An exhibition curated by multidisciplinary studio CTRLZAK explores parallel universes


Worlds Unseen

By Audrey Kadjar

Over the past ten years, Milan-based multidisciplinary studio CTRLZAK, led by artist-designers Katia Meneghini and Thanos Zakopoulos, has emerged as one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary design. Just look at the objects the duo has developed for CC-Tapis, D3CO, Editions Milano, Secondome Gallery, and Seletti, for example; or the collections offered by JCP Universe, an Italian brand art directed by CTRLZAK. Each crafted piece remixes motifs drawn from traditional decorative arts with the cool vibes of modernist aesthetics—to alluring and surprising effect!

CTRLZAK’s latest mind-bending project is the curation of Worlds Unseen, an exhibition at Milan’s Galleria Bianconi that showcases the work of 11 art, design, and fashion creatives, all of whom have been invited to express their vision of a parallel universe using a silk canvas as the common starting point. We caught up with Meneghini and Zakopoulos a few days before the opening to hear more about the show’s trippy concept.

  

Audrey Kadjar: We’re excited to see your new exhibition, Worlds Unseen, when it opens at Galleria Bianconi. Tell us how you developed the show’s concept and how it’s linked to the philosophy of JCP Universe.

Katia Meneghini & Thanos Zakopoulos: The parallel universe of JCP is an imaginative realm in which normality, as we perceive it, is transformed. A cosmos where mystery is the norm; where the immaterial takes unexpected shapes and the transformation of familiar forms creates new meanings. As art directors of this unconventional brand, we invite diverse creatives from a range of fields to work with us. For the exhibition, we invited artists to create a two-dimensional artwork that presents their vision of an alternate world, inspired by the creations of JCP Universe. Renata Bianconi, known for her experimental approach and unconventional exhibitions, was more than happy to work on this project with us.

AK: Why did you choose this particular medium?

KM & TZ: We decided to work with silk because it is a light, almost ethereal material that can continuously change its shape. At the same time, it is created through a natural process of transformation. Having these elements in mind, we thought that it was the perfect medium to represent worlds of imagination. It’s also something that—at least in theory—can be worn. That’s why we decided to have the exhibition during the Milan Fashion Week.

CTRLZAK's Kryptal Table Lamp for JCP Universe received a design award from Wallpaper Magazine this year. Photo © Silvio Macchi AK: How did you select the participants?

KM & TZ: We have involved people whose creative work and personal aptitude have shown that they could decipher the JCP Universe and its themes. Some of them have worked with us before, while others are completely new. We believe that a multidisciplinary approach is fundamental.

AK: The way the show connects art, design, and fashion is remarkable. Could you expand on your multidisciplinary approach?

KM & TZ: Art is our filter. The role of art nowadays is to provide critical thinking, and in that sense it is present in all of our projects, regardless of the nature. We are both trained as artists and designers in distinct fields, and we inject our collective knowledge in all the projects that we choose to do. Of course, depending on the project, there is more emphasis in one or another area, as many factors come into play, depending on the particularities of the task at hand. 

AK: How did you approach your role as curators, and what did you hope to achieve with the show?

KM & TZ: It’s not our first time as curators. In fact, thanks to our background in art, we have often found ourselves switching roles in front and behind the creative scene. We approach curating an exhibition in the same way as all of projects, always considering diverse concepts and ways of expression. We have recently worked in such a way in our Extincto exhibition—which was based on a research into species extinction caused by humans—at the Museum of Modern Art (MAC) of Lissone. Likewise a few years ago with Paradigms of a Hybrid World—an exhibition on European and Chinese hybrid expressions—at Spaziootto in Milan. We believe that an exhibition should make people reflect on a particular theme. By curating Worlds Unseen, we are hoping to get people to reflect on how they perceive worlds beyond our own while also being conscious of the one we are living in.

AK: What are you working on next?

KM & TZ: We are involved at the moment in the design of two resort hotels in Greece, while continuing with the creative direction of JCP. We’re designing the exhibitions for the upcoming Milan Design Week, where new artifacts of the universe will be unveiled. At the same time, we continue our collaboration with several Italian brands, working mainly on items connected to the sphere of living. In the following months, we will also create site-specific installations in two historic Italian cities. And finally, in July, our Extincto project will be shown in Belgium at the Centre de Innovation et de Design du Grand Hornu in the context of the exhibition Limits of Growth. We are always working on diverse projects—always at the borders between art, design, and architecture.

 

Worlds Unseen is on view through February 27th at Galleria Bianconi in Milan.

  • Text by

    • Audrey Kadjar

      Audrey Kadjar

      Born in the US to a French family, Audrey grew up in multiple countries. Before landing at Pamono, she studied art history in London and worked in the cultural industry. When she's not busy pursuing the perfect translation or posting to Pamono's social media accounts, she can be found writing for various cultural publications, working on her experimental zine, and pursuing art and photography projects. 

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