The Milan PAC presents the oeuvre of Superstudio (1966-1978), the group of radical architects and radical designers from Florence, which not only influenced the way of thinking and designing of renowned architects such as Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi, but also definitively questioned the boundary between art and architecture, and which is regarded as the last great Italian avant-garde.
October 11 – January 6, 2016
PAC Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea
Via Palestro, 14
Supported by Comune di Milano – Culture and produced by the PAC with Silvana Editoriale, the exhibition is curated by Andreas Angelidakis, Vittorio Pizzigoni and Valter Scelsi and it will take place during the last month of Expo 2015, reinterpreting the concept of nourishment and analysing the ‘germinal’ role of an all-Italian movement in the international culture and art scene.
“SUPER SUPERSTUDIO is the chance to investigate the possibilities of a form of discourse through images that is still open, in which the strength of Superstudio’s projects – drawn from the large and mostly unpublished archive of the group in Florence – and of their environments, displayed together for the first time, enables to disclose and establish relationships with contemporary art,” curators Vittorio Pizzigoni and Valter Scelsi explained.
In a unique set-up, conceived by Baukuh and Valter Sclesi together with Superstudio, the Continuous Monument – perhaps the group’s most famous project – will enter the PAC, which in itself is a monument to Italian modernity, transfiguring the exhibition space and captivating the viewer in a dynamic experience.
The exhibition will reconstruct Superstudio’s most important projects by bringing together its most representative pieces of design, installations and films, and by building – as a part of the total urbanisation model promoted by Superstudio itself – a dialogue with 19 works by 19 contemporary artists, who have drawn the raw material for their oeuvre from the Florence group’s research: Danai Anesiadou, Alexandra Bachzetsis, Ila Beka and Louise Lemoine, Pablo Bronstein, Stefano Graziani, Petrit Halilaj and Alvaro Urbano, Jim Isermann, Daniel Keller and Ella Plevin, Andrew Kovacs, Rallou Panagiotou, Paola Pivi, Angelo Plessas, Riccardo Previdi, RO/LU, Priscilla Tea, Patrick Tuttofuoco, Kostis Velonis, Pae White.
Hence, SUPER SUPERSTUDIO is not only Superstudio’s ultimate exhibition; it is also an independent work, taking its nourishment from the complex relationship between its container and its content. The presence of works by contemporary artists, which are able to establish connections and relations with the Florence group’s research and with its impact on contemporary culture, is the very specific nature of the exhibition itself.
“In selecting contemporary artists to be included in the exhibition, we chose those works that could be imagined as potential answers to Superstudio’s questions. The group’s works from 1970 are still radical today, as they shaped an architecture of premonitions, rather than answers, of questions, rather than objects,” Andreas Angelidakis, co-curator of the exhibition, pointed out. “Their work has put together a number of enigmas, concerning not only architecture, but also the way we live on our planet. Fifty years later, we can start seeing the answers to those questions raised in projects such as The Continuous Monument or Fundamental Acts. A continuous glossy surface that meets all of our needs and desires, and spreads across the world? Could it be that this surface exists today in the form of the Internet?”
The history of Superstudio lasted for twenty years. It was 1966 when the Italian contribution of what Germano Celant would call ‘Radical Architecture’ – celebrated with the exhibition Italy the New Domestic Landscape at the New York MOMA in 1972 – to the international debate on the crisis of modernity began to acquire a central role. The group’s research found its own way into the cultural context of the Italian neo-avant-gardes of the late 1960s, proposing its own operating tools to the different scales of a project: from the critical revision of the great utopias of megastructures, to the application of Pop-based processes to design.
In 1969, Superstudio took part in the Graz Trigon Biennial with a project called Continuous Monument, conceiving a discourse – pushed to the limit – dealing with the possibilities of architecture as a critical means. This event marked the success of the group, critically supported by Koolhaas, Isozaki, and Jencks and, in its vision on a world scale, it unleashed the imagination. It is the representation in parts of a huge, smooth and reflecting surface, maybe made of glass, which indifferently crosses natural and urban landscapes, and which is able to disclose – besides the work method used by Superstudio and its possible message – the mysterious strength of the project: the reading of an on-going political and social process, its symbolic application and the observation of its outcomes. Promoted by magazines Domus and Casabella, by the main international cultural institutions, and supported by the design industry, the group continued its work until the late 1970s, but its impact on architectural culture crosses the borders of the 20th century and manages to influence the current imaginary.
“Superarchitecture is the architecture of superproduction, superconsumption, superinducement to consumption, supermarket, superman and super gasoline,” as the young Florence architects from Superstudio and Archizoom groups claimed in the poster of the exhibition Superarchitettura.
Established in Florence in 1966 by a group of young architects (Adolfo Natalini, Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, Gian Piero Frassinelli, Roberto and Alessandro Magris and later Alessandro Poli), Superstudio was one of the founders of the so-called Radical Architecture (1966 – 1973) and it later engaged in an attempt of anthropological refoundation of architecture (1973 – 1978), which reached its peak with their participation in the Venice Biennale in 1978. The group’s critical work mainly developed through theoretical projects such as The Single Design (Histograms of Architecture, Catalogue of Villas, The Continuous Movement), The Twelve Ideal Cities and the film series Fundamental Acts (Life, Education, Ceremony, Love, Death).
Between 1973 and 1975, the group was involved in the Global Tools, a system of workshops to develop collective creativity. From 1973 to 1978, it returned to architecture and devoted to research and education, working on the Extra-Urban Material Culture. In this latter period, the members of the group defined their own lines of research. After the official end of Superstudio, they never lost contact, and after 2001, with the creation of the Superstudio Archive, they engaged in a large programme of exhibitions and publications.
The group held many solo exhibitions and took part in several collective exhibitions, giving evidence of its intention to establish a dialogue not only through publications and education, but also through works, films, objects and set-ups. Here are some of the most significant ones: Italy. The New Domestic Landscape, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1972; Mindscapes, Sottsass & Superstudio, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (and six other US museums), 1973; Superstudio Fragmente aus einem personlichen Museum, Neue Galerie Graz, Galerie nach St. Stephan Wien, Galerie in Taxis Palais, Innsbruck; Superstudio Metaphors an allegories, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1982; Superstudio 1966-82, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, 1982; Life Without Objects, Design Museum, London, 2003 – Pratt Manhattan Gallery, NYV, 2003 – Storefront, NYC, 2003 – Art Center, Pasadena, 2004 – Vleeshal & Zeeuws Museums, Middelburg, 2004; Superstudio Backstage 19966-1978, Fondazione Peschiera, Pesaro, 2013.
Superstudio’s works are included in the collections of several international museums: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, New York); the Israel Museum (Jerusalem); the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (Frankfurt); the Centre Pompidou (Paris) and the MAXXI (Rome).