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Fendi's Design Vertigo

Design Miami director Ambra Medda introduces the Design Vertigo project, launched in collaboration with Fendi, during Milan's Salone del Mobile

Groups of people play with gigantic balls covered in dizzying optical patterns in a rather bizarre arty playground decorated in mind-bending patterns. It's maybe a rather unusual situation for the designers and trendsetters in town for the Salone del Mobile and the Fuorisalone events, but this is 'Design Vertigo', an interactive happening and collaborative project between Italian fashion house Fendi and Design Miami/Basel. The event, Design Miami Director Ambra Medda underlines, aims at engaging people in new art perspectives through four different commissions by Swiss artist Felice Varini, Berlin-based studio Beta Tank, London-based collective rAndom International and artist Graham Hudson.
Design Vertigo is a creative journey that starts outside the Spazio Fendi, with Varini's anamorphic perspective painting, a study on geometrical perspectives, continues with rAndom International's interactive LED light wall and Hudson's theatre box scaffolding structure populated by suspended dummies clad in Fendi furs that appeared on the big screen worn by famous actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow in Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, and climaxes with Beta Tank's optically psychedelic black and white playground.

The innovative project continues the collaboration between Fendi and Design Miami that had started with the 'Craft Punk' and 'Stereo Craft Design' performances. "In such an historical period when everything is questioned, we decided to continue this path through Design Vertigo, where experimentation is perceived in an innovative and provocative way, as viewers will interact and become themselves part of the installations, reaching their full completion", explains Accessories Creative Director Silvia Venturini Fendi.   

Dazed Digital: What started this partnership with Fendi and in which ways can this project be considered as the next stage of the previous Craft Punk/Stereo Craft events?
Ambra Medda: The partnership with Fendi started a while back. The fashion house was looking at ways to support culture from a radical level, so we first organised Craft Punk in Milan during last year’s Salone del Mobile. The show aimed at celebrating creativity and underline the value of craftsmanship. It also coincided with a rather critical moment for the entire world since we were all paralysed by the economic crisis and by a sort of fear, we all wondered ‘What’s next?’ Craft Punk was very rebellious since it went against the common trend of everyone feeling miserable and encouraged people to come together in a big space. We didn’t have a huge budget for it, but there was so much energy revolving around the entire project that helped us turning it into a powerfully emotional event. Stereo Craft was instead organised last December in Miami and it was conceived as a continuation of this art dialogue with Fendi. Once again we highlighted the value of crafts and creativity but the main idea behind it was that technology and craft aren’t two different entities as some people may think, but technology is today’s craftsmanship. For this project we collaborated with a band called OK Go and we created a performance that brought technology to life in engaging ways. It was certainly something out of the ordinary to find an independent rock band playing in the middle of it all, creating bizarre light patterns that seemed to come out of their musical instruments.

DD: What's the main objective behind the collaboration?
Ambra Medda: Design Vertigo is conceived as series of installations that again try to engage the public, underlining the value of community and, reminding us all that, yes, you can communicate through Facebook, Skype and Twitter, but face-to-face value is extremely essential because it’s going to allow you to get an amazing amount of information. Indeed the dialogue, exchange of thoughts, ideas and projects generated during a gathering of people are amazing. Design Vertigo also wants to tackle the theme of design production today and the cross-pollination between different fields, like art, fashion and design.

DD: What do the artists involved in this project share?
Ambra Medda: A desire to artistically contribute to today’s cultural fabric and to be part of something that goes beyond the boundaries and to delve into a new world based on and defined by cultural cross-pollination.   

DD: Among the four installations, is there one that focuses a little bit more on fashion?
Ambra Medda: Maybe Graham Hudson’s “An insignificant extension in space and a considerable extension in time”. Hudson is a sort of artist/sculptor/architect interested in creating structures and environments that allow people to interact. His installation, inspired by theatre balconies, features a two storey scaffolding with furs and bags that Graham and I selected from the Fendi archives. We chose pieces that underlined the craftsmanship, quality, research, dedication and sense of creativity and imagination, so that, while walking around the structure, the visitors will be taken through a creative journey behind the doors of the Fendi fashion house.

DD: Will visitors be shocked, provoked or inspired by such works and by the themes they tackle?
Ambra Medda: Each project is very engaging and the whole journey is supposed to be very emotional, since it suggests people to embrace this sense of momentary chaos and, within that chaos, find hope and responsibility. All the installations are intended to encourage an experience where we are celebrating perception and social interaction: Beta Tank’s project, for instance, also ties in with the “vertigo” theme, in the sense that it makes you dizzy with its patterns, but the main aim behind it is empowering the public.   

DD: As the curator of this project, did you find exciting working with such different and original artists?
Ambra Medda: Every project I’m involved in is an exciting adventure because it allows me to get exposed to new ideas and to a new set of relationships with people I didn’t know before, so it’s always a massive learning process. Working with creative people is extremely exciting and most of the work I usually deal with is motivating and challenging at the same time. I guess Design Vertigo was an incredible experience for me and I hope visitors will enjoy it. 

DD: Do you feel Design Vertigo will also spark up a dialogue with those Salone del Mobile visitors who are more interested in fashion?
Ambra Medda: Yes, I think so. If you look at the programmes for the Salone and the Fuorisalone, you will see that there are a number of fashion brands that are now collaborating with designers and getting more involved in the design industry. Last year the Salone had a difficult year because we were in the middle of the most challenging economic crisis we ever experienced, but I feel that this year there is hope, enthusiasm and a special determination to get things back on track, and show and investigate interesting ideas.

DD: Are there any special projects/events you are looking forward to seeing at the Salone del Mobile?
Ambra Medda: I want to see quite a few projects, among the others the Audi and Swarovski presentations and the events at Galleria Nilufar.

DD: What are your plans after the Salone?
Ambra Medda: I’m setting up Design Miami/Basel, so I’ll be packing my bags to go to America for this exciting project and I would really like to encourage all your readers to come and see it since it will feature quite extraordinary artists.

Design Vertigo is open to the public from 2 to 7pm until 18th April at the Spazio Fendi, Via Sciesa 3, Milan. All images courtesy of Fendi-Design Miami/Basel for Design Vertigo.