The latest Milan Design Week has been described as a feast. It’s a quite an appropriate definition, and I agree with it.
I would just like to add: when you wake up the following day, the hangover kicks in.
Why should designers be forced to have such an unavoidable and indisputable deadline to their researches?
Why should so many chairs be designed?
Why be so obsessed about presenting new stuff, even when it’s prototypes that won’t be purchasable before another year?
Why so much hype about boring/irrelevant things?
Why so many useless installations and so few good-working objects?
Why did I drink so much?
Interviews to design rockstars avoid answering these questions, and stress out how Milan fair is important (which doesn’t really tell if it’s in a good or bad sense). So if you listen to them, you may forget for one moment about the general nonsense, and focus on good furniture (yes, there was some). Some of the big players like Magis, Vitra and Flos proposed good stuff while some smaller brands kept on with interesting and progressive research: Mattiazzi (Wow!), Arper, Artek (recently bought by Vitra), E15 and Maruni were among them*.
But then I got out of the fair and, in the place in the world where the biggest number of new seatings is presented, I had to have lunch sitting on the ground because of a lack of benches.
The place where new insights, criticism and (ok here I am dreaming) protest should have been, Ventura Lambrate District, offered lots of stuff, but didn’t provide many sparks of discussion. Young designers mostly displayed well-presented and fashionable home gadgets. In one of the warehouses, one poor guy sat on Marius stool, next to his collection of fancy crafted vases. The inherent contradiction of displaying high-priced decorative items while putting to good use functional low-priced furniture seemed to bother him much less than the need for sleep.
Two attempts to start a discussion were made at Design Academy Eindhoven. On the one hand students set up an exhibition challenging the perception of faeces in modern society. It was quite interesting, but the way it was done (starting by the title, “Eat Shit”) aimed much more for a short-lived shock than for a structured discussion. On the other hand Hella Jongerius and Louise Schouwenberg came up with a manifesto, “Beyond the New“, that exposed many of the contradiction of the design world. The content is righteous and reasonable, but it’s more about telling than about showing, and somehow got lost in a huge ocean of superficial, forgettable and ultimately disposable gadgets (and leaflets advertising them).
It was nothing but surprising: here is what well-known American designer Joanna Grawunder stated in late 2014, in an interview to Inventario: “[…] nowadays anything goes and everybody does everything. There is no taking sides anymore, there is just talk of money, talk of what needs to be done, but no real discussions.
Everybody, everything, new stuff, lots of stuff, too much stuff, just too much: hangover.
*British brand SCP, whose products were on show in Porta Venezia Area, had some very good designs from the 80’s, while it was a pity not to see ACE and Hay, which I appreciated respectively in 2013 and 2014. Karimoku New Standard and Ishinomaki Laboratory (a good project of furniture made in an area of Japan hit by natural disaster in 2011) were there, but I realized it just after the week was over. Shame on me.