MASKS- Inside Contemporaneity

Of the new generation of designers, not everyone works and defines themselves in provisory stylistic acrobatics in order to feed, day after day, the immense Moloch that vulgarly and vaguely we call “the market”. Some, (actually few) manage to escape the hot breath, the muttering and grunts of the insatiable monster. Some look a little further. Some, like a new breed of curious Ulysses’, manage to escape the cave of the Cyclops and with a little boat of wood and a sail try to navigate vast, unknown, dangerous seas. Dangerous seas sometimes perfumed by the history of the planet.

Some young designers are attentive, very attentive to the huge waves in the sea of history; waves provoked by an irresistible human curiosity, by continuous questions and by continuous insufficient answers. The questions without answers then become hopes, delusions, projects, ruins, decisions, behaviorfigures, signs, sounds, lights, colors, entire pathways- public passions of great nations, of small tribes, and private passions of solitary persons, of wandering persons.

Some of these solitary, wandering persons would like to present-it is unclear why, or to whom- a possible interpretation of the dark, complicated, surreal spectacle of history. Some, within this black night, would like to illuminate, even with only a flashlight, the heights and depths of the waves of history and with a flare illuminate the violence of the storms and the immobility of the dead calm throwing themselves with all their beloved identity, with all their ignorance and fragility, against that dark wall, to end up inside it, to exist within the historical state, so as not to feel it…escape it in order to not feel outside of it, to nourish on its juices, on its fruit, on its odors, so as not to die in a desert… 

Johanna is one of the few, very few, designers whom I have tried to describe here. Johanna is a woman who risks alot, who has always risked alot. Since leaving her home, parents, sisters, and the opulent, silent, provincial American city of San Diego  in order to explore curiously in Europe, in Italy, in Florence: another province,  another wave of history.  But this time the wave is high, very high. It is a vast, powerful, sophisticated wave; an aggressive wave that has inundated the entire planet.

Johanna threw herself into that high wave head first. Perhaps she was looking for missing links of a vaster perception of the contemporary state; that perception- as we know never complete, never obtainable-that Johanna continues to seek with an obsession which is her own identity; an obsession that brought her to work in Milan, and that made her wander the planet, in France, Germany, India, China, Japan, the Middle east, looking, questioning, memorizing, participating, and slowly being subjected to visions; slowly being able to see beyond phenomena that which can “be inside”, hidden “inside” the dark wall of events, inside contemporaneity.

To enter into that dark, complicated wall, head firstwith all the violence and fragility possible- this is the obsession of Johanna Grawunder: an unusual kind of contemporary “designer”, closer to that which (perhaps not for much longer) was called art than to that which today is called “the market.”


Ettore Sottsass

August 2002