The Pinners, the Grammers and more in the thumbs up era
On the occasion of the 58th edition of the Milan Design week – one of the most chaotic weeks of the year – KooZA / rch in collaboration with Bianca Felicori invites you to take an old-fashioned coffee break. Let your break not be a moment of endless scrolling through an infinite sequence of images and rather follow the live talks on our KooZA / rch social media channels. From the 9th to the 12thof April every morning between 10 and 12 am we will bring together creative minds from various creative disciplines – architects, designers, curators, artists, photographers – to talk about architecture at the time of the World Wide Web. Between a “coffee” and a “pastry” we will discuss the increasingly central theme of digital dissemination, analyzing its problems and its strengths, and above all, trying to identify together use and not misuse the power of the WWW.
Plasticity is a research tool established in 2017 by Gabriele Leo and Grazia Mappa to understand the condition of contemporary human inhabitation. Both Gabriele and Grazia graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of Ferrara and together operate at the intersection of art, design, politics and society. Their research has contributed to platforms as the institute of queer ecology and the IAA school of Architecture.
BF: You are widely recognized as being post internet designers, do you relate to this definition of your practice?
PLSTCT (GABRIELE LEO): This is a crucial issue because people usually define our aesthetic as one which is related to the post internet world of contemporary art, rather than the realms of architecture and design. I think this is greatly influenced by our strong relationship to the practice of art, in fact our first ‘piece’ was a block of concrete featuring an engraved tribal tattoo. Here the brick, which symbolizes a very simple element which belongs to the realm of construction, is engraved as a means to question the very essence of modern architecture. The aim of the project was to speak of architecture through an aesthetic which derives from the post-internet art world.
BF: What does it mean to be a post internet designer?
PLSTCT (GABRIELE LEO): I think that the term post internet designer is extremely complex nowadays as, in essence, being post internet means being related to a community which does not coexist physically.
BF: Do you think that it is possible to exist without the internet and social media platforms? What would plasticity be without these means of communication?
PLSTCT (GABRIELE LEO): Plasticity would not exist without social media. As a practice we were born on Facebook. Our very first project was a call for images via Facebook ‘Call for Houses’ , a research about the aesthetic of the Mediterranean suburb which in our opinion shares many similarities with the western suburb, but also includes numerous picturesque elements which are tied to the Mediterranean and can almost be defined as a post Hellenic aesthetic typical of the South of Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal. The project was an investigation into how people define and make their own houses and domestic enclosures without the architect. Architecture without architects, but not like the famous exhibition at MoMA but in relation to a more contemporary social issues, for example we were intrigued by how people chose very iconic elements to define themselves through their private houses. No matter the social background and possibilities of the individual, we understood that there is a collective desire to manifest oneself through his/her inhabitation. The work as such was very related to the power of the image and the icon, and this is why we decided to produce an outcome which is clearly related to a post-internet aesthetic. Although not an intentional process our outcome, this was directly related to this research on the political meaning of aesthetic and as such it was necessary for us and the project to produce very iconic images.
BF: I agree that it very hard to define ‘post-internet’.
KOOZA/RCH (FSZ) : I think we could go on and try to define this for days. What I find interesting is the use of the platform of Facebook as a tool to engage in an architectural discourse. How did this work logistically?
PLSTCT (GABRIELE LEO): The way we did this was simply by creating a page and as soon as that was up and running the project started. This was a very important moment for us as it enabled us to engage with studios which we also looked up to. In the period we were running call for houses, Grazia shared a Parasite 2.0 winning proposal for maxxi Yap (…) on her wall (as we were very intrigued by that project). Soon after Luca Marullo (one of the founding partners of Parasite 2.0) saw the publication and chose to invite us to participate in an exhibition that they were curating on the ‘House’. This was very critical as it enabled us to dwell further into the research and engage with a wider audience. Although we have extensively collaborated on projects through digital tools as emails, messaging and calls we do however advocate for a physical collaboration and this is exactly how the conversation and collaboration then developed with Parasite 2.0.
BF: I couldn’t agree more especially within a context like this one where we are seated around the table engaging in physical discussions. I truly believe in the power if the digital as a medium which can connect on a multitude of layers whilst physical interaction operates in an entirely different way. Being Italian I guess that ‘physicality’ is inherent to our nature and culture.
KOOZA/RCH (FSZ): I absolutely agree and as founder of KooZA/rch I believe in the power of the digital as a means to share and generate collective conversation which can then find space and be developed physically in a friend’s living room over a cup of coffee. From the digital project to the physical what are your currently working on?
PLSTCT (GABRIELE LEO): At the moment we started to engage with projects which have a longer time frame and a more physical output. We are specifically working on a design project, which is nonetheless very tied to the realm of art, as we are designing an artifact which defies western pre conceptions of functionality. ‘Design to question Design’ is a series of objects which push the human who engages with the latter to behave in an animalesque manner. The first in the series is a bed ‘Monkey bed’ upon which one needs to hang to sleep, an object which contemporarily exists as subject. Whilst one can impose his shape on the object the object itself imposes a specific modality of behavior on the user. Ultimately the aim is to enable the individual to approach the object in an uncanny and playful manner. Following this first iteration we are looking to develop an exhibition in Milan, a hybrid between a performance and event where a selection of actors engages and interact with these series of elements.
In addition to this line of work we are also exploring curatorial projects as we enjoy engaging with other creatives and their own approach and research on the relationship between body and space. At the moment we are working towards a platform (I don’t quite know how to deﬁne it) called ‘Post Disasters Rooftops’.
BF: Once again ‘POST’, post everything….
PLSTCT (GABRIELE LEO): We are very interested in this ‘post’ condition because of course we live in a sort of ‘post’ everything world where this term can be used to define almost everything to the point that it has become ironic and maybe this in itself is provocative. We are constantly overwhelmed by this term to such an extent that it has become a term we all associate and understand, and with which enables us to dialogue clearly within our community of collaborators.
At the same time both Grazia and I were brought up in Taranto, a city we define as a ‘post disaster city’, a place where the industrial plants have outgrown the social urban fabric of the city almost similarly to Detroit. This has inspired and fueled our constant investigation as one which focuses on the relationship between the people inhabiting the city as natural elements and the city as a very global infrastructure which affects the body to the point of the physical burnout.
BF: Can we go back to the very importance of the location where one is based. Marcello how do you relate to this idea as part of the collective (ab)Normal?
(AB)NORMAL (MC): For us this is a very important phenomenon and question as per the example of the collective (Ab)Normal we all four live in different cities and we are constantly communicating via tools as WhatsApp amongst others. I want to understand from you Gabriele how do you approach these tools, how can you work in Taranto and resonate in Milan?
PLSTCT (GABRIELE LEO):I think that although platforms as Facebook Instagram, amongst others, can work as connecting devices, real collaborations need to be fostered through physical encounters. As an example, when we started working on our first ‘physical’ projects we were still based in Taranto but, although this was ideal as a place where to engage in research as we had a lot of time on our hands, we soon realized that Milan offered the ideal site where to engage in the production of these projects well as the display of these. Cities as Milan offer a level of artisanal expertise which, although very expensive when compared to the South of Italy, is quite outstanding and very unique.
(AB)NORMAL (MC): What I think is important to acknowledge is the kind of exposure that cities like Milan can offer to young creatives.
PLSTCT (GABRIELE LEO): I agree, and, in this sense, we were kind of displaced, working prevalently in Taranto whilst showing our work in Milan. We soon moved to Milan as we made the decision to be less free and more focused on our work. We have not yet quite decided which formula works better.