Picaresque

Triennale di Milano, 2012

The signs are all around us; sex sells, according to the aphorism. The city reflects this theme in its very fabric, from the phallus-ism of skyscrapers and fast cars to advertising and entertainment. My approach as both designer and sensualist has always been to work within the layers of perception. Sex, like sensuality, is only one of these layers, and yet a fundamental part of life.

Design usually suffers from a persistent taboo that masks any erotic connotation, but I believe that the sensual is always present in design – in furniture, lighting and spaces. In 1988 I made an object in the shape of a pelvis complete with male member that incites you to straddle it. In the art gallery context for which it was made, it slipped past the morality police, and now reads as a manifesto for much of my work as a designer.

In the build up to this installation I took further cues from the world of art. From the works of Caravaggio to Francis Bacon, I sought to capture the erogenous power of the painted surface. Picaresque explores how objects can step out from the painted surface and transpose an impression into solid form. I want the lighting pieces to materialise the glow around a light bulb, and the furniture to oscillate between the object and the living body as both desirer and desired.

This installation offers a Cubist perspective on domestic objects – tables, chairs, mirrors and carpets constitute a complex magnetic field that defines an axis of erotic charge. Using digital tablets, visitors to the exhibition are also invited to glimpse an alternate reality, and see naked figures in each frame of the triptych; to quote Mae West “sex is an emotion in motion”.

Picaresque is part of the exhibition ‘Kama, Sex and Design’, open until 10th March 2013 at the Triennale di Milano.

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