In February, independent Milanese gallery Peep-Hole opened Anno Tropico, the first solo show by Formafantasma in an Italian institution (the exhibition runs until 19 March). The duo, based in Amsterdam, represents an interesting fusion between two schools of design with strong identities: Italian, which is connected to the idea of craftsmanship and tradition, and Dutch, which views design as an artistic discipline based on research and innovation. Peep-Hole reflects the designers’ recent interest in the functional and expressive qualities of light, with a series of works made using different techniques and materials, together with a site-specific installation that shifts the pair’s experimentation to an architectural scale. Dichroic glass, optical lenses, and a parabolic mirror, assembled with industrial materials like bricks and iron rods, shape the light, generating reflections and shadows in the space.
“The gallery has been architecturally modified, with a series of partitions built to modulate the light enter- ing from the windows. Additionally, the opening hours of the show vary according to the seasonal changes in diurnal sunlight.” Meticulously constructed on three different levels of media and meanings, the display comprises light objects, drawings on the walls and ceil- ing, and a video. Models and three-dimensional assemblages of raw materials and LED lights create a direct bridge between newer works and older Formafantasma productions. “Light is designed with the use of custom- made optics, reflective surfaces, interaction with the architecture, and the introduction of new gestures.”
All the elements that appear at a first glance to be more decorative reveal instead a specific intention. “In one of the objects, a polycarbonate transparent lens, which looks like crystal and is hung under an LED-powered light source, is designed to cast a perfectly round re- flection onto the floor. In another case, a sculptural brass form laid on a round plate is constructed in such a way that the light is controlled by differently rotating the piece on the electrified surface rather than via a switch.” The designers wanted to re-think the on-off relationship with electricity that elevates the switch to a gesture. Formally, the majority of the objects are based on circles and round forms, reminiscent of the astronomical rings and armillary spheres used in the past to track changes in the cosmos.