Tradition can be a heavy weight and at the same time it can be the strongest source of inspiration. It’s the same with history, politics or love. Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin from Formafantasma have combined all the aforementioned and have managed to leave us openmouthed with their Moulding tradition series. Their inspiration comes from the baroque Caltagirone district of Sicily, famous for its ceramics and the purported local tradition. More specifically, the core was a Sicilian artwork called “teste di moro”. These are copies of vases of the 17th century that display the face of a native African- or Arab-looking man or woman. These artifacts refer to a period of Sicilian history when Arab-African people conquered Sicily. Due to this invasion the tradition of majolica started in Italy and later in other European countries.
flask // photo by Luisa Zanzani
flask sideview // photo by Luisa Zanzani
History repeats itself. The same people that once occupied Sicily, bringing their culture and the material Majolica—which has made Caltagirone famous—are returning, not as conquerors but as immigrants. Every day during the summer, 500 clandestine travelers from Africa are debarking in Lampedusa, a small Sicilian island in the middle of Mediterranean Sea, famous for its high-class tourism. Andrea and Simone points out: “Based on a recent public-opinion poll, 65% of Italians believe that immigrants are "a danger for our culture and our religion".
With a similar attitude towards change, craft maintains its constant repetition of objects which belong to past. We analyzed how to re-think the traditional artifact "teste di moro", linking it to the actual clandestine immigration from Africa to Lampedusa Island in Sicily: the comparison to the Moor invasion of long ago reveals the a-historicity of the 'living' folk tradition, and shows the connection between the forming of a local culture based on historical events and the translation of culture in objects.”
big bowl // photo by Luisa Zanzani
big bowl from top // photo by Luisa Zanzani
And they continue “Moulding tradition is a statement on the ephemeral concept of tradition and shows the contradictions of a decadent culture: if as Italians (and European) we are able to represent our culture with a "Moor vase", at the same time we must be able to go beyond prejudice and fear, and to let our culture change in the course of time. Moreover, we wanted to demonstrate how any folk tradition can be invented or reinvented: even our new objects can become part of a new tradition, operating in some specific contexts. As the anthropologist Fabio Dei mentions “…one important element in all folk traditions is the involvement of the community, in this way the language of the new tradition is shared and so comprehended.”
small bowl, sideview // photo by Luisa Zanzani
small bowl // photo by Luisa Zanzani
The project is composed by a collection of 9 ceramic pieces and a video and will be presented during the upcoming Dutch Design Week (17 - 25 October) at the Design Academy of Eindhoven. Formafantasma said that all they wanted was to answer to the simple and at the same time complicated question:
"can craft communicate not only the past but also the present?"
By taking a look at their creations, we think that they really made it possible, in one of the most inspiring ways ever.
the making of the moulding tradition series // photo by Luisa Zanzani
wine flask // photo by Luisa Zanzani
wine flask sideview // photo by Luisa Zanzani
moorvase // photo by Luisa Zanzani
moorvase // photo by Luisa Zanzani