “transformation”. The term is intended as change of shape and meaning, and as evolutionary process. The event involves many vacant and unused commercial spaces situated in Corso Mameli and Corso Garibaldi; it shows the artworks of national and international independent designers, in order to make a connection with outer space through the storefronts.
Camerae Magazine was asked to talk of the collaboration between the artist Sara Ricciardi and the glass maker Chiara Valentini. The outcome of their meeting in the Atelier, “Sara Ricciardi meets Chiara Valentini”, is named Allunaggio: stone, marble and glass get together to be transformed into collector’s items, as a result of a long technical and visual experimentation. The collection has been exhibited in a space set up by them in the last week of the second edition of the Festival. The objects of Allunaggio look like artifacts from another planet. Sara Ricciardi and Chiara Valentini re-created the natural habitat of their pieces with a few simple materials and the lights available at the space. The atmosphere was fairly intimate and spatial, and fitted perfectly with Atelier’s size and location. The glass melting on the stone creates a number of unique items, a perfect balance between art and design.
We had a chat with the architect Filippo Abrami, curator and organizer of Brescia Design Festival, who managed to allocate a space to each designer. He did it not incidentally, but with the intention of establishing a communication between artworks and locations.
F.I.: Sara Ricciardi meets Chiara Valentini: what made you think of letting them meet for the festival?
F.A.: It was not a hunch, but rather an opportunity. My interest in Sara Ricciardi’s work lies in her ability to interact with ancient knowledge, local materials and artisanal technique. She can take these elements and push them to the limit, rediscovering and reinventing what we are accustomed to see. When I invited her to attend the festival, I had two options: let her interact with local materials, maybe some industrial production discards, turning a vacant space into a performative space/ temporary workshop — kind of like what happened with Francesco Zorzi in the previous edition — or rather introduce her to a local artisan and see what would happen thanks to this collaboration. The artisan concerned was Chiara Valentini. Chiara has a wonderful studio where she melts glass, in Brescia. I was immediately struck by her description of this work when she told me about it last year — especially for the potential for reuse and recycling this technique offers. In fact, I invited Chiara to exhibit a collection of plates and bowls made of recycled glass. And she actually told me about a little portable furnace, that’s how the idea of a temporary atelier arose: ATELIER Sara Ricciardi meets Chiara Valentini. A space devoted to the creation and experimentation where Sara and Chiara had the opportunity to meet and breathe life into an ad hoc staging area named “Allunaggio”.
F.I.: The transformation here does not relate only to the objects of the collection designed and melted by Sara and Chiara, but also to the space you designed for them. What is transformation of a place to you, whether it be an atelier or a urban space (as has happened with Corso Garibaldi and Curt dei Pulì)?
F.A.: Transformation was the keyword of this second edition of Festival. It has perhaps an even stronger value if we read it into the urban setting in which Festival has taken place. In fact, the object of the event was to change the perception of a portion of the city in the historic centre of Brescia - where pedestrians are facing an environmental degradation today because of the desertification of the commercial activities. There are about twenty vacant commercial spaces, empty and vandalized storefronts, underused public spaces. The Festival afforded help to the revitalization of Corso Mameli and Corso Garibaldi by getting nearly into the half of these vacant commercial spaces and by creating short-lived art installations and staging a playground in one of the near public spaces. Transformation has this meaning for me: it shall open your eyes to the ownerships of the materials used by designers and artists but also, and above all, it shall show what could be done in these empty spaces (public and commercial spaces) which have some great potential but as yet unused.
F.I.: Vacant spaces, empty shops and their storefronts are part of an entire urban environment which cannot be detached. You picked spaces that could be able to interact with the outside by setting up the storefronts. Therefore also the various installations take account of the street and the notion of passage, the concept of visual field and the width of the storefront. Artists are often called to work on-site: if you consider yourself and your professional development as an architect, how do you interpret the work of an artist who is reinventing a place?
F.A.: As you rightly say, the choice of setting up was made in such a way as to make the exhibition always visible from the outside – entering appeared to be unnecessary, except for the space devoted to the Studio Anark's exhibition, which could be visited by appointment. An attempt has been made to synthetize a topic and a language for each storefront, in order to make the intervention uniform and readable as a whole. We used budget-friendly materials, production discards, recovered materials or provided by technical partners, a material palette and color palette, in order to give the visitors of Festival a sense of continuity. We played with Calzificio Bonadei’s discards and aluminium foils (commonly used to store foodstuffs) for the staging of “Allunaggio”. The idea was to recreate a stellar landscape, with some lunar and alien elements. The idea resulted from the view of Chiara Valentini’s portable furnace - which looked like a space probe – and the objects they created in the atelier too – they looked like celestial bodies, or otherwise objects from other worlds. The space of the atelier was reconsidered as a performance, it was turned into a location for these experiments with materials. The environment was completely twisted. A floor made of a soft material and timber supports covered with aluminium foils used as a screen. Everything was illuminated by neon lights, that created a choreography meant to draw the attention of the distracted public, which frequently look at the ground. “Allunaggio” was an experiment inside of the experiment. They pushed the materials and the melting glass technique to the limit, and the space which contained the artworks too. I find it hard to give a clear answer to your question, since we worked unanimously at the transformation of this exhibit from the beginning. The outcome is a common ground between the two directions we wanted to follow: making the space unique, peculiar, tailored to this installation and, at the same time, keeping it connected to other exhibits by finding a gateway in some common elements. On the one hand, we have the artist who works in order to enhance his artwork, and on the other hand, the architect/ curator who works to achieve a uniform result that has to be in continuity with the rest of the Festival.
F.I.: “Allunaggio” is about atmosphere, uncharted land, new tactile and visual sensations. What was the response of the public to their work exhibited at the Atelier? Perhaps the transformation could also involve the approach of the public to some temporary interventions of festivals, since the temporary nature of the staging has to do with the topic of festival…
F.A.: As I mentioned earlier, I think that the staging designed for “Allunaggio” was the most experimental one, in the Festival context. Maybe we’ve gone too far… :). But I think that the space had a need for a stronger nature and a more pronounced identity. Compared with the other spaces used for the Festival, it was the less visible and the art exhibits were of small size. So we needed to attract the attention of the public by offering something new and different. It was also the last staging of Brescia Design Festival. It was the last one opened. The objects exhibited in the other spaces have been there for a month, while the space of Atelier Sara Ricciardi meets Chiara Valentini has been set up just for a week in the configuration of Allunaggio. In the last week of Festival. The weeks before were spent to prepare the work. I therefore think that this staging was the hardest to understand from the point of view of the public - that usually see it empty – but the prettiest to implement and to interact with.