Thursday, 1:00pm
28 February 2013

Objects of desire

Kama. Sesso e Design

Triennale Design Museum, Milan, Italy
5 December 2012 > 10 March 2013
Curated by Silvana Annicchiarico

Kama. Sesso e Design

Edited by Silvana Annicchiarico
Design by Studio Cerri, with Francesca Ceccoli, Andrea Puppa
Triennale Design Museum / Corraini Editions €34

Designers have been engaged in sex since neolithic times. Well, maybe those neolithics were not designers per se, but they were designing sexual representations, such as Venus (9500-8700BC), found in Lake Bracciano in Italy, writes Steven Heller.

Ronit Baranga, Crowd, 2011.

Ronit Baranga-crowd 2 (2011)

Installation photography (top and below) by Fabrizio Marchesi © Triennale Design Museum.

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Since then, designers and artists have had their way with everything from bronze to plastic, turning them into totems of sexual ritual. This and more is in Kama. Sex and Design, the bilingual catalogue of the Triennale Design Museum’s exhibition of the same name, curated by Silvana Annicchiarico, on display in Milan until Sun 10 March 2013.

Image from Piero Fornasetti’s piatto / dish n. 336, 1980.

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Annicchiarico notes in an introduction that ‘sex is everywhere’ and ‘crops up in the most miscellaneous creative realms from film and the Web, to art and fashion’. She insists that, ‘there is no reference to the place where sex is always to be found: the world of objects’. The reason for this omission, we’re told in a somewhat garbled art-historical jargonese, was because of the Modern movement. Yes, our beloved, heroic Modern movement was prudish.

The purpose of this show and catalogue is to celebrate a reappearance of sex in the world of design. It is not, ‘intended to be either an exhibition about eroticism or an exhibition about sexuality’. It does, however, set out ‘to be an exhibition about objects that draw their morphological inspiration from the genital sexual organs, as well as the sexual relations the body engages in with other bodies.’

Photo by Fabrizio Marchesi © Triennale Design Museum

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Organised by obsession or fetish, sections on the male and female organs, breasts, orifices, and buttock-worship share the stage with ‘Erotic Food Design’ and ‘Mating.’ While some objects are erotic, few fit any reasoned definition of pornography or sexploitation.

Nonetheless, if you have a priggish side – like those blasted Modernists – the fact that this catalogue is designed in a clinical Modernist manner will not make you any less unsettled. But if you are open to a theme that has been around since time immemorial, then Kama will be quite stimulating.

Kama. Sesso e Design continues at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan until 10 March 2013.

Steven Heller, design writer, New York.

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Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and back issues.

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