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Thick as a Brick


Thick as a Brick
Giò Marconi, Milan
April 9-14, 2013

Curator: Maria Cristina Didero
Design: Kuehn Malvezzi, Mousse Publishing and Petersen
Statement: «Thick As A Brick presents a selection of more than 100 catalogues, books, art editions and zines published by Mousse and shown within three brick structures conceived by Kuehn Malvezzi and produced by the Danish company Petersen Tegl.
At the end of the last century, it was thought the new millennium would be represented in design and architecture by incorporeal values such as lightness, transparency, and evanescence, inspired by the fluidity of communication as well as the intangible nature of finance. The world seemed intent on becoming liquid. Instead, in the last few years everything has changed.
The economic crisis has profoundly modified our society and hence transformed the approach to architecture and culture at large: the world is seeking a new firmness, a solidity that both architecture and design (as well as art, fashion, and cuisine – some of the most interesting expressions of human culture) are making the center of their practice. Human beings are looking for reliable new touchstones, getting back to basics, to find that stability in which it seems necessary to root (or maybe better to re-root) our society. Traditions and history serve as a point of departure to grow and develop, better than before, and concreteness is the new manifesto for contemporary cultures in Western and even in the Eastern world.
Thick As A Brick goes back to simple, manual practices and ancestral materials – such as the brick used here as a narrative device – and to ancient, basic ideas in order to rediscover their potential: projected into the future, such renewed values serve as a groundwork to literally build a new encyclopedia of balance, strength, and positivity. In this project, these basic materials are replaced by books, iconic tools for spreading knowledge down through the centuries. The bricks produced by the Danish company Petersen serve as the base from which culture symbolically evolves, and the modular pieces in the show, conceived by the Kuehn Malvezzi architectural studio, open a door to the hope of continued growth. The link between bricks and the books presented here by Mousse – a publisher at the cutting edge of the international scene – reinforce this idea of a solidity built on knowledge, a concept embodied by material nature of the object-book itself.
At the invitation of curator Maria Cristina Didero, Kuehn Malvezzi has developed a unique architectural concept for Thick As A Brick: three brick structures, titled Brickolage, are aligned with the gallery spaces so that they double our perception of the space. This intervention marks out places of interchange, introducing elements like a shelf, a counter and a bench – furnishings that allow for storage, interaction, and dialogue, and are neither architecture nor objects. By leaving out every third brick, the structures can be used to hold books and invite visitors to exchange information.

In Kuehn Malvezzi’s words: “Against the backdrop of a design show that reflects furniture in the broadest sense at best, these elements are even thicker than the proverbial brick – yet books and bricks might provide answers, both simple and elaborate, to certain questions. In relation to the complex context of a well-known international showcase for new technology and trends like Milan Design Week, the choice of materials may seem out of place, but is really a pertinent return to solidity. The installation at Giò Marconi is meant to encourage dialogue about how form defines culture. By displaying things that seem unsuited to their setting, the structures examine the importance of the individual object and the idea behind its production. The materials that have been chosen – both the book and the brick – are fundamental agents of cultural expression, and in both cases, only exist within a system where they fit in as modular components. Brickwork is the most basic building technology that informs architecture: first of all, as the concept of serially man-made objects, rectangular blocks formed out of matter and arranged in a given order. Second, a brick can be used within any composition, and in essence, the object is simply a state of matter that can be shattered and reshaped. Likewise, a book is a vessel for any kind of content and a module that can be used within any framework. It resembles a prototype of exchange: a mechanically produced setting for information and ideas to be passed on in space and time”.
Thick As A Brick goes back to reality to stimulate new visions.»