Milan-based design agency Studiopepe, led by the duo of Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto, chose silence to create noise about their installation Les Arcanistes at Salone del Mobile this year. The only information given out to satisfy the curiosity of people was that this time the studio was going to exhibit the relationship between matter and the quintessential power of symbols.
Les Arcanistes-The Future is Un/Written took place at a former gold factory in Porta Venezia, Milan. The designers' decision to exhibit at the gold factory was to reflect upon how central gold is in the process of alchemy. The transformation of metals into gold is a metaphor for the soul being freed from the confinement of reality.
The steel façade of the factory was restructured with walls coated in a soothing, pristine shade of sea foam. The purpose of the installation was two-fold - first, to take the visitors on a journey of soul searching through the process of alchemy; second, to display the studio’s design projects crafted for other companies. The walls of the structure were illuminated with cryptic symbols and phrases formed with LED lights.
The project was named after the Arcanists, who were ante-litteram chemists, and held the arcane and secret knowledge of formulas to create porcelain and to work with materials like glass and metals.
To view the installation, one had to pass through several rooms. The process of ‘soul purification’ took the visitors to the room called The High Priestess, which opened its space to a fountain of water. The room was symbolic of rebirth and regeneration of one’s soul to adapt to the changes of life. For designers, water as an element has the ability to transform itself and become an intimate part of diverse matter. The room allowed humans to let themselves flow into the transcendental future just as water moves from one substance into another.
At the Società Mantica, the subterranean space was full of secrets and prophesies laid out on the salt covered floor, guarded by white walls. The colour white was symbolic of the soul’s movement from unawareness to awareness while salt was the seal of purity, which is essential for personal growth. This room, which held a set of symbolic divination objects related to tarot card reading, also contained three divining tables. The 'table of arcanas' gave every visitor an independent experience to gain knowledge of one’s conscience. An everyday dilemma to choose between the crossroads of thought was shown by 'the table of the game of the pathway'. The 'table of the game of synchronicity' was next to reveal the occurrence of multiple meaningful connections in no relation to each other.
Next was the room called The Library of Matter, which stirred conversations about the fundamental element of the alchemic process-matter. The room unveiled how humans reconfigure the matter around them to gain perspective of oneself and the transformed environment.
Lastly, the Alchemic Laboratory was the place where alchemic water was distilled. It offered the hope of reuniting with one’s spirit in its diverse realities as like the alchemic process of distillation and refining, life is a continual process of development.
Meanwhile, some of the projects on display included Lunar addiction, a three-dimensional ensemble of handcrafted material textures by Italian company Cc-tapis; 30.76 AC, a statement armchair created from a single block of Faun blue marble by Almst Blck, and a tiles collection called Primitiva from the wings of Ceramica Bardelli. The installation also displayed objects on floating shelves, and limited edition research projects like Samo, a sculptural coffee table by Fenix, and Spectrum, a neon illuminated lamp designed by Tenolux, were also part of the exhibition.
Les Arcanistes was an installation that created a divine archetypal string that connected man with matter. It was the third manifesto project conceived by Studiopepe for the Milan Design Week. The studio worked around antiquity of designs and contemplated the need to unveil the ‘arcanes’ of contemporary life and initiate a path towards a divine future.