When South Kensington gallery / store hybrid, SEE••DS made its debut in February of 2016, it promised a whole new take on a regular gallery experience – acting as both an exhibition space (SEE stands for ‘special events exhibits’) and a design store (for which DS is an abbreviation) for boundary-pushing design. Continuing to peak curiosities, it has upheld its promise – more so than ever with its latest exhibit, Dermapoliesis by Matteo Cibic.
Matteo Cibic is a young Italian designer and creative director. Belonging to a family with strong design traditions (grandson of the prolific Aldo Cibic), Cibic’s work is driven by an experimental approach, incorporating varied materials and production techniques as well as working with local artisans. As a result, his pieces of ten have hybrid functions and include anthropomorphic elements. Widely celebrated, his work has been included in several temporary and permanent exhibitions worldwide at institutions such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Shanghai Glass Museum, and the Trienniale Design Museum, Milan to name a few.
He is now in London with Dermapoliesis, a project sitting in the unlikely but fascinating cross-section of art and science, the past and the future, inspired by a number of influencers: the pioneering and obsessive research of naturalist Ernst Haeckel, who described and named a number of ancestral microorganisms; Carl Linnaeus, the physicist and zoologist, considered the father of taxonomy; Luigi Serafini, the visionary and artist, who drew and wrote the encyclopaedia of an imaginary world in an indecipherable language. All provide a story of possible animal and plant evolutions controlled by the gestures of hypothetical and mysterious artificial intelligences. It is indeed the question of the moment: will the “robotic” intelligences that we have been nurturing for years make us obsolete? Will there still be a need for us on this planet, which we are persistently filling with artificial intelligence?
Certainly, artificial intelligence in the work of Matteo Cibic’s exhibition-experiment looks only minimally at man, aiming instead at the creation of a universe inhabited by not-entirely intelligible figures that do not resemble us. These produced materials are fascinating but not necessarily attributable to a useful human function. The narration develops along several levels: from two-dimensional paper to the digital, from the hybrid three-dimensionality of materials. Their skeletons are mutations of living forms onto which a new, organically digital story with unpredictable outcomes is grafted.
The resulting figures are more than just individual objects – all together they produce a sort of landscape reminiscent of some space-age coral reef. Each item has a ‘function’, imagined by Cibic with impressive detail. The tallest sculptures, for example, come with the following description: "DERMALLOW, are prototypes for producing gum, tar and oxygen. The largest refills glass containers with oxygen, the pink form is a new type of plant that grows gum and the grey organism produces tar to use in the production of objects."
In Dermapoliesis, Matteo hopes to inspire future scientists to study the organic, even reprogram the organic, in order to create new synthetic and organic materials and plants. This is Matteo’s vision of the future – an organic environment that lives and grows, provides our furniture, clothes us and feeds us daily. This isn’t just Dr Seuss realised – there is methodical, scientific and anthropological thought behind these surreal creations which becomes ever apparent in the flesh.
Matteo Cibic: matteocibistudio.com