Davide Rampello on the mystique, movies, and magic of 'La Scatola Magica'

An homage from Salone del Mobile to Milan, La Scatola Magica or The Magic Box stands as a camera obscura at Palazzo Reale, ensconcing a sensorial experience narrating the fair's manifesto.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Jun 08, 2022

Owing to the spatial, even temporal layers that would settle over Milan for the Salone del Mobile.Milano for a week, the city's dynamicity – its stature as the design capital of the world, even a fashion mecca – is not just reinforced, but brought to the fore in a furore of excitement, along with the city's, and Italy’s contribution to the global scene on these disciplines. Intersecting with the realms of design, art, and architecture, all of which share Milan as an exceptional stage, it is the cinematic realm, and Italy’s legacy of incredibly definitive cinema and cinematic geniuses that may get somewhat overlooked during the fair. Home to auteurs including Federico Felini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Vittorio de Sica, Sergio Leone, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Paolo Sorrentino, among others, Italy and its cinema have definitively guided the very form of modern film, parallelly being the epicentre of a number of design and architecture revolutions. It is this collusion of arts, and the definitive act of design that is filmmaking, that Salone returns to, to pay homage to the city of Milan through La Scatola Magic, or The Magic Box.

  • Visualisation of the immersive audio-visual installation, the Magic Box by Davide Rampello | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Visualisation of the immersive audio-visual installation, the Magic Box by Davide Rampello Image: Courtesy of Rampello & Partners Creative Studio
  • Visual redemption of visitor interaction with the Magic Box at Palazzo Reale | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Visual redemption of visitor interaction with the Magic Box at Palazzo Reale Image: Courtesy of Rampello & Partners Creative Studio

Befittingly so, modern film viewing may very well ascribe its origins to a small black box. The rudimentary box - a camera obscura if you may - has come a long way from a pinhole to the most sophisticated projection equipment today. For those of us that cinema has always meant more than spending a couple of hours in a dark room - an escape into world's hitherto unexplored - it has always constituted magic. And that is what takes the stage as an immersive audio visual installation at the Sala delle Cariatidi at Palazzo Reale to mark 60 years of Salone del Mobile. Conceived by Davide Rampello, who served as the artistic director and creative producer of the installation, La Scatola Magica is a monumental manifestation of the camera obscura, representing how the fair and the city of Milan are virtuously inseparable as creative entities.

  • The Sala delle Cariatidi on the piano nobile of the Palazzo Reale will host the Magic box | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    The Sala delle Cariatidi on the piano nobile of the Palazzo Reale will host the Magic box Image: Courtesy of Palazzo Reale Milano
  • Many elements of Sala delle Cariatidi maintain a rudimentary state in the memory of the tragic events from the building’s past | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Many elements of Sala delle Cariatidi maintain a rudimentary state in the memory of the tragic events from the building’s past Image: Courtesy of Palazzo Reale Milano

The Magic Box is formulated as a site-specific venue for a wondrously choreographed three-act spectacle. The six meter high, 24 meter deep parallelepiped - the eponymous "magic box" - will transform into a stage for displaying 11 films by eleven noted filmmakers, each with a distinct style and vision, based on the eleven institutional values that have made up the fair’s DNA since its inception. Francesca Archibugi on Emotion through Animals, Pappi Corsicato on Enterprise, Davide Rampello on Quality, Wilma Labate on Design, Bruno Bozzetto on Networking, Luca Lucini on Communication, Claudio Giovannesi on Culture through Adoration of the Magi, Gianni Canova on Young People through YOLO - You Only Live Once, Donato Carrisi on Ingenuity, Daniele Ciprì on Milan through The Mania of Dr. Dziga, and Stefano Mordini on Savoir Faire round out the 11 auteurs who will each embody a value of the manifesto through 11 stylistically charged, emotive short films.

  • Entrance to La Scatola Magica, an immersive audio-visual installation | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Entrance to La Scatola Magica, an immersive audio-visual installation Image: Federico Montanari
  • The masterful artworks displayed on the walls of the Magic Box intends to depict the narrative of the films, and the metaphors they harbour within | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    The masterful artworks displayed on the walls of the Magic Box intends to depict the narrative of the films, and the metaphors they harbour within Image: Federico Montanari

Before the lights go out to set the stage for a cinematic takeover, the interiors of the camera obscura will mimic an elegant art gallery, aided by the jaded, renaissance-inspired interior aesthetic of the Palazzo Reale. The masterful artworks displayed on the walls will hold a key to deciphering the narrative of the films, and the metaphors they harbour within. The finale of the three-act escapade is touted to be an amazing coup de theatre. “The aim is to reawaken our sense of wonder by creating a memorable experience and to celebrate the anniversary of the event and Milan in pursuit of beauty, through the language of film and theatre," states an official release.

  • Francesca Archibugi on Emotion | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Francesca Archibugi on Emotion Image: Courtesy of Francesca Archibugi, Rampello & Partners
  • Bruno Bozzetto on Networking | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Bruno Bozzetto on Networking Image: Courtesy of Bruno Bozzetto, Rampello & Partners

STIR interacts with Davide Rampello on the intent, conception, form, bearings, cinematic leanings, and the magic of La Scatola Magica, and his film being displayed as part of the enticing audio-visual installation.

Anmol Ahuja: What was the basis of curating the 11 directors for the films to be shown in The Magic Box? How were these particular names considered and finalised?

Davide Rampello: Initially, we had a much wider roster of directors – this was because some would eventually turn out to be unavailable. The definitive shortlist was created in view of the various personalities, given that each of these directors expresses their own sensitivity, their own way of perceiving cinema and life. Hence, the heterogeneity of the "team" was a very important element – from the animators to the documentarians and the experimenters. And according to this, we relied on them for interpreting the assigned themes.

  • Donato Carrisi on Ingenuity | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Donato Carrisi on Ingenuity Image: Courtesy of Donato Carrisi, Rampello & Partners
  • Daniele Cipri on Milan | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Daniele Cipri on Milan Image: Courtesy of Daniele Cipri, Rampello & Partners

Anmol: You are directing one of the films in the lineup. Tell us a little about it. What theme from the 11 defining Salone Del Mobile.Milano themes did you choose to reflect through your film?

Davide: My theme was 'quality', and in the way I view quality, it is the search and narration of differences, varieties, and therefore projects. My film is the ultimate celebration of the 60 years of the Salone del Mobile. So much so, that I have solely employed archive images of Salone to create the animation which characterises the film. Moreover, the choice of the jazz soundtrack wanted to underline this somehow disenchanted, celebratory vision of the event.

Anmol: Why did you choose a parallelepiped to be the final form for the camera obscura?

Davide: First of all, the parallelepiped is not a darkroom, it is a magic room. And its shape was conceived according to the idea of multiplicity. The screen is five meters high and is replicated four times. The smaller wall repeats itself twice. We wanted to create a big space, but at the same time, not excessively high. It is also a great space in terms of width, as we wanted to stretch the cinematographic image. Moreover, there’s a coup de theatre, a final big surprise that is the 12th word of the installation. All of this is part of the magic, the mystery, the concept itself that our studio created.

  • Pappi Corsicato on Enterprise | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Pappi Corsicato on Enterprise Image: Courtesy of Pappi Corsicato, Rampello & Partners
  • Claudio Giovannesi on Culture | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Claudio Giovannesi on Culture Image: Courtesy of Claudio Giovannesi, Rampello & Partners

Anmol: Were there any particular inspirations you drew from for the conception of the magic box - your own work perhaps?

Davide: Of course. Whoever creates and projects something constantly retraces past paths and reinvents. But this is a comprehensive discourse that began when I started projecting years ago, and that keeps on evolving my vision — to which I add new stimuli, new “sourdough” elements that allow me to add new tastes to my creative “mixture”.

Anmol: Did you feel that the cinematic medium influenced the spatiality of the installation? Or vice versa?

Davide: No, cinema is the narrating and interpreting element of the words which constitute the manifesto of the Salone del Mobile. If we consider design in its profound meaning as “plan”, and therefore as the culture of planning, then everything is design. Cinema is design, furnishing is design, theatre is design. This is because everything is indeed a project, a mix of dreams, ideas and production.

  • Gianni Canova and IULM Students on Young People | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Gianni Canova and IULM Students on Young People Image: Courtesy of Gianni Canova, Rampello & Partners
  • Wilma Labate on Design | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Wilma Labate on Design Image: Courtesy of Wilma Labate, Rampello & Partners

Anmol: In the shots of the films on display, there seems to be different aspect ratios and styles that have been employed. Were the filmmakers given complete freedom over their films, or did the display space somehow impinge upon their process and methodology?

Davide: A bit of both. I have personally encountered each director, I have explained them the general purpose of the installation and they have understood that we wanted to create general moments of rhapsody. But each of them, within their space, has interpreted the suggested theme in a totally free way.

Anmol: Please tell us more about how the 'masterpieces' displayed in the gallery space relate to the films on display.

Davide: The gallery is the beginning of a discourse that starts with wonder and beauty, so it is somehow a part and parcel of the magic of the installation. A discourse that, moreover, ends the way it starts, metaphorically speaking. It is an overall experience that triggers a series of linked suggestions, provocations, surprises, emotions. That’s why it’s called a magic box: it is a box where the most disparate things happen. 

  • Luca Lucinin on Communication | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Luca Lucinin on Communication Image: Courtesy of Luca Lucinin, Rampello & Partners
  • Stefano Mordini on Savoir Faire | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
    Stefano Mordini on Savoir Faire Image: Courtesy of Stefano Mordini, Rampello & Partners

Anmol: What kind of emotional resonance do you want your audience to feel with the installation once the lights come back on?

Davide: Surprise and wonder. Therefore, a great memory.

La Scatola Magica remains on display at Sala delle Cariatidi at Palazzo Reale from June 7 to June 17, and is made possible by collaborating with two leading institutions on the Milanese cultural scene: the Pinacoteca di Brera, from whose collections the 21 works reproduced inside the installation are drawn, and the Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company.

Official poster for Davide Rampello’s La Scatola Magica | La Scatola Magica |Davide Rampello | STIRworld
Official poster for Davide Rampello’s La Scatola Magica Image: Courtesy of Rampello & Partners Creative Studio

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.

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