Studio Formafantasma dons many caps. Amsterdam-based Italians Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin devote part of every project to intensive research – investigating, probing, exploring and analysing the roots of their subject matter.
To do so, they assume the role of botanist, historian, scientist, artisan, always posing questions before searching for answers. It’s a lengthy process that’s often based on materials. Here, Formafantasma tracks its evolution in five turning-point projects.
Former students at Design Academy Eindhoven, the pair applied to the school as a duo. Today, it’s their 2009 joint graduation project that Farresin cites as ‘the first time we realized who we were as designers’.
Moulding Tradition, a series of ceramic vessels, emerged from research into immigration issues in Caltagirone, a town in Trimarchi’s native Sicily. The project focused on local citizens’ contradictory opinions of the immigration centre there.
Unglazed ceramics embellished with Jacquard ribbon, glass and printed paper refer to the Sicilian ceramic tradition of teste di moro – 17th-century vases that portray Moorish faces – and hint at the material awareness and sense of craftsmanship that would become hallmarks of the studio. ‘A misconception of craft is that it has a specific role, namely repetition and conservation of local identity. We thought these pieces covered all the complexities, and we felt it was our responsibility to respond to that idea.’
The sensitivity to materials and dedication to research expressed in Moulding Tradition didn’t go unnoticed. London gallerist Libby Sellers gave the project a platform at Art Basel, and Plart Foundation founder Maria Pia Incutti also took note.
The Plart Foundation, an institute engaged in the research and technological innovation of plastic objects, commissioned Farresin and Trimarchi to interpret polymeric plastic in their own way. The designers responded by honing in on the moment when plastic was invented. They considered what would have happened when the presence of material plasticity came to light. Connecting their process with the current trajectory of plastic in the scientific world allowed them to envision a new aesthetic for the synthetic substance – a shift from pristine finishes to a more artisanal approach.
Formafantasma’s Botanica collection is a series of peculiar organic-looking vessels that are difficult to time-stamp. ‘There’s a tentative yet ideal period in which we dig backwards in order to understand what happened at the beginning – or core – of the process,’ says Farresin, who mentions that they took the same steps when creating Moulding Tradition.