New Craft – When The Hand Meets The Machine

NEW CRAFT

Curated by Stefano Micelli

Fabbrica del Vapore, Via Procaccini 4, Milano

02.04 – 12.09

XXI Triennale International Exhibition

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Entrance to the exhibition at Fabbrica del Vapore. Photo by Federica Sala

 The Milano Triennale International Exhibition is back after 20 years with a challenging program of exhibitions, special events and lectures that are happening all around the city since early Spring inside museums, universities and important cultural spaces. The aim of this project is to try to analyze from different perspectives the world of design in its contemporaneity.

New Craft is an exhibition that belongs to this intense and very ambitious program and takes place at the Fabbrica del Vapore, a former industrial building today devoted to contemporary culture, nearby the Monumentale graveyard of Milan. The aim of this endeavor is to share with the audience a reflection about one of the biggest and at the same time most exciting challenges design is facing nowadays: innovation through craftsmanship. In fact, if on the one hand we are facing the never ending opportunities offered by new technologies, on the other being a relevant designer today seems to mean also to go back to craftsmanship. Here, what becomes clear is that the unique essence of craft has finally been reconsidered (hurrah!) as something more meaningful and more valuable  than what can be achieved via mass production. Being able to produce new products using old techniques seems to be the objective many designers are trying to achieve. Thus the big challenge for a new generation of designers is creating a new type of technology to produce new forms of craft. The purpose of using old machines and studying traditional techniques is to give birth to new industrial/craft projects in which the speed and precision of the machines is combined with the uniqueness and customization of handmade piecesMany design theorists are raising attention on these new aspects of the discipline, trying to understand the how and the why of what is better known as a “self-production phenomena”, “fab-lab” and “makers”. At the same time, it’s important not to forget the industries that have invested into the design & engineering field, trying to merge mass production, with the high quality of the final outcomes and technical research towards innovation.

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New Craft – central hall exhibition at Fabbrica del Vapore. Photo © Inexhibit

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A large x-shaped concrete table located in the middle of the great hall. Photo © Inexhibit

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Photo by Federica Sala

 New Craft tries to didactically organize and narrate all the manifold aspects that are part and parcel of this research field today, showing products as diverse as bicycles and clothes, pots, cars, site-specific installations, processes of production (3D printing, 3D cutting, new typography machines) and (Yes!) jewelry piecesThe audience is able to interact with different tools, creating objects that become part of the exhibition too. 

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Artifacts made during the exhibitionPhoto © Inexhibit

 If the general aim of this event is pretty clear and well organized through a very defined path, sometimes the choice of the objects is too much. What I mean here is that the selection of pieces seems to be presenting too often objects belonging to the same collections, designers or brands rather than trying to really show the different possible outcomes the use of new craft techniques can lead to by involving a wider range of practitioners. Furthermore the amount of objects is overwhelming, so for me the famous “less is more” would have worked better on the overall, giving to the different pieces more space to breath but also more importance. 

 The jewellery section featured the work of Stefano Marchetti, Monica Castiglioni, Paola Volpi and Stefania Lucchetta.  While the first represents the highest form of goldsmithing skills rethought into more contemporary forms, the others base their work on the use of new technologies such as synterization and 3D printing together with a deep experimentation with new materials. I perfectly know and understand that each of the products presented in the exhibition is no more than a hint to a bigger world, but also in this case, the selection and the variety of the jewellery pieces could have been better shown and presented: Marchetti’s pieces are detached from the others and in the case of Lucchetta and Volpi the display seems to refer to a shop window rather than to an exhibition space. This means the the particularities and values of each piece are not highlighted, making it very hard for an audience to really appreciate the nuances of each piece.

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Exhibition view of the jewellery section. Photo by Federica Sala

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Exhibition view of the jewelry section. Photo by Federica Sala

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Stefano Marchetti’s pieces. Photo by Federica Sala

For instance Lucchetta’s work is the result of complicated 3D sketches and repeated patterns that could be nice to show close to one of the pieces. This is because the material choices she makes are relevant, and a consequence of the production process in relation to the visual final effects she wants to achieve. I know this as a professional in the field, but who else?

Anyhow, looking at the jewellery presentations from a distance, the contraposition of these images gives a strong feeling, especially looking at Marchetti’s work whose presence in this exhibition is remarkable and important for all of us: contemporary jewellery exists here and could also be like this!

Federica Sala is a jewelry artist based in Milan. In 2015 she graduated from Alchimia’s MFA program and recently won the Marzee Price 2016.

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