INTERVIEW WITH ORNAGHI & PRESTINARI
ELISA MUSCATELLI – How would you describe your research to an audience approaching you for the first time?
ORNAGHI & PRESTINARI – In our practice, the theme of the relationship with the other and the encounter are central, we are also interested in the theme of caring, dialogue and confrontation, the relationship with materials, and potential, and the processes of production. We are interested in material culture in general, and therefore also in man’s relationship with the object, from the design to the production of the work, and also in waste materials and the whole game of the object’s life cycle.
EM – Have you been working as an artistic duo since 2009. How do you express the individuality of each of you in your works?
O&P – Let’s say that we are purely interested in the expression of individuality in our work. In fact, right from the very first works, it immediately emerged that our dialogue was giving rise to something new that was neither totally mine nor Valentina’s, but that was something the third party, arising from the relationship between our specificities and our characteristics, and this leads to our works having an intrinsic duality and an emphasis on the dimension of the collective rather than the individual.
EM – Encounter is a keyword in your works, not only the meeting of different ideas and materials that come together in the same work but also encounters with different places in which you have worked, from the former church of Ognissanti in Fermo, to the Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea in Ferrara, to the Museo Internazionale della Ceramica in Faenza and the ArtLine park in Milan. How do you approach the exhibition space?
O&P – As we were saying before, our work is very much based on dialogue, so it is born each time in different contexts and draws one of its pretexts from the context, exactly. Yes, so it is not just a dialogue between us, but we are interested in being influenced by the characteristics of the exhibition space, the history of each place, and encounters with people. This way of proceeding also derives from our training in architecture and design, and therefore our sensitivity has been structured in this direction, which is also very site-specific.
EM – There is an unofficial challenge whereby every designer sooner or later has to deal with designing a chair. In 2016 you produced Leggera, reinterpreting Gio Ponti’s famous chair. What does this work say about your relationship with art and design?
O&P – Leggera was born together with a body of work that all reflected iconic objects of Italian design. Let’s say they were a whole series of sculptures that started from these iconic objects, but were reinterpreted in a way as if they had been filtered through memory, so they were not textual quotations, but almost memories, things, portraits. In that particular piece, we started out with the interest of studying the specific joint that had made it possible to create the seat, and we decided to empty the seat of its possibility of being used, so that only three legs remained, which was the minimum number for the elements to be able to support each other exclusively by fitting together, and it was also a sort of reflection on the idea of design, the utopian ideal of design, as the possibility of having, let’s say, beautiful objects for everyone.
EM – Alabaster, wood, plastic, ceramic, freed from the slavery of functionality, become living surfaces again in your works. Does the material guide the form of the work or vice versa? Has the transition from technical to artistic training influenced your relationship with materials?
O&P – Assuming that we often work with everyday objects, and therefore with very familiar and domestic forms that maintain an idea of intimacy, of affection with respect to the object, we do not completely empty the material of its function, in the sense that we can say that many times the object somehow maintains its function as an object, but it is as if it had somehow gone mad, as for example the vases we have made, or the artwork Bedroom, which is to all intents and purposes a usable bed. The materials in some way do not necessarily deny their function, but it is as if they were somehow out of tune with reality. Many times the idea comes from a mental intuition, from our dialogues, but often also from the material and while we are perhaps handcrafting another work. What is certainly a constant is that we never try to force an idea on the material, but we always try to comply with the limits of the material and its characteristics. Yes, let’s say that one of the things we’ve asked ourselves and that interests us is how to get away from a functional point of view with respect to the material, i.e. very often the material is used according to its potential, and for example its aesthetics. What interests us instead is how the material interrogates us, and therefore how that material actually acquires meaning for us, what it can teach us.
EM – What has been a historical, literary, or cinematographic reference of great impact for you in the development of your artistic and personal career?
O&P – Well, we don’t feel like citing a particular reference that has given us a turning point in our career, but we can talk about a constellation of references that have from time to time influenced and enriched each project, so references related to the history of ancient art, but also the inspiration given by the work of Giorgio Morandi, rather than Haiku and Zen art, or the stories of Italo Calvino and the cinema of Ozu.