Formafantasma (Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin) are designers who dissect the ecological and political responsibilities of their discipline. Their holistic approach reaches back into the history of a particular material used by humans, out towards the patterns of supply chains that have developed to support and expand its use, and forward to the future of that material’s survival in relation to human consumption.
Cambio, from the medieval Latin cambium, ‘change, exchange’, is an ongoing investigation conducted by Formafantasma into the governance of the timber industry. The evolution of this form of commerce over time, and its tentacular expansion across the globe, has made it difficult to regulate. It grew out of the bioprospecting that took place throughout colonial territories during the 19th century, becoming one of the largest industries in the world both in terms of the revenue it generates and the impact it has on the planet’s biosphere.
The earliest objects in the exhibition are samples of rare hardwoods first exhibited in the Great Exhibition of 1851, a few hundred metres from this building, which represent trees logged to the point of extinction. The newest are the exhibition display furniture and seating designed by Formafantasma, all of which were made from a single tree blown over in a storm in northern Italy in 2018. Contained in every piece of wood is an archive of climatic change and the movement of natural materials around the world.
Cambio also references the cambial layer, a membrane that runs around the trunk of trees, producing wood on the inside, a record of the tree’s past, and bark on the outside, enabling it to keep growing. Like the rings of a tree, the central spaces of the exhibition present data and research in the form of interviews, reference materials and two films made by Formafantasma in response to their research, while the perimeter spaces offer a series of case studies that provide insight into the way wood is sourced and used. Each of these investigations represents a collaboration with experts from the fields of science, conservation, engineering, policymaking and philosophy. Together, they move from a microscopic analysis of wood and its ability to store carbon dioxide, to a metaphysical understanding of trees as living organisms.
This multidisciplinary exhibition highlights the crucial role that design can play in our environment, and its responsibility to look beyond the edges of its borders. The future of design can and must attempt to translate emerging environmental awareness into a renewed understanding of the philosophy and politics of trees that will encourage informed, collaborative responses.
Antenna Fantasma was a weekly live program of conversations around design, ecology and sustainability hosted by Formafantasma.
Antenna Fantasma was produced during lockdown in response to the temporary closure of Formafantasma’s Cambio exhibition as a way of further exploring ideas examined in the show through conversations with designers, architects, academics, scientists and curators who contributed. Guests included Paola Antonelli (MoMA), Stefano Boeri (Architect), Rebecca Lewin (Serpentine Galleries) and more.
Marco Carrer, University of Padua, Padua; Emanuele Coccia, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris; Vanessa Richardson, Environmental Investigation Agency, London; Gaia Amazonas, Bogotá; Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam; Magnifica Comunita di Fiemme, Cavalese; Naturalis Biodiversity Centre, Leiden; Philipp Pattberg, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London; Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren; Thünen Institute, Hamburg; Sissel Tolaas, Smell Researcher and Artist; Victoria And Albert Museum, London
Special thanks to
Atticus Stovall, Johanna Agerman Ross, Joost Grootens, Galleria Giustini Stagetti, Roma, Alice Rawsthorn, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Giacomo Moor Leonardo Scalet, K48 Production – Leone Balduzzi and Barbara Guieu, Nele Schmitz, Pieter Baas, Gerald Koch, Paola Antonelli, Libby Sellers, Nick Humphrey, Tamar Shafrir, Michela Pellizzari, Fabio Ognibeni and Ciresa, Marina Otero, Anastasia Kubrak
Riccardo Badano, Simón Ballen Botero, Gregorio Gonella, Jeroen Van De Gruiter, Johanna Seelemann, Peter Sorg
Exhibition curated by
Rebecca Lewin, Curator, Exhibitions and Design
Natalia Grabowska, Assistant Curator
Museum fur Gestaltung, Zurich: 3 December 2021 – 8 May 2022
Andrea Trimarchi (1983) and Simone Farresin (1980) are Formafantasma, an Italian design duo based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Their interest in product design developed on the IM master course at Design Academy Eindhoven, where they graduated in July 2009.
Since then, Formafantasma’s practice has been characterised by experimental material investigations and detailed explorations of the history, context and implications of the transformation of natural resources into commodities. In perceiving their role as a bridge between craft, industry, object and user, they are interested in forging links between their research-based practice and a wider design industry. As a result, works by Formafantasma have been commissioned by a variety of partners including Fendi, Max Mara – Sportmax, Hermès, Droog, Nodus rug, J&L Lobmeyr, Gallery Giustini / Stagetti Roma, Gallery Libby Sellers, Established and Sons, Lexus, Krizia International and Flos.
Whether designing for a client or investigating alternative applications of materials, Formafantasma apply the same rigorous attention to context, process and detail to every project they undertake. The added nuance for the duo is that they do so with an eye to the historical, political and social forces that have shaped their environments.
Their work has been presented and published internationally and museums such as New York’s MoMA, London’s Victoria and Albert, New York’s Metropolitan Museum, the Chicago Art Institute, Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou, the TextielMuseum in Tilburg, the Stedelijk’s-Hertogenbosch, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, MUDAC Lausanne, the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in North Carolina and the MAK Museum in Vienna have all acquired Formafantasma’s designs for their permanent collections.
In March 2011 Paola Antonelli of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and esteemed design critic Alice Rawsthorn listed their studio amongst a handful of practices that would shape the future of design. Andrea and Simone are lecturing and heading workshops in various Universities and Institutions. Currently they are teaching at the ‘Well Being’ and ‘Contextual Design’ Departments of the Design Academy Eindhoven. This exhibition will become the foundation of the new Masters programme that Formafantasma are leading from autumn 2020 at the Design Academy Eindhoven, titled ‘GEODESIGN’. Since October 2016, they have been at the head of the Design bachelor at MADE Program in Siracusa, Italy.