Milan, 14th -19th April, 2010
In the context of the world’s most important furniture fair, the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, Advantage Austria presented an exhibition curated by Robert Punkenhofer comprising 41 Austrian design creations at the Milan ZonaTortona.
The Galvanotecnica Bugatti, an old factory building on the Via Bugatti, was chosen to underline the intention and title of the exhibition: more than a hundred years ago, the Bugatti car manufacturing family was already a benchmark on design. Such a location created a consistent and coherent stage to exhibit Austrian companies such as Bene, Kapo, Viteo or Wittmann, who all demonstrate inventiveness, precise craftsmanship and technological edge as a common trademark.
But the exhibition also claimed for the interaction with the Austrian young creative scene. Artistic interventions transformed the Fabrica Bugatti into a space that addressed all the senses. Design collective EOOS arranged minimalistic objects with mirrors to evoke the illusion of new spaces and endless corridors. Choreographer Chris Haring and musician Andreas Berger from the dance company Liquid Loft reanimated iconic Thonet chairs as “Meubles parlantes”. Dejana Kabiljo invited visitors to Let Them Sit Cake!, an installation made of flour and chocolate icing. Polka and Aldo Giannotti revealed unorthodox approaches to spotlight product design and Walking Chair presented new creations, including live singing performances.
These artistic and design interventions provided a perfect backdrop to tell the story of Austrian design. Ever since the Thonet family revolutionised the furniture industry out of their workshop in Vienna and Ferdinand Porsche drove around with the first car powered by a hybrid electrical motor in 1902, Austrian design history has proudly produced some of the most genius creators of furniture, product design and architecture – from Adolf Loos, Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte to outstanding personalities such as Frederick Kiesler and Josef Frank. The exhibition Surprising Ingenuity stated that this splendid legacy continues with high energy.
The Surprising Ingenuity – Austrian Designexhibition was organised in collaboration with “go international” – the export funding programme of the Federal Economic Chamber and the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs of Austria, the Austrian furniture industry, austria wirtschaftservice with impulse | evolve and the Vienna Economic Chamber with Wien Products and creativespace.at.
Choreographer Chris Haring, musician Andreas Berger and lighting designer Thomas Jelinek from Vienna-based Liquid Loft – one of the foremost contemporary dance companies and winner of the Golden Lion for the best dance performance at the Venice Biennale in 2007 – presented an unconventional production in the context of Zona Tortona and the furniture fair. Manipulating an Austrian design classic, Liquid Loft placed the ubiquitous bent-wood Thonet chairs on centre stage in a performative intervention entitled Living Room. Inspired by meubles parlantes (“speaking furniture”) with inlays in the form of poems, proverbs and inscriptions – a craft very popular during Classicism and Art Nouveau – Haring and Berger created a sonic landscape, where the aseptic character of design objects was transformed into a living sculpture. Suddenly, the Thonet chairs started to move and communicate with each other, exploring the question: what is our furniture doing when we are not around?
Originally from Italy and Switzerland, internationally acclaimed design-duo Karl Emilio Pircher and Fidel Peugeot founded Walking Chair in 2003 in Vienna. The scope of their work reaches from product design with a focus on furniture and graphic design all the way to architecture and artistic projects. All creations are charged with a high degree of playfulness, humour and witty manufacturing talent. Over the last couple of years, Walking Chair was invited to all major design festivals across the globe, from 100% London to Design Week in Tokyo. At the same time, they also present the multifunctional You May furniture piece for the urban public space as well as the idiosyncratic and custom made Animal Farm interior series. According to their slogan ‘We make things and songs’, visitors had the pleasure to listen to newly composed songs performed live by Walking Chair during specific exhibition hours.
Let Them Sit Cake! is the title of Dejana Cabiljo’s lounge installation, altering a quote commonly attributed to Queen Marie Antoinette. Instead of addressing the cynical tone of the phrase, Cabiljo associates her work with mouth-watering pastry that reflects the Viennese spirit in its finest tradition. Using nearly two tons of flour as well as 30 litres of chocolate icing (reusable polyurethane sponge), Cabiljo invited visitors to take a rest on an oversized cake in the shape of a sofa. With her sensual and sometimes provocative projects, Cabiljo is a regular exhibitor at Zona Tortona.
In the exhibition, Polka’s work was explored through recent projects such as a sofa system executed for Wittmann and a glass collection for Lobmeyr. In addition, Polka was invited to design the exhibition for the ‘holy grail’ of the Fabrica: the 2 rooms of the historic electroform technical laboratory, a kitchen-like setting where some of the most outstanding Austrian tabletop companies find a perfect stage. The presentation entitled Wiener Blut (Vienna Blood) highlighted the enormous passion with which the manufacturers bring their products to unique perfection. The colour red visualised this entrepreneurial strength by surrounding or completely filling the objects placed in the laboratory context.
For his site-specific installation in the staircase of the exhibition venue, Aldo Giannotti converted a sky projector that is usually used outdoors to highlight the entrance to Surprising Ingenuity. Due to the limited indoor space, the overcharged light beam itself nearly turned into a physical object that projected a glowing moon on the ceiling of the Fabrica. In his performance work, Giannotti frequently intervenes in social settings, manipulating the behaviour, movement and interaction of the viewers, juxtaposing and stressing the differences in their cultural, national, political and even religious identities.
Photos © Rainer Fehringer