From a chair that symbolizes Italian history to handcrafted objects that test alternative materials to plastic, Formafantasma is known for occupying the fertile territory between art and design. For their latest endeavor, the Amsterdam-based designers spent a year experimenting with a new medium: light. The result is a series of lighting structures, now on view at Peep-Hole in Milan, which bend, reflect, and otherwise distort light to mesmerizing effect.
Featuring 18 pieces, many of which were made specifically for the exhibition, Anno Tropico is as much about the light sculptures themselves as the way they transform the space around them. The installation Colour, for example, is composed of a series of test pieces formed of LED strips, dichroic glass, and polycarbonate lenses mounted on a concrete block. Using a white light source and colored glass, the piece manipulates light like a prism to create rainbow colored reflections on the wall. The hanging piece Magnifier, initially created for the designer’s Delta show in Rome, is made of Romanian brass and crystal. On both ends of the piece, LED lights shine through the magnifying crystal, creating large circles of light on both the ceiling and the floor.
All of the pieces in the show are more concerned with the aesthetics of light than the design of the lamps themselves; in fact, the designers describe light as a “material” in and of itself. But other materials undoubtedly come into play, such as weighty iron and brass pieces that balance out the ephemeral nature of light, as well as rubber and glass. The circular forms of many of the sculptures are significant: They’re reminiscent of astronomical rings and orbital motions in space. As explained in a video that ends the show, the initial idea for these experimental objects arose from an interest in how light travels in space:
Anno Tropico is on view at the Peep-Hole gallery in Milan through March 19.