Architect, designer, artist: the Japanese Satoshi Itasaka is the creator of the floating world set up in the exhibition held until August 20 at the IN’EI Gallery in Venice. On the occasion of the Biennale Architettura, the Venetian gallery, which highlights oriental art and design, dedicates a series of events to the protagonists of the occasion. For the second event, the IN’EI Gallery has let its spaces, a few steps from Rialto, be invaded by the lightness of Satoshi Itasaka’s balloons.
With The Floating Realm, the founder of the studio “the design labo Inc.” and the design label “h220430”, wanted to open a dialogue between the visitor, that could enter with a spirit almost amused by the sight of the many colorful balloons that populate the spaces of the gallery, and the works that are asked in an imperceptible way about the difference between design and art. Recovering that idyllic idea that sees childhood as a state of naivety, lightheartedness and freedom, Satoshi Itasaka wanted to create a floating realm, in the true sense of the word, with the intent to inspire people, free them from the compulsory constraints created by adulthood and “relieve” them from the responsibilities that keep them on the ground.
The sight of balloons in FRP, whether they are caught in the act of emerging from the walls – as Balloon Wall Sculpture (2022) – or of levitating a bench – as Balloon Bench (2011) –, refers to the joy and happiness of a world of games and fantasy. That floating kingdom that, Itasaka hopes in the introduction to the catalogue, each of us lived as a child and that, on the occasion of the exhibition, wants to bring to life. Ultimately the author dwells on an ancestral feeling of playfulness and dreams that is able to combat the traumas and oppressions of adult life. With the awareness of the present, the designer pushes visitors to look beyond: the first impact – of fun and hilarity unleashed by the object of the suspended balloon – gradually becomes a question, triggered by the issues offered works exhibited.
Inspired by the 1956 French short film Le ballon rouge, directed by Albert Lamorisse, in which a child is followed by a red balloon with intelligence and will, Satoshi Isataka presents, with Ballon Chair (2014), a design solution with a curious and joyful character. A red upholstered armchair, with comfortable and enveloping features, appears to float in the void thanks to the support of a dozen red balloons, anchored to the ceiling. Accompanied by a bench with a similar look and a mirror – Ballon Mirror (2022) – hung in the same way, the designer explores the world of materials reinforced with polymer matrix fibers (FRP), of which the balloons are made, although apparently fragile, have high mechanical properties. Thanks to the support of the material, the furnishing element takes on a completely new meaning and value and, as their creator states, “If you sit on this chair you’ll get things positively even if you are feeling down”.
A small room of the exhibition is dedicated to design objects that, although at first glance they might seem simple lamps with unusual shapes, are actually custodians of great themes of reflection. The Birth Stand and The Birth Hanging (both from 2015) offer a particularly interesting vision of the chemical phenomenon of fertilization of the egg. Defined by the designer as “the precious moment of life”, the work reproduces the moment when the egg cell, observed under a microscope, is fertilized and, apparently, emits a sudden flash of light caused by a chemical reaction. Inspired by this event, Satoshi Itasaka creates a trigger element that can reproduce, through the light radiated by the lamp, one of the most important moments for the creation of life, to make us rediscover the mystery and the preciousness of it.
The second example of design aimed at raising awareness is the Mushroom Lamp (2011) – part of the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – exhibited next to the other works. The shape of the object, which could suggest a tree or a dense cloud, refers instead to the nuclear threat that, from the years of the Cold War onwards, continues to cause so much worry and debate. The object reminds us that the “crisis” caused by nuclear weapons, which began with the massacres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to which the lamp refers directly, is not at all over, and is necessary, instead, a deeper understanding of the risks involved in developing nuclear weapons.
A visit that, in addition to the carefree and fun intent, also reveals a willingness to let shine deep and inspired messages, not to let out the visitor in the same way he entered, but leaving it enriched by new reflections and themes to question.
Satoshi Itasaka, The Floating Realm
1/07 – 20/08/2023
San Polo, Riva del Vin, 1100
Passionate about curatorial practice and museology, she has always been interested in the history of art from the modern to the contemporary era. After an international university education in art history and conservation of historical-artistic heritage, she has dedicated herself to cultural influences and exchanges between Italy and France.