'we cannot be ideological': formafantasma on design's possibilities and limitations

'we cannot be ideological': formafantasma on design's possibilities and limitations

in an amsterdam suburb, far from the city’s canals and museums, is the workplace of andrea trimarchi and simone farresin — the italian design duo who lead formafantasma. since graduating from design academy eindhoven in 2009, trimarchi and farresin have developed a body of work characterized by experimental material investigations and the exploration of issues such as the relationship between tradition and local culture. the duo perceive their practice as a bridge between craft, industry, object, and user, a role that resulted in the firm winning THE DESIGN PRIZE 2019 in the category of ‘experimentation’.


for PORT magazine’s 25th issue, deyan sudjic, director of london’s design museum, visited trimarchi and farresin’s amsterdam studio where he spoke with them about the possibilities and limitations of the industry today.

formafantasma interview
all images by renée de groot



‘we don’t believe in no form, though our name reflects that form is not the dominant part [formafantasma translates as ghost form],’ explains the duo. ‘in the moment we live in, we cannot be ideological; things are more grey. we have to live with ideological and ethical ambiguities. it’s difficult for designers — you face the complexities of the world and are asked to participate in an exercise to rethink the profession.’

formafantasma interview



formafantasma is currently working on a host of new projects, including an upcoming exhibition at london’s serpentine gallery. the show, which opens in march 2020, will examine the way timber is used, and what it offers. ‘it’s a living material, one which raises ethical questions about how we produce it,’ says farresin. ‘we will look at forestry, at how wood is cut and what the parameters should be when you strive for sustainability. trees absorb CO2; it is stored in the wood. whenever you make an object from wood there is CO2 in it. when it is destroyed, more is released. if the object does not last longer than it took for the tree that it came from to grow, you are doing damage. objects should outlive trees.’

formafantasma interview



the interview also addresses environmental concerns, including the issues brought up by extinction rebellion. ‘I understand them, but there are different levels of intervention possible,’ says simone farresin about the environmental movement. ‘recycling is not a solution. we need radical and visionary ways of thinking.’ farresin continues by referencing paola antonelli’s curation of the XXII international exhibition of la triennale di milano. ‘as she [antonelli] says, ‘we are not going to survive’. we all know that we will die. but does that mean you stop trying to live, or do you live hopefully and with dignity?’



however, formafantasma warns young creatives against being over ambitious in tackling all these issues at once. ‘as a young designer, to approach all these problems can be overwhelming,’ the duo concludes. ‘we encourage our students to be exploratory, but not to be ashamed of scaling down ambition — you can scale up later — and, ultimately, be conscious that design has its limitations.’ the full article, which features photography by renée de groot, can be read in the latest issue of PORT magazine, out now.

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