Meet Atelier Biagetti, the GOD of Desire, Stereotypes and Irony

Installation view of GOD, with Laura Baldassari’s billboard. Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani
Together Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari form a husband and wife duo, Atelier Biagetti.
GOD
Euforia
Plexiglass shelving system with polished brass base and structure with led lights.
85 x 300 x H 350 cm
33 x 118 x H 140 inches
Exhibition view of NO SEX (2016). Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani
Opening performance of NO SEX (2016). Photo: Giulio Giacconi
Opening performance of NO SEX (2016). Photo: Giulio Giacconi
Exhibition view of Body Building (2015). Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani
Exhibition view of Body Building (2015). Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani
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KUKJE GALLERY | ART BASEL HONG KONG 2019

With the excessive production of objects and information that exists today, there is no longer the constant contemplation, intellectual debate and flow of new ideas that were once ignited by a scarcity of resources and the desire for revolt. These had been inevitable in any design discourse in the post-war period of the last century when Italy, or Milan to be exact, was the centre of that debate. Today, fuelled by the same enthusiasm, it is driven by power and wealth – the very themes that the Milan-based husband and wife design duo, Atelier Biagetti, have been exploring in their latest exhibition, GOD, which was unveiled at the Salone del Mobile 2017.

TEXT: Elise Yau
IMAGES: Courtesy of Atelier Biagetti

 

Installation view of GOD, with Laura Baldassari’s billboard. Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani

 

The designer Alberto Biagetti and artist Laura Baldassari coined the concept of Performing Design when they joined forces to create a design language that is both expressive and refined, and eludes any kind of established perceptions. Since then, Atelier Biagetti’s studio has proved a showstopper at the design week for three successive years, with their acclaimed exhibitions Body Building (2015), No Sex (2016) and GOD (2017). The exhibitions, which serve as the research results of their continuous investigation into contemporary obsessions, have fused together entertainment and heavily-crafted edition objects into an eclectic mix of performances and installations. They have proved to be erotic, eccentric and sometimes even kitsch, and their work never disappoints or fails to surprise us. CoBo spoke with the charming couple to learn more about their latest show, design methodology and intimate obsessions.

  

Together Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari form a husband and wife duo, Atelier Biagetti.

 

You have just said farewell to the bustling crowd of design week and are now back to “normal”. What is your daily routine like in the studio?

We are constantly brainstorming, so it is difficult to pinpoint a structured daily routine. Some of our best ideas come to us when we are actually in the car with nothing but the road and our mind’s eye. 🙂

 

GOD ended the trilogy. What will be your next obsession, and what have been the gains and losses of the three-year investigation?

We are all driven by a variety of obsessions that often become the real motor of our everyday lives, activity and actions. Obsessions have the power to incite desires, as well as to inspire. Through these three projects, we have been able to tell the story of the reality that we see around us, and of human behaviour, by creating a short circuit between the body, space and objects.

In a way, we operate like film directors. We are interested in creating a sort of set or stage in which a scene is played out and we and everything else around us are actors. In these scenes, it is possible to dismantle the taboo that often surrounds the three greatest obsessions that have always been part of human nature. Having finished the exploration of these obsessions, we can safely say that we have become even fonder of them.

 

GOD
Euforia
Plexiglass shelving system with polished brass base and structure with led lights.
85 x 300 x H 350 cm
33 x 118 x H 140 inches

 

Are the two of you personally obsessed with bodybuilding, sex and (money) God?

Let’s be honest, who isn’t? The important thing is to treat it all with a sense of humour and irony.

 

When these human obsessions are transformed into an objectified form, what do you discover further in the process?

When we start exploring a new theme our process is almost scientific. We extract the DNA from specific situations, modify it with our own personal interpretation and transplant it into different forms through a variety of media. Our way of working is surgical and we find it interesting to use a pre-existing visual alphabet, but with an unexpected approach and outlook. So, we tell stories through pre-coded forms; stereotypes that are already part of the collective unconscious and absolutely recognisable.

 

Exhibition view of NO SEX (2016). Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani

 

Has the project changed your views about these three concepts in any way?

In each case, it was like immersing oneself in a story, person or character that was in some way a part of us, but never completely so. We tried to explore and delve into the character to focus on all the previously blurry areas and different contexts of the scenario in question.

 

Describe your working experience with the curator Maria Cristina Didero and her role in the show’s final output.

Maria Cristina Didero has fantastic intuition and both her guidance and input have been so precious throughout this series of projects.

 

Opening performance of NO SEX (2016). Photo: Giulio Giacconi
Opening performance of NO SEX (2016). Photo: Giulio Giacconi

 

You coin the term “performing design”. Could you explain this idea and how it is important in illustrating the idea of your work?

When we present a new project, we create a specific scenario, as if the installation and performance are the scene of a film that the public can step into. The performance itself is often a sort of “real fantasy”. Take the parade of military style nurses and the beautiful, hidden twin female doctors in the NO SEX project, or the perfectly prim air hostesses in GOD, or even the pumped up bodybuilders at the opening of BODY BUILDING. People see characters from their unconscious right in front of them and the public’s reaction and interaction with these characters is a key part of the performance. We never use actors in our performances but always “normal people”, as their real emotions shine through and are unfiltered by professionalism. This creates a sort of empathy in the public, which in turn triggers unexpected reactions.

 

I imagine the approach of performance design also comes from Laura’s background as painter and opera singer. How do you two work together as a team? What’s the division of labour?

We generally both let our imaginations run wild in different directions and we find a compromise and equilibrium between the two in the end. We have always bounced ideas off each other, even before we officially started working together. But it was not until 2013, when Atelier Biagetti moved to a new, open studio space and started physically working in it together on separate projects, that we realised we were working on similar things. It was then only natural that our professional paths should meet and fuse.

 

Exhibition view of Body Building (2015). Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani
Exhibition view of Body Building (2015). Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani

 

Do you consider your work “Italian”? Is Italian culture evident in your work?

It is an innate attitude, a tendency to constantly look for beauty. That is our strength and it opens up new and unexpected possibilities. Italy is so culturally and historically rich that there is a lot to be inspired by, from the art and architecture of the ancient Romans to the Renaissance, right through to the Italian Radical Design of the ’70s and ’80s. Italy also has a rich film culture and we are certainly influenced by some of the greats, such as Federico Fellini, as well as non-Italian masters, such as Stanley Kubrick.

 

Your work is also collected by many private collectors. Does your interaction with them influence your work in any way?

It is fabulous to learn about people’s passions and tastes, but we generally try to stay true to our own convictions and our own work. At the end of the day, that is why they choose to collect it.

 

 

About Atelier Biagetti

Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari draw their inspiration from the world around them, from human behaviour and the collective memory. Through their characteristic method of decontextualizing visual elements, their work creates a short circuit between the senses of the body, the preconceptions of the mind and the physical reality of the surrounding environment. Each project that the duo creates tells a story, comparable to a short film, but instead of watching a moving image the narrative develops between the mise en scène of their work and the personality of the viewer, thus recounting a different and intensely intimate story to each and every individual.

In 2015 they launched BODY BUILDING, a project, curated by Maria Cristina Didero, that attracted the attention of both the international media and public. Wallpaper Magazine dedicated the front cover of the May edition to the project with an image created by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. BODY BUILDING was also selected to feature in a solo show at Design Miami in December of that year and was followed in 2016 by NO SEX, the natural progression of Biagetti and Baldassari’s analysis of contemporary obsessions and human nature. With Atelier Biagetti, their Milan-based practice, the duo operates in the fields of design, art and architecture creating objects, interiors and site-specific installations for galleries and private collectors across the world.

 


 

Elise YAU (Editor of CoBo)

Elise YAU is an editor and journalist specialises in design, lifestyle and luxury topics. She has written extensively for Ming Pao Weekly, City Magazine and HK01, and she is the author of book projects regarding design, architecture and Hong Kong culture. Currently based in Hong Kong, Elise is immersing the art world after joining CoBo, the first Asia community platform for collectors.

eliseyau@cobosocial.com

 
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