Sitting alone within a hidden bamboo
grove – plucking the zither – repeating
long howls – in a deep forest no one
knows bright moon – illuminates the
In the 8th century the poet Wang Wei wrote these verses, although we don’t know exactly what he referred to, in his words we can perceive the search for a deeper contact with nature. The bamboo in which this vision is immersed is the main protagonist of the project Cheerfully Optimistic About the Future, the first solo exhibition of Cypriot designer Michael Anastassiades in Italy, presented at the ICA Milano Foundation and curated by Alberto Salvadori.
The installation placed at the ground floor of the building is complementary to the one in the small outdoor room, renamed by the artist the Glossary room: it’s an environment dotted with objects from his own collection, that give a path to follow to the eyes. The main exhibition space is instead marked by sculptures of different size and height, to which bamboo acts as a carrying unit, along with other materials that make up the structure. The wooden rods, after being scraped, polished and waxed, are mounted on a cast pewter base, and anchored to the light pipes, with a linen wire and a steel support.
Although they are apparently simple lamps and consist of a few elements, each one is different from the other, it may be as individual or as a group, and each module delimits a three-dimensional space. Some parts, including cables and sockets are exposed, and this treatment helps to highlight both the materic and minimalist value of the design object.
The light forest suggests an irregular and variable development, but at the same time it’s governed by a certain recurrent rhythm, animating the large room and giving it a multiple configuration, depending on the observer point of view. These works, halfway between sculpture, design and architecture, contain a strong artisanal base, which manifests the research of Anastassiades: he moves from a natural and originary dimension, with also a reflection on the creative one. The light hosted inside the tubes is a phenomenon, as Wang Wei also points out, which arrives and clarifies, giving shape and visibility to what could have been before in the shadows, in this case the artist’s gesture, the sign he leaves with his work. The glass cylinders he used are external elements, and they refer to Dan Flavin with his neon, but do not represent a definite symbolism or metaphor by their light, however they are linked to the condition of the artist himself, so he’s suspended between two poles.
He tries to combine his dual soul as a designer and artist, with a work that interprets the other, that is nature, the foundation of reality, and in this way he sets aside the anthropocentric conception that affects our culture from Humanism. All the attention is focused on bamboo plants, on their potential and boundaries, of which Anastassiades gives a reading through a design key, remembering that innovation is not based on dominating the raw material, but is made by including it as a part of the process.
Cheerfully Optimistic About the Future led the author to create a soft and delicate atmosphere within the space, analyzing the dichotomy between nature and culture with a dialogue, that according to him is optimistic towards the future, if the man will succeed in going beyond this long-standing opposition by understanding the principle of constant adaptation of nature.
The installation produces subtle and continuous movements just as in a living and metamorphic nature, in which there are no hierarchies or priority functions, as happens instead in the structure of the individual, but everything takes place with an organic development, for survival within a system inhabited by several interdependent entities.
Michael Anastassiades. Cheerfully Optimistic About the Future
08/09/2021 — 09/01/2022
Via Orobia 26, 20139, Milano, Italy
For all the images: Michael Anastassiades. Cheerfully Optimistic About the Future, installation view at ICA Milano, 202, ph courtesy ICA Milano
After graduating in Cultural Heritage, she moved to Milan and finished her studies at the IULM University, where she specializes in contemporary art and communication. She currently lives in Pescara and works in a cultural association, collaborates with an art gallery and is a contributor for Juliet Art Magazine and Rivista Segno. She is in constant exploration of the artistic contemporaneity and its multiple readings.