by Jerry ElengicalJun 15, 2022
"Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature.” - Pope Francis (2020)
Amid years of research, documentation, and innovation to understand how circularity actually works, the journey materials take to become functional objects, humans, as their creators, often forget to reflect upon their genesis – how the first tool came from nature, as did our food, our clothes, our shelters. For mankind, aiming to conquer the now and beyond of the universe we inhabit, our ends seem to converge at our beginnings, in nature. The outbreak of a pandemic brought the world to a standstill for two years, where we saw how nature reclaimed its place in the absence of humans. This is how nature shows us hope and resilience.
In a bid to reconnect and respect the natural world, on which we depend so much for daily survival, an exhibition on show at the Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli in the Brera Design District during Milan Design Week 2022 called Again, From the Earth’s Foundation, addressed the potential of the design industry to create sustainably, responsibly and mindfully. With its modest, simple and sophisticated lineup of product designs and artworks, the design exhibition tackled the theme of respect and empathy for nature, bringing attention to the value of craftsmanship and the use of raw materials that originate from nature itself, in these times where we face a pandemic, climate change and moral crisis.
Following the theme for the historic Brera district, 'Designing the Present, Choosing the Future', the Korea Craft and Design Foundation (KDCF) based in Seoul, South Korea, organised the 2022 edition of the Korean Craft Exhibition, underscored by the naturalism of Korean aesthetics and crafting techniques. This followed the concept of Sobak(素朴), "a natural or raw state without any human touch" or "original state" hailing from the words So (素), "A pure white state when silkworm’s threads are yet to be dyed", and Bak(朴), "Raw hardwood that needs to be sanded". Sobak, therefore, translates roughly to spiritual crafts entrenched in 'naturalism', untouched by humans, synonymous with a natural state of being that tries to return to what it was while appreciating the very foundation of the earth and of sacral nature.
Elaborating on the exhibition's intent, the president of the Korea Craft & Design Foundation, Taehoon Kim, stated, "The theme… centres around values of crafts made from the mother Earth’s by-products as well as aesthetics of respecting nature amidst the pressing climate crisis and prolonged pandemic. (It) will be a great occasion where you can experience and understand the naturalism of Korean aesthetics... As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Korean Craft Exhibition at Milan Design Week, collaborative works between three Italian designers and three Korean craftsmen will be displayed for the first time. This represents yet another evolution of craft going beyond the convergence of two cultures. Moreover, the exhibition showcases around 100 pieces of excellent craft work with ingredients such as metal, textile, wood, glass, hanji (traditional Korean paper made out of the bark of the mulberry tree) which all represent the essence of Korean craft."
Opening its doors for the cultural union celebrating the pursuit of beauty from the earth, Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, for the first time, became the venue for a major exhibition at Milan Design Week, hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Republic of Korea. Under the artistic direction of Shinjae Kang and curation of Kyuhyun Lee, Again, From the Earth's Foundation witnessed three collaborations between renowned Italian designers Michele De Lucchi, Mario Trimarchi, and Francesco Faccin with three Korean master craftsmen Gangyong Park, Hyungkun Lee, and SungjaHur, respectively. The coalescence of the different cultures brought about pieces that interpreted Korean aesthetics in design and craftsmanship with the skilful use of natural raw materials.
"We often use a phrase like 'natural-looking' when seeing something that looks just fine without any depletion or excessiveness. The phrase 'natural-looking' means something that looks close to 'nature', and Mother Nature accepts our humble attitude which can be characterised as right-mindedness (中正) as well as moderation (中庸). While it might be a bit late to return to the earth’s foundation– a state of Sobak(素朴), the most natural and intact state, (is aspirational) - we should still listen to the way of nature with humility while freeing ourselves from the indulgence of material desires. The craftsmen's ingredients come from Mother Earth and nature. Characteristics of such ingredients, our hands and senses, together create beautiful beings that are given enough time and perseverance... Mother Earth is a cradle of humans as well as the final resting place. This exhibition is a small attempt to showcase natural crafts appreciating the foundation of the earth as well as simple yet candid beauty of nature, with a touch of Korean aesthetics," stated the Artistic Director of the exhibition, Shinjae Kang.
STIR takes you on a Milanese sojourn! Experience Salone del Mobile and all the design districts - 5vie, Brera, Fuorisalone, Isola, Zona Tortona, and Durini - with us. STIR's coverage of Milan Design Week 2022, Meanwhile in Milan showcases the best exhibits, moods, studios, events, and folks to look out for. We are also excited to announce our very own STIR press booth at Salone del Mobile - Hall 5/7 S.14, Fiera Milano RHO.
(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)
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