Milan Design Week 2018
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Alcova: Joseph Grima and Valentina Ciuffi and the Fuorisalone out of its bubble

Getting design (and people) out of their bubble. Because going beyond what we already know is one of the cultural issues of today. Joseph Grima and Valentina Ciuffi talk about Alcova: the new NoLo location for the Fuorisalone 2018.

Although it will occupy a large space at NoLo, one of the less gentrified areas of Milan, Alcova «is not the embryo of a new design district». Rather, as curators Joseph Grima and Valentina Ciuffi explain, «it is an attempt to create a dialogue between the city and a fragment of its urban fabric through experimental design. Which is all the more interesting n an area that has become synonymous with the multi-cultural vocation of Milan». Alcove will be a hub for developing multi-party dialogues and getting designers and audiences out of their comfort zone.

Alcova wants to take designers and people out of their comfort zone. Why?

«There is a bubble in design, like in all the worlds, as we follow what’s in line with our interests. But going beyond what we already know is one of the cultural issues of the moment. Because technology allows such a high degree of personalization (even when we talk about culture) that the result is a worrisome uniformity. The true value of a cultural event today is directly proportional to its ability to show things that the public does not expect and that make it think outside the beaten lines».

Alcova is an idea born of a space. Why?

«Because the Fuorisalone is increasingly a series of generic events in generic places. And when we found the former G. Cova c. panettone factory, such a typically Milanese and industrial place, we thought it would allow us to do the opposite: to use an environment that is part of the city’s history and have it interpreted by international and Italian designers selected based on their ability to produce experimentation».

Does it make sense to think of Alcova as a gigantic site-specific work?

«Not exactly. Because the approach in the method is site specific but the works will not be. In fact, these are often already existing projects, even if they are recalibrated to adhere to the place: which is not simple, it’s rough, raw, in some cases outdoors and above all already inhabited by the typical spontaneous green of places long left to themselves. Features, these, that we have not affected».

What is the concept?

«There will be a heterogeneous mix of independent designers, institutions, galleries and businesses, linked by the common thread of commitment to research. It’s all people beating new lands. Alcova therefore wants to be a platform that gives space to those who are experimenting, in a more or less courageous, more or less applicable way, with the aim of creating a dialogue. Because we are convinced that the real attraction of an exhibition place is its being alive, being able to act as a hub for meeting and stimulation: for the visitor, of course, but also for all exhibitors. We have seen this with our previous experiences at Palazzo Clerici and Macao: the intersections between those who are told often become important short-circuits for future developments».

Any names?

«We move from the young and bold collective like Better Known As (that will reveal what is behind the glossy images of  magazines), to historical figures but still key to contemporary design such as Gijs Bakker. We will talk with those who investigate new construction techniques such as Hans Maier Aichen and those who mix design and scientific research, such as Buro Belen. There will be those who reinterprets crafts such as Bloc Studios and Architetti Artigiani Anonimi and projects that investigate anonymous design such as Nan Ban. There will also be the story of the extension project of the contemporary art center of Hasselt Z33, of Francesca Torzo, Aldo Bakker, Piet Oudolf and ABT: which changes the table on the theme of architecture for culture. As you can see it will be a very different mix, for about thirty people in all: young designers but also established architects, teachers, gallery owners. It is this mix that interests us because the new is born when you leave your comfort zone ».

Experimentation is the red thread. But is there a theme that binds the projects that have been chosen?

«No. We could certainly find a story that binds everything we show but it would be something we attacked at the last minute. Alcova is in fact the representation of a social network. The projects you will find have been developed by people with whom we have come into contact in our history and who have impressed us with the quality, novelty and experimental charge of their approaches or projects. In short, it is a very personal project, a curation based on the esteem we feel towards those we have chosen and theirs for us, without a call or a rent of space per square meter».

How do you define quality and innovation, two words used almost everywhere?

«There is no universal answer to this question. In general we look for things that intrigue us and insert an element of risk. Design sometimes has the habit of falling into self-replicating processes: we have sought its opposite, the deviation, the questioning. However, everything depends on the type of projects we are talking about. What is innovation for a design gallery is not for a public institution or for a self-producing one».



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