VEGETATION FOR THE CAMPANA BROTHERS
Turning garbage into gold is their way of changing the world. Future generations of designers, stylists and artists have learned the lesson. Being top designers doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they are heard first. Garbage in nature is like a massacre that we all have become accustomed to, which means that the Brothers were very avant-garde when they began to recycle, in the eighties, thus not only ennobling gar- bage but also valuing the creativity from Shanty Towns, so as to make a virtue out of necessity. The cheapest of materials are expertly interwoven and used to create something refined. Italian neorealism and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film Theorem are key to understand-ing the Brothers’ work.
After having cleaned up the essential nature of garbage, what remains is the essence, the material of life that fuels the Campana Brothers’ creativity more than anything else. We must remember that the Brothers’ father, Alberto Campana, was an agronomist, so they were encouraged to study plants from an early age. A study that becomes evident in the Brothers’ stylistic language and in their work volume. They made work that found true inspiration in the plant world, such as the Anemone, Vitória Regia and Corallo chair, and used a range of materials that included synthetic and waste products. A wide variety of their output places bamboo at the center, such as the Cactus lamp, the Cerca screen, the Volcano lamp, the Taquaral chair, the Pilha screen, the Bamboo chair. Gold Grass, a herb that grows in the Brazilian state of Tocantins, in the Jalapão region, becomes a jewel when masterfully combined with gold, platinum, and diamonds. What could be more valuable, if not grass itself? We hence take a leap not into a globalized future, but into a future concerned with a reorganization of values.
The Brothers gained massive popularity with Vermelha, thanks to Massimo Morozzi’s wisdom, The Vermelha chair is made up of a metallic structure in which hundreds of meters of rope are interwoven like a vine, communicating a subliminal message of how a story becomes entangled in a continuous plot, which only a skilled wicker weaver can interpret. This atavistic
wisdom dates back to peasant traditions, revealing the level of man-ual skill required in the countryside. The purpose of wicker baskets is to collect things, to store things. The Vermelha resides in MOMAas well as in many other international collections. In this in-house undertaking it is the armchair that, with its narrative capacity, as granted by the hands behind its creation, manages to assign a clearly delineated place to those who wish to dream.
The Brothers are also able to come into contact with a much wider audience and communicate with histori-cally important brands such as Lacoste. It should be noted that, when the Campana Brothers first stepped onto the world stage in the Salone del Mobile in 1998, few Brazilians had heard of the event. Thanks to the Campanas, twenty years later, 30,000 people go to Milan specifically for this event. They managed to convey a very important message in the country.
With such aura and allure, some pieces act as a kind of elixir in terms of the weight they have in our daily lives. It is only through these useful and therapeutic toys that our homes become a hiding place where we manage to escape from the numerous duties of life, work, relationships, and society. These limits to our leisure and our freedom are made clear thanks to this fairy tale that the Campanas have orchestrated with nature.
In the Brothers’ DNA we see this vegetation trait fertilized by their father’s passion for plants. Thanks to Prof. Stefano Mancuso and the International Laboratory for Plant Neurobiology in Florence and Bonn, plant intelligence has been and academically analyzed and scientifically confirmed. A plant’s brain is located in its roots and it allows it to make decisions, reflect upon things and exchange information. “If they are attacked by pathogens, they communicate the danger to other similar beings or the same species through gases and volatile substances, which prompts them to strengthen their immune systems. Plants are making clear that they are also social.” Mancuso organizes this vast paradigm, taking us through peasant proverbs and deep scientific knowledge. We can therefore conclude that these analyses reveal information the brothers must have recorded in their own subconscious and activated in their communication with the plant world.
The Brothers wish to join the conversation not conceitedly, but through the poetry of fairy tales, which al-lows them to tell very concrete and contemporary stories in which the existence of the forest can be inferred. The ‘forest’ could take the shape of Friedrich Heidegger’s or Novalis’s roman-tic woods, but the Brothers grew up amid Brazil’s Atlantic forest, not too far from the Amazon Forest, where the vegetation is so dense it does not leave room for the forest to breathe and be-come poetry. This is a vast forest much desired by men. Bringing the original flora back to these places will be a remarkable undertaking for the future and the Brothers launched an appeal ante litteram, before it even existed.
Inspired by Rome’s grounded and vigorous artistic legacy, the Brothers showed the Brazilian Baroque Collection in 2011, where Roman masters reproduce beautiful plant designs, a Baroque reference. The general public was utterly mesmerized by the mix’ of materials and shapes in Palazzo Pamphilj’s Cortona Gallery, in Piazza Navona. Bamboo remains resolute as one of the protagonists. Thus began the series so desired by Ema Nobile Mino Interno Romano, for which the brothers contributed quite expressively. Galeria Giusti-ni Stagetti supported the project.
The pieces created for Louis Vuitton strongly convey the desire to send a message from the plant world to a certain group of persons with strong decision-making powers a message from the plant world. The suspended Maracatu suitcase, the suspended Cocoon rocking chair, the Bulbo armchair, the Tropicalist vase… they all speak for themselves and convey the message through the form, the need to to take center stage. It’s like a message hanging from above, suspended, to communicate the plant dimension that very much needs to be heard, because it must be taken into account more and more. Form and inspiration are not only beautiful, they also have concrete value. Once surrounded by these objects in daily use, it won’t be long before human beings ques- tion a specific form, how can something can be trivial and at the same time so fascinating? Because art, applied art must convey sensations and visions
that can help to understand the current moment and develop strategies for the future.
This is why some luxury brands are beginning to contribute, by investing in plants, by planting thousands of plants in urban areas. Caring for plants is not just some elitist trend, but a resource, as essential as our need to breathe. Plants manage to pose individuals this question, making them acknowledge recognize the world they live in.
The Hybridism exhibition at the Friedman Benda Gallery in 2017 is expressive of this great ability, in revealing a fusion between plants, animals, and humans, not so much as a disturbance but as a solution to genesis, growth, and decomposition. The solution presents itself through that which dies and generates humus soil for new life. Sap is also the essence of artistic thought that the Brothers manage to convey. Maybe a fairy tale, maybe a belief, maybe absolution that can give hu- manity the magic of a project that can also protect us: in fact it can save us. In a humble attempt, let us at least try to interpret the stories plants wish to tell us.
The world is a miracle thanks to plants and the plant world, and we must try to protect it. Thank you, Fernando and Humberto.