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The mobile landscape of new Italian design

Parading to the notes of Nino Rota’s march for Eight and a Half by Fellini, like a revolving merry-go-round or a sushi belt, come the objects of Italian new design. The paraphernalia of daily life: coffee-cups with spoon incorporated, scrubbing brushes turned soap-holders, triple chopsticks - an eating hybrid, the tines of east and west - classic décolletés cast in soft polyurethane. Knick-knacks, tiny goldfish bowls, silicone moulds for ice cubes, clothes pegs, tambourines with a handle, clothes-horses with their own hood, PET bottles with a spray nozzle, silicone lampshades, shopping bags made out of floor cloth, etc. After the heroism and the utopia, the all-embracing visions from spoon to city, our latest design is stuck on the spoons! From expecting to find some major new virtuosos to pit against the foreign champions now colonizing our industry, we are confronted with a chorus of treble voices piping in a whisper. What is happening to Italian design? It is dead, say those still entrenched in the old clichés of an outmoded design mentality, those reluctant to change, for whom we were better off when the going was worse, or when quality was only for the few. And yet alive it is, as the splendid new Italian design exhibition for the Milan Triennale proclaims: “The mobile landscape of new Italian design”, from an idea of the coordinator, Silvana Annicchiarico, staged and curated by Andrea Branzi. Alive, with a new life of perhaps the only kind compatible with the present times of flux and confusion, as Zygmunt Baumann sees them, or the elasticity that anthropologist Marc Augé talks of. Our much lamented, inimitable, peerless masters (Munari, Castiglioni, Magistretti) did their bit in a simpler world where much needed doing and much was missing. Today there is just too much: the problem is no longer what to do but what to undo. In our welter of wares it is hard to leave a distinctive mark without it recalling someone else or belonging to a trend. Today’s...

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