It was in 2002 when Enrico Rosso, the owner of Caseificio Rosso made an appointment with Michelangelo Pistoletto to talk about the wine-gastronomy consortium that he belonged to: the Tavola dell’Orso. He needed us to create an event at Cittadellarte to present the consortium’s local produce of excellent quality: from the water of Lauretana to the cheese of Caseificio Rosso, from the salami of Vigliano to the textiles of Graziano and Siletti to the Canestrelli biscuits of Jeantet... Michelangelo’s idea was to invite 10 artists to realise 10 Tables of Art, each one representing the products of the Tavola dell’Orso in a creative way. The event, curated by artist Juan Sandoval was a great success and already during the presentation of this show, Enrico Rosso and Paolo Naldini were developing the idea of a true Embassy for the biellese products of excellence in the world.
Some years later, Enrico Rosso returned to Cittadellarte, this time with Piero Garavello, the representative of the CNA of Biella, in order to further develop the project involving more the territory. In this second meeting, the consortium’s need was to create a functional and original object as a container for their products that could travel the world and be used for fairs and events. There was however the need for a new idea, not the “usual” fair stand or fittings, that could be appealing without having to be updated every year and that was flexible and could be adapted to many different kinds of spaces. It consisted of joining the approach of industrial design with a vision which carried a territorial and cultural proposal, in constant synergy with the specific needs and characteristics of the entrepreneurial reality: a specific talent of the Production Office.
From here came the idea of Cubes in Motion: a modular unit that could travel, be moved easily, be functional and be original.
Each cube should relate to one of the consortium’s products, representing it and simultaneously taking with it a piece of the territory, the know-how of the biellese artisans, its culture and its materials. The creative conception of the cubes was entrusted to former artists of the Unidee in residence - University of Ideas - the international summer residence that annually takes place at Cittadellarte, hosting 20 young creatives coming from all over the world. Once there, the creatives collaborate and develop projects in harmony with the mission of Cittadellarte: to produce and inspire a responsible change in society through creative ideas and projects. Their intervention into the internal production and artisan niches of the localised system would in fact connect a localised project with the dynamics and trends of a global scale while at the same time applying a creative sensibility inclined towards a socially responsible dimension in their projects.
Thus the project Cubes in Motion: Embassy of the Biella and Piedmont Territory was born. During the drawing up of the project, in September 2004, we involved the Colombian artist Alejandro Vasquez Salinas who was at that time attending Unidee and who contributed to the development of an actual book featuring 3D designs that presented the idea in an even more tangible way. So the project was: to involve 8 artists who had attended Unidee- University of Ideas, 8 artisans of Excellence of Craftsmanship and 8 producers of the Tavola dell’Orso. Each artist should conceive a cube 45 centimetres square that would present one of the 8 products and it should be realised by a piedmontese artisan of Excellence selected by the CNA of Biella. In a joint meeting with the CNA and the entrepreneurs, we then presented the book to the Piedmont Region Department of Disciplines and Preservation of Craftsmanship, which embraced it with great enthusiasm and gave it economic support. With the support of the Region in 2006, the project and its operation were concretely defined along with the fundamental organisational support of Francesca Minero Re, current collaborator in the Production Office.
The first phase involved 8 artists from Turkey to Portugal, Colombia to France, Spain to Scotland and finally to Bosnia Herzegovina, who took part in a creative workshop for around 3 weeks, visiting the artisans of Excellence, getting to know their abilities and possibilities and tasting and experiencing the wine and food gastronomy products of the Tavola dell’Orso. Each artist then chose to collaborate with an artisan in the development of a cube that would represent a local product. During project planning, the Production Office assisted in the development of the creative ideas of the artists, who had returned to their home countries. They acted as mediators between the artists and the artisans, closely following the phases of realisation of each cube. On their part, the artisans collaborated exceptionally well with the artists, solving and resolving problems that inevitably arise when actually realising projected works.
On 28 May of that same year, Cittadellarte hosted the public presentation of the first eight cubes, the event included tasting sessions of the Tavola dell’Orso products and interventions from prominent speakers from diverse professional sectors: from design to art, from food critics to journalists, from craftsmanship to public administration. The cubes’ journey began from that moment on, since then they have participated in various regional, national and international fairs and exhibitions, participating both in an artistic environment as part of the exhibition but also in artisan and wine-gastronomy themed fairs.
In the subsequent years new local production companies became involved, interpreted by new artists in collaboration with the knowhow and manual skills of local artisans, taking the total amount of cubes to 11. The idea at the root of the project required them to be equally flexible and versatile, allowing the cubes to grow and involve other production entities and artisans considered appropriate to represent the excellence of the biellese territory and its uniqueness and diversity.
Thanks to the CNA, its president Edmondo Grosso and to Luca Guzzo who still enthusiastically support the project, the institutions that have participated in and supported Cubes in Motion are: The Piedmont Region Department of Disciplines and Preservation of Craftsmanship, the Unioncamere of Piedmont, the Province of Biella - Departments of Tourism and Production Activity and the Chamber of Commerce of Industry and Craftsmanship of Biella - all of whom have believed and invested in creativity and in its capacity for the re-qualification of humanity, as an alternative to the compression of the production chain. The innovation and freshness of the creative concept has given new force to the know-how of the artisan through the realisation of the cubes, carriers of new and diverse messages in the market system, it has opened up new possibilities to them and become a highly original shop window for local producers.
From 2008 the Biella Chamber of Commerce has decided to carry on the activity of promotion and diffusion of the Cubes in Motion project, encouraging and supporting the actions that will take place in the next two years, including this catalogue.
The Embassy of the Biellese and Piedmont Territories, promoting the individual capacities of producers, artisans and artists and placing it into a network with the particularities of local production, carries the identity and the material culture of the territory around the world, truly enriched with human and economic values.
The project’s ambition is to speak of this heritage and to attract many visitors to our land.
Armona Pistoletto, Production Office of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto
The name encompasses the whole of the project. Concise and compact, like the form itself. This is where it all began. Height, width and depth: 45cm. A structural and modular concept of reinvention through the collaboration between art’s creativity and the technical prowess of the artisan, in order to create an exhibitive object for the valorisation of local produce. A form that rediscovers its three-dimensional dimensions within the number of people involved in its creation: the artist, the artisan and the product.
The cubes as exhibitive structures compose an arrangement of impact and unity that gives value to a place through its products and master craftsmanship. They are objects that in themselves are symbols and ambassadors of the know-how of a territory, diverse but homogenous, where the difference in excellence represents the common trait that unites them.
However, the form takes its origins from the geometric figure of the square, a shape that is the ultimate in anti-dynamic; static, stable, anchored to four sides, yet on the other hand for this project, the cubes have the characteristics of “movement”.
They need to know how to travel, to guarantee versatility and freedom of arrangement in diverse exhibition environments: art and design fairs, gastronomic gatherings and all kinds of cultural events.
Since 2006, Cubes in Motion have never stopped moving, truly becoming ambassadors of the biellese and piedmont territory throughout the world. From the Fondazione Solares of Parma to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto (Mart) at the exhibition “Italia Dimensione 2000” in Luxemburg, from the Salone Internazionale del Gusto of Turin to the textile fair HEIMTEXTIL of Frankfurt; from “ViCina Life Style Made in Italy” of Peking to CAMeC - Centre of modern and contemporary art of Spezia, from “Piemonte Terra d’Artigiani – Master craftsmen of art in the district” of Candelo (Biella) to “Dicubi - Connected projects. Towards the biellese cultural district” of Biella to “Club 15. Meetings of the industrial districts” of Biella at the National Seminar of Work “The young creative class” of Aosta, from “LifeStyleMadeInItaly” of Seoul to “Golosità Piemontesi of Mongrando (Biella) to the Olympiad of Design of Seoul in Korea and to the Italian Festival in Sofia.
The Cubes are also “mobile” in the sense that they are furniture products that could be reproduced and commercialised, opening new markets for the artisan and the producer. In 2006, Armona Pistoletto and Francesca Minero from the Production Office of Cittadellarte invited different international artists to Biella and put them in touch with local artisans and producers.
Thus a process of (still ongoing) creative collaboration was initiated between the CNA of Biella, the selected companies of producers, the Artisans of Excellence in Piedmont and the artists from the international network of Cittadellarte (the Manydee Network, made up of ex residents from UNIDEEUniversity of Ideas).
One of the main elements for vitality of a productive district is the capacity to find the stimulation and ideas to invent new products. Cubes in Motion gives rise to a process of collaboration between points of the localised economic system - Production and Craftsmanship - characterised by products that satisfy rigorous ethical and qualitative criteria and the requests, the dynamics and the proclivities of Art on a global scale.
The Biella Territory demonstrates in this way the vitality of its socio-economical and cultural fabric and like a treasure chest, it opens a new form of tourism comprising of culture, countryside and industry within a rich system of values.
The launching of the project took place thanks to the contribution of the Piedmont Region - Disciplines and protection of Craftsmanship Sector, the Piedmont Unioncamere, the Province of Biella - Tourism and Production Activity Authority and the Biella Chamber of Commerce for Industry and Craftsmanship.
The Production Office coordinated the entire creative process: the organisation of meetings of the artists with the artisans and the local businesses, research and study and the supervision of the journey from the concretisation of ideas right through to their actual realisation.
For the entire creative project planning period, Cittadellarte’s spaces hosted the artists: Aziz Ceho (Bosnia Herzegovina), Consol Rodrìguez (Spain), Juan E. Sandoval (Colombia/Italy), Margarita Vazquez Ponte (Scotland/Spain), Çagil Yurdakul (Turkey), Alejandro Vàsquez Salinas (Colombia), Charlie Jeffery (France/England), Maria Joao Calisto (Portugal), Katia Meneghini (Italy/Greece), Alfredo Luis Vasquez Elorza (Colombia), Rakhi Peswani (India).
The artisan workshops that accompanied the project were: Giulia Chiaberge (ceramicist), Scatolificio Stella di Contardo Marzio (box makers), Fossati Marco s.n.c. (works in aluminium), Pigato Roberto (carpenter), Chiara Ferraris (glass artist), Romanelli s.n.c. di Giuseppe e Marco (stone and marble), Artistico di Longo Carmine (metalwork), Ramella Bon Andrea (metalwork), Il Fiore di Cardo (felt maker), De Pasquale Francesco (bookbinder), Mauro Micheletti (metalworker).
Working in tandem were the following local businesses: Lauretana S.p.A. (mineral water plant), Pasticceria Jeantet (gastronomic patisserie), Azienda Agricola di Maria Chiara Reda (wine producer), Liquorificio Rapa Giovanni S.r.l. (liqueur manufacturer), F.lli Graziano fu Severino (fabric producer), Caseificio Pier Luigi Rosso (cheese maker), Siletti 95 S.r.l. (linen producer), Salumificio di Vigliano (salami producer), Birra Menabrea S.p.A. (brewery), Eventi e Progetti (publishing), Catto Caffè Torrefazione (coffee producers).
The artists of the Manydee network, chosen by Cittadellarte have already participated in development projects at Cittadellarte, which transferred to them the skills to become “activators” of projects for a Socially Responsible Transformation. They gained a professional creative, productive and socially relevant dimension, that has enabled them to responsibly confront the problems of society and offer innovative proposals within diverse contexts.
The vision of creative involvement where art directly interacts with all the dimensions of the social system (from economics to politics, ecology to production, education to nutrition, spirituality to communication) to produce a responsible change in society is delineated in the entire process that leads to the creation of Cubes in Motion.
The meeting and the reciprocal knowledge between artist, artisan and producer which, thanks to the understanding and creative energies that are generated from their encounter, leads them to mutually choose one another launches a collaboration founded on the sharing of values and common intentions which accompany them along the project’s journey until the realisation of the product. These objects are born from the union between the artistic projects of the artists and the creative production of the artisans, conceived to consider a territory and its products of excellence.
An artist, an artisan, a producer. The three dimensions of one collaboration... one cubed collaboration.
Federica Cerutti, Communication Office of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto
Many believe that the current handcrafts crisis, originates from the fact that artisans are reduced to copying the industrial world, trying to create objects similar to those from production
chains or even to ape design itself.
This has generated a real problem because the average consumer (armed with relatively modest economic assets) has available to them on the market; on the one hand, the industrial product signed by a designer or anyway presented through advertising, made from materials and procedures responding to mass production, therefore of inferior quality, but reasonable price, or at least at a price that could be judged “market standard”.
On the other hand, the industrial product is faced with an almost absent competition from the artisan, in that they are not publicised nor widely distributed, they produce better quality goods as regards materials and production, but at a much higher price due to the inability to save on costs that can only be achieved with a certain level of production volume.
Given a choice, the consumer would obviously opt for a lower price and accessibility of the product and the service that he believes is closest to the best version possible (so faced with products of equal performance, the consumer does not distinguish between for example, solid wood and plywood, or leather and plastic).
To sum up, the factors that differentiate the artisan products from their industrial counterparts are:
1. better quality production with, for example greater attention to detail;
2. made to measure and made to order production;
3. the consumer can verify the conditions of production and the true values of the goods;
4. participation in the production of goods by means of a wider choice, also throughout production itself;
5. interaction between consumer and producer, without a middleman, or directly and on a human level;
6. Adaptability of the production process for limited projects, for example the multiplication of types of product and of the different versions of that same product, due to lower commitments to costs and production.
These represent the points of strength that the artisan product can count on to differentiate themselves from their industrial equivalent, things can cost more if the consumer is getting more: both artisan and industry can coexist if they are differentiated.
Obviously it remains important to clearly differentiate the products in a way so that the consumer can clearly understand the differences.
The publicity of the artisan product can never equal that of its industrial counterpart but communication could be aimed towards a localised area, where you should not place faith in
consumption based on characteristics of attraction to a product relating to the system of commercial values, but rather on the characteristics of participation and of comprehension of the human and socio-environmental dimension.
We would all prefer to have less but better objects that are closer to our sensibilities, if we could choose and were not bombarded by messages that create insecurities, if we don’t adopt conventional lifestyles and in each case are decided by marketing:
We would be more disposed towards paying more because we would save by not buying things we don’t need but that give us “status”...
The experience and research conducted on the products of food farming, leather goods, clothing and more, clearly show that the expert or mature consumer chooses a consumer style that is simpler and more sustainable and experience and maturity are not necessarily accompanied by a sizeable wallet!
Francesco Bernabei, Economics Office of Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto
“(within Piedmont Region)... the excellent craftsmanship, as the spearhead of a broader movement made up of people, ideas and businesses. The moment we choose artisans to be the ambassadors of our business and social systems, we initiate a cultural and entrepreneurial operation that enhances the development of the region.”
Giunluca Susta, Member of the European Parliament
“The concept of immaterial assets means that manufactured goods undergo a profound symbolic transformation, as they acquire added value. On the final market, the importance of ideas is many times greater than to the past; the material value becomes less important with respect to the immaterial value of ideas.
[...]The world of craft is parcellized, made of small individualities, and it is diffident toward anything that might alter an equilibrium that is centuries old, objectively speaking, and is expressed in manual ability, in a distinctive way of looking at objects, in a relationship with labor, and in the difficulty of circulating ideas as an element of innovation. In practical terms, it has trouble shifting from a dimension that I would define anthropological or museum-like, to one immersed in contemporary reality, which includes, as we know, business skills the ability to stay on the market, to respond to a demand that has become much more refined and sophisticated and that, therefore, requires more added value than in the past.
For the reasons I have cited the connection of contemporary design with art is the only path that leads away from this difficulty. History comes full circuit as we return to the Renaissance
workshop, the kingpin of Italian leadership in the world of culture for many centuries. A historic circuit is closed but the circuit embracing art, creativity, manual ability and skill
of execution is opened. The Cubes in Motion venture has the merit of having rasped these aspects in just the right way.”
Orlando Perera, RAI Journalist
“Italian design was born in the fifties from the collaboration between a designer and an entrepreneur who, after the Second World War, saw the necessity of producing objects for day-to-day use. The field of Italian design, which still drives our economy today, grew out of this gamble made by entrepreneurs and designers.
[...] The most fortunate thing about Italian design is that it draws on Italy’s craft tradition.”
Luisa Bocchietto, ADI Italy President
“The geographic space in which the artisan works, in which the artist proposes his or her action, is not a neutral space; one task of culture is to penetrate the territory. The Biella movement can bring a new Renaissance through culture and manufacturing. The secret lies in conceiving culture not just as a handmaid of product marketing, but as value added to the object’s intrinsic value, as the overwhelming success of this project shows.”
Luigi Spina, Researcher
“I see in this moment, the definite beginning of a new and different cultural, social, and socio-economical identity of the Biella area, which is no longer a monocultural and, in terms of work, a monodimensional place. […] It physically represents the agglomeration of intellectual energies and resource uses, of contributions of all kinds, at all levels, of this little Biella Renaissance:
[...] To have seized the opportunity to bring together creative craft and the expressions of material culture was important.
[...] The Cubes in Motion will make sense to the degree that they effectively act as messengers. But watch out: messengers by definition are those who move, who go around; the cubes make sense the moment they become one of the vehicles for going to sell the image and contents of Biella and its territory around the world.”