One thing leads to another

Alessandro Biamonti

I met Humberto e Fernando Campana during a student workshop in Milan. While at the workshop I noticed that they never rejected any ideas from students. Quite the contrary, they often encouraged them to take up and develop discarded ideas, attempting to transform them into something that might work. This is their approach: any single thing, whether it be an object or material, can always become something else. Because every single thing is also something else, it is all a matter of decoding the signal, and the Campana brothers are always listening, ready to capture these signals.
On that particular occasion I realised how they apply this approach to the world of ideas. Ideas, together with objects and materials, actually become part of an anthropological project, which goes beyond individual products. A far-reaching anthropological project, whose own DNA contains European rural cultural tradition together with aspects of tropical shamanism to contaminate a modern-day vision capable of confronting both industry and craft techniques. A project which bravely takes on waste, rubbish and imperfection as part of the great cultural issues of our times.
Getting Fernando and Humberto involved in the project for the Albisola Biennial of Ceramics in Contemporary Art was not very difficult, bearing in mind that this event had all the necessary ingredients for triggering their enthusiasm: local craft expertise in ancient traditions, a very contemporary curatorship project, and a material which is, simply and wonderfully, part of world history... the Brothers (as they are often called) agreed to take part!
They agreed and began to work on the project in their great alchemical workshop in San Paolo. Thinking about ceramics, they went back to its roots and looked for a mass-produced ready-made to be reworked, perhaps with the help of craftsmanship of the highest standard and expertise. The usual stroke of genius: we expected nothing less of them.
But manufacturing a stroke of genius is never simple and needs to be handled properly. Roberto Costantino took care of this, starting by persuading a ceramic artist from Albisola, Jorge Hernandez, to abandon his lathe and put his skills directly to work on a “terra-cotta brick article for roofs”. This precious semi-manufactured craft article was then placed in the hands of another great craftsman of the very highest level, Claudio Nardi, who wove together the parts using wicker to create a Vaso Tegola (Tile Vase).
This vase is a project which tells a different story. It makes us think about the fact that creating something new is basically a cultural enterprise, not just or (even less so) necessarily a technological undertaking. A sort of “pragmatic reflection” on sustainability, functionality and contemporary aesthetics, which takes up the cultural legacy of the avant-garde movement of Italian Radical Design.
Thanks to their human and professional qualities, notably featuring a real passion for design and technical wizardry, Fernando and Humberto succeeded in experimenting with and developing a pro-positive approach with which they opened up a new way ahead for a new generation of designers. Constantly in search of new scenarios. Giving new meanings to the old saying “one thing leads to another”, the Brothers can inject fresh life into materials, objects and ideas.

Text published in the catalogue of the 4th Biennial of Ceramics in Contemporary Art “Changing the world with a vase of flowers”, Corraini Edizioni, Mantova, Italia, 2010.

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