Due to a number of adverse events, at the time of writing this article I had not yet visited Nanda Vigo’s exhibition Light Project, showcasing at the Palazzo Reale in Milan until 29 September 2019.
But I read in one breath curator Marco Meneguzzo’s critical essay, visualizing the artworks which I had seen on different occasions, or observed in pictures of the exhibition, in catalogs and on the artist’s website. Reading and watching, my mind wandered.
The text “Nanda Vigo: from ZERO to infinity” ends with these words: «there [in the” chronotopes “ed.] A mystical concept that makes you travel with your mind, here [in the” deep spaces “ed.] you can almost see and feel the electro plasma of the warp drive. “
What fascinates me most about Nanda Vigo’s research is her ability to see beyond the visible, which places her work between the present dimension and its projection, in the field of art as much as in the creation of interiors, in design and architecture.
A global artist, some would say. A total artist, according to others. A female artist, it has been said.
I don’t not want to add more words to those that you already find in the show’s press release, and in the artist’s online archive (links and insights at the bottom of the article). Rather, let’s hear Nanda Vigo herself speak about the Light project.
PS: Tell me the truth, how many of those who have read the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (Douglas Adams, 1979) contextualized Nanda Vigo interiors and works in the Spaceship “Cuore d’Oro”, or in some other ravines of the cosmic infinity?
Nanda Vigo: woman, architect, designer, sculptor, artist.What did it mean to be all this in Milan in the 60s and 70s, at the time of Lucio Fontana and Bruno Munari, Gio Ponti, Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini, Azimuth, Group Zero and Group T and in the context of experimentation and the use of new materials?
Nanda Vigo: For all of us, group Zero and Azimuth included, Munari was only a graphic artist with artistic obsessions, and Group T, all of its children, were kinetic artists, therefore very distant from our projects.
Gio Ponti was a fantastic anticipator (of the ‘900) of the interrelation between art, design and architecture. He was the only one, in this sense, and so unique that my peers branded him as Eclectic, discriminating him a priori. More precisely, this is how I felt, with few others. Unfortunately, it is only very recently that he has been rediscovered, though not yet fully understood. In the 1960s, Sottsass himself did not regard him highly, until one day, by chance, they met on a train travelling from Venice to Milan. A fruitful friendship was born, and his works, carefully presented on Domus, began to be very successful. And Mendini’s star began to shine so bright that he became the director of Domus. As for me, I have great love and esteem for both. They initiated the period of Postmodernism. In art, my only reference was Lucio Fontana, the great Lucio, a great force of experimentation and spatial faith. He saw very far, and that’s why I loved him so much.
I experienced all these relationships so simply, that only now do I realize how lucky I have been.
I’m thinking of some of your traveling companions, such as Lisa Ponti or Grazia Varisco could have been, and I wonder what relationship there was between you, as a Milanese women with the necessary attributes to materially design and shape a new idea of the future.
Nanda Vigo: With Lisa Ponti, there was great friendship and collaboration until, a few months ago, she passed away.
Grazia Varisco –whom I’ve never seen – was a bourgeois lady in twin-set sweaters and pearl necklace, while on the contrary I was unruly, going to taverns with my friends Castellani, Agnetti, Manzoni and with many other artists such as Lo Savio, Tancredi, Pino Pascali or Giulio Turcato.
There were few, but very interesting, women like Maria Rosa Ballo or Ninni Mulas. I also had a good relationship of collaboration with Adelaide Acerbi, graphic director of Driade, flexible to dialogue and a favorite pupil of Enzo Mari. And many female photographers, from Carla De Benedetti to Laura Salvati, to Vana Caruso, and Ketty La Rocca.
I would also like to mention Romana Loda, a gallery owner from Iseo, who has done a lot for women artists, for instance the famous exhibition “Magma” in 1975, and who gave me great support for “The mystery revealed” the exhibition that I brought to various galleries around Italy. It was the 70s, and at that time it was right to talk about it. But to propose an exhibition of only women artists now, in the 2000s, is just ghettoization.
Before talking about this anthological exhibition Light Project, I would like to tell the public what The house under the leaf meant to you (1965-1968).
I am referring to your role in the interior design of the private house of Gio Batta Meneguzzo, but also to the visits and the cultural oasis that flourished around it.
Nanda Vigo: “The beetle under the leaf” was an exhilarating experience. I was a young girl and working with architect Ponti was something I had not hoped for. Of course, I was very worried, so when I went to his studio to show him my proposals, with various project folders, he put his hand on them saying “I don’t want to see anything, you will show me the work when you are done”. Fortunately he liked it, and since the square meters were very few and should have hosted a family with two children, I placed the double bed in the center of the living room: Ponti appreciated this choice, calling it the “Nativity Room” and pointing out that only a woman could have conceived such a thought.
In your art making, the transition to an environmental dimension, first with Fontana (1964) and then with your chronotropic Environments (1967 and 1968), overturns the point of view, by incorporating the viewer into a vision from within.
What are the differences and similarities between the user of your environmental works and of the interiors to be lived in? Does your creative approach change in relation to the final recipient?
Nanda Vigo: Basically, the biggest difference is that in the living space it is necessary to include objects such as seats, tables, or whatever else is useful to the system. While, clearly, the artistic “environmental” project has greater freedom of expression, because it is not tied to any constraint. I am happily married to all the housing projects that I have carried out over the years, because they are tailored to the respective dwellers, whose interests I have deepened and enhanced if anything. For example, the “Yellow House” was born this way because the user – who had to move from the South to the North – was missing the sun of his native land. Thus the “Yellow House” reflected and enhanced light.
While the “Black House” was developed according to the needs of the collector who lived there, for whom important paintings should be seen by candlelight. Therefore, each project has always been conceived for whoever would live there, but enhancing the values of light.
In the 1970s, the mirror became a necessary element to rediscover the body dimension and its position in space, both physically and psychically. These are the years of the Trigger of the space and performances. Why check the possibilities of the body’s freedom precisely in that situation?
Nanda Vigo: Since the 1960s, materials such as steel, aluminum, glass and mirror became necessary elements for the psychic search for a “dimensionless” space, which is what Marco Meneguzzo defines as “mental time”, and which well represents my research.
I have never been interested in the body itself, I am not a “body artist”.
This interview made me think about the moon.
50 years ago, humanity followed the otherworldly footsteps of the first man on the Moon, which moved our point of perception of the cosmos a little further.
Your ‘vertical’ architectural projects, already tended towards the sky (Cemetery towers, 1962-1963). Therefore, I was wondering if your light – sidereal, immobile, silent – can also be “lunar” in this sense.
Nanda Vigo: Thank you for thinking of the “moon” in relation to my work. But I really do hope to go a little further, the moon is just our satellite in a bigger galaxy, certainly inhabited.
I always hope that the light that I express is that of the “Goral”, that is the primordial light indispensable for other dimensions, precisely for “mental time”.
Artist, designer, architect … many ways to identify an architect of the future, who brings her idea closer to everyday life, updating and exploring it.
Can you give me a thought on the new generations of architects?
Nanda Vigo: For the new generations, I can only hope that they will awaken from the torpor of “well-being”, whether true or fictitious, in order to reinvent another earth and another sky.
SOURCES: - Nanda Vigo official website (link)