Ettore Sottsass Jr.

L'invenzione del palo, 1971-1972

In this series of 12 small black and white photographs, shown for the first time at the Correr Museum during the Venice Biennale of 1976, Sottsass features a post, illustrating the many variations of its use in an ironic way: here a patriotic support, there a domestic support, the post is transformed into either a festive or political device. In these photographs, Sottsass is playing with emblems, by transforming an ordinary object into a symbolic one. It was at this time, following a decisive trip to India in 1961 and serious illness that forced his hospitalization in Palo Alto, California, that Sottsass decided to concentrate on his passion for ceramics, in “an almost frenetic activity.” It was also a period of critical analysis for Sottsass, which led him to question the very foundations of design (his Containers were shown in the exhibition entitled Italy: The New Domestic Landscape at the MoMA in New York in 1972). “I wanted to place design, or rather the concept of design, under almost ridiculous conditions and (...) in photography I found the most effective tool.” Utilizing this approach, he invented temporary and fragile scenes “for private meditations and solitudes”, to use his terms. The apparent lightness of these scenes, metaphors for an architecture of power, in reality underlies his will to restore sacredness to things, which he saw as the only possible way of getting beyond rationality that had become too weighty.

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