LAUSANNE.- Following upon Post Mortem : dix créateurs repensent lurne funéraire (ten creators rethink funerary urns) and In vino veritas : a project by Matali Crasset, the mudac continues to explore glass design editions through the work of Ettore Sottsass and Pierre Charpin. A major figure in the realm of design, Ettore Sottsass, who passed away in 2007, founded the Memphis Group in 1981.
Internationally acclaimed for putting a new light on the link between architecture and design, he focused his research on defining forms and space, granting much importance to light and color. Having studied the visual arts, Pierre Charpin's first influences were the conceptual and minimal art theories. Yet in the early 1990s, he set out on the more concrete path of design rather than aesthetic research. A decisive moment came with his discovery of the Memphis outlook of "not thinking of objects only according to their structure but also in terms of surface, color, decor," enabling him to adopt a more sensual than structural approach. Both Sottsass and Charpin were invited on several occasions by the CIRVA (International Center for Glass and Visual Arts Research) in Marseilles, for purposes of developing experimental approaches to glass design. This exhibition also represents a chance to present the CIRVA's activities for the firsttime in Switzerland.
Humans have availed themselves of glass, a commonplace material, for thousands of years, using techniques that, in certain cases, have hardly evolved. Yet even today, glass remains an incredible source of inspiration and fascination for artists and creators. Ettore Sottsass sees it as a gradually tamed friend: "Amid all the materials Nature has produced and Man has invented, for me glass undoubtedly remains one of the most fascinating [...] We have become friends. We speak to each other of our dreams, of our wish for freedom. We decided there was a long road ahead for us to travel... In fact, all remained to be discovered. All always remains to be discovered."
Intended for contemporary artists and designers, the CIRVA, where Ettore Sottsass has long worked, is a center for glass research and creation. Indeed, it represents one of the few venues in Europe where artists can encounter this material and, possibly, make friends with it. Glass possesses complex properties generating a number of difficulties that non-glassmaking artists hardly suspect when planning an artistic project. The availability of technicians and the time factor are thus vital to glassmaking: these two specificities are basic features of the CIRVA outlook as a place to reside and think projects through. The visual artists and designers who come there to work entrust the glassmakers with carrying out the projects they have imagined. The generosity of the dialogue between these parties brings much into the realm of the possible.
Very often, such a compulsory transmission belt can be quite destabilizing for artists in the habit of doing, deciding and mastering on their own. In their frustration at not being able to pitch in themselves, they must find new means whereby to possess their project, to gain a grasp on it. And so it is that the gap created between the thought of an artist or his/her language and the gesture of the craftsperson who transposes it becomes in itself a new artistic material to be worked upon, liable to induce doubt or even mistakes and failures. Many of the projects carried through at the CIRVA have been the fruit of unpredictable or unforeseen circumstances.
Then too, many of the projects do not ever get completed, because the idea for a piece and its realization in the material simply cannot be made to coincide.