At the end of the last century, it was thought the new millennium would be represented in design and architec- ture by incorporeal values such as lightness, transparency, and evanescence, inspired by the fluidity of commu- nication as well as the intangible nature of finance. The world seemed intent on becoming liquid. Instead, in the last few years everything has changed. The economic crisis has profoundly modified our society and hence trans- formed the approach to architecture and culture at large: the world is seeking a new firmness, a solidity that both architecture and design (as well as art, fashion, and cuisine – some of the most interesting expressions of human culture) are making the center of their practice. Human beings are looking for reliable new touchstones, getting back to basics, to find that stability in which it seems necessary to root (or maybe better to re-root) our society. Traditions and history serve as a point of departure to grow and develop, better than before, and concreteness is the new manifesto for contemporary cultures in Western and even in the Eastern world.
Thick As A Brick goes back to simple, manual practices and ancestral materials – such as the brick used here as a narrative device – and to ancient, basic ideas in order to rediscover their potential: projected into the future, such renewed values serve as a groundwork to literally build a new encyclopedia of balance, strength, and positivity. In this project, these basic materials are replaced by books, iconic tools for spreading knowledge down through the centuries.
The bricks produced by the Danish company PETERSEN TEGL serve as the base from which culture symbol- ically evolves, and the modular pieces in the show, conceived by the KUEHN MALVEZZI architectural studio, open a door to the hope of continued growth. The link between bricks and the books presented here by Mousse – a publisher at the cutting edge of the international scene – reinforce this idea of a solidity built on knowledge, a concept embodied by material nature of the object-book itself.
At the invitation of curator Maria Cristina Didero, KUEHN MALVEZZI has developed a unique architectural concept for Thick As A Brick: three brick structures, titled Brickolage, are aligned with the gallery spaces so that they double our perception of the space. This intervention marks out places of interchange, introducing elements like a shelf, a counter and a bench – furnishings that allow for storage, interaction, and dialogue, and are neither architecture nor objects. By leaving out every third brick, the structures can be used to hold books and invite visitors to exchange information.
In KUEHN MALVEZZI’s words: “Against the backdrop of a design show that reflects furniture in the broadest sense at best, these elements are even thicker than the proverbial brick – yet books and bricks might provide answers, both simple and elaborate, to certain questions. In relation to the complex context of a well-known international showcase for new technology and trends like Milan Design Week, the choice of materials may seem out of place, but is really a pertinent return to solidity. The installation at Gió Marconi is meant to encourage dialogue about how form defines culture. By displaying things that seem unsuited to their setting, the structures examine the importance of the individual object and the idea behind its production.
The materials that have been chosen – both the book and the brick – are fundamental agents of cultural expres- sion, and in both cases, only exist within a system where they fit in as modular components. Brickwork is the most basic building technology that informs architecture: first of all, as the concept of serially man-made ob- jects, rectangular blocks formed out of matter and arranged in a given order. Second, a brick can be used within any composition, and in essence, the object is simply a state of matter that can be shattered and reshaped. Like- wise, a book is a vessel for any kind of content and a module that can be used within any framework. It resembles a prototype of exchange: a mechanically produced setting for information and ideas to be passed on in space and time”.
Thick As A Brick goes back to reality to stimulate new visions.
Note on the title: Thick As A Brick was the fifth album by British rock band Jethro Tull. Released in 1972, Thick As A Brick includes only one 44-minute-long track, with a single pause to allow listeners to turn the record over; it was deliberately crafted in the style of a concept album and as a bombastic parody. The original packaging, designed like a newspaper, claims that the album is a musical adaptation of an epic poem by a fictional eight- year-old boy, though the lyrics were actually written by the band’s frontman, Ian Anderson.
Curated by MARIA CRISTINA DIDERO
Gió Marconi gallery, Milan
Parallel to the 2013 Milan Furniture Fair
April 9 – April 14, 2013