“To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit.” 

Stephan Hawking

Rethinking The Future Awards 2022

A space without light is devoid of life. Nanda Vigo, the Italian artist, designer, and architect, has influenced a plethora of people around the world with her ever-evolving vision of spaces. Having explored light as a theme in most of her designs, she brought the disco era to existence in art in the 60s. Born in Milan (1936), one of her life-changing moments was when her family was moving from Como to Milan; she came across Giuseppe Terragni Casa del Fascio.

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2006 Portrait_©Afanador

Built in the late 30s, this modernist building incorporated glass blocks as a then, new age tectonics that triggered Vigo’s vision to be an architect one day. She saw the fusion of art, light and architecture as one entity that cannot exist independently. Having graduated from the Institut Polytechnique, Lausanne aspired to go to the United States and worked under and spent a term in San Francisco. She opened her Atelier in Milan in 1959. Here she corroborated her ideas of light and architecture diffused in space.

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Casa del Fascio_©Guillermo hevia Garcia
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Casa del Fascio_©Guillermo hevia Garci

“Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” 

New King James Version, Genesis 1:3

Nanda Vigo’s Ideology

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She worked closely with Lucio Fontana, who was known to be the founder of Spatialism. Fascinated by the new age technology that focused on making art relevant to the new mechanical age, it bridged the time-space continuum. This drew Vigo’s attention to him because her school of thought matched with his ideology. 

Finding the style of art and the architectural process did not seem to grow on her. Instead, she set up her atelier in Milan, where she was fully immersed in the Italian city. She understood local craftsmanship and manufacturers, who later helped her with the execution of many projects.

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Concetto spaziale, Attese ,1966_©Lucio Fontani
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1964/VG Bild-Kunst© Lucio Fontana

One of the first projects that were commissioned by the Pellegrini’s, a young couple, was Casa Zero, which was taken down completely and started over. The trend back then was to have a Swedish-style wooden finish for the interiors. Instead, Vigo went for an all-white finish. All the elements in the house, right like the lamps, sculptures and interiors, seemed to belong to another world.

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At the age of seven, Flash Gordon, a famous sci-fi comic series, was a book that later on helped her recreate spaces that distant, unexplored, almost unearthly using her super-power, light. Light, its refraction through the glass and the idea of suspended reality were concepts she delved into.

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Casa Lo Scarabeo Sotto La Foglia (The Beetle Under the Leaf) in Malo_©Adam Štěch
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Flash Gordon_©Primevideo

“Zero is silence. Zero is the beginning.  Zero is round. Zero spins. Zero is the moon. The sun is Zero. Zero is white. The desert Zero. The sky above Zero. The night”. Excerpt from a 1963 poem by Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker

Her acquaintance with Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, and Enrico Castellani, helped her rise to international acclaim, with works like ‘Cronotops’ an art installation made of aluminium and glass created an interesting visual conversation with the viewer and art object. Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani were then part of the Zero Group movement, an Avant-Garde movement that swayed Europe back in the 1950s. This movement arose from subjective postwar movements like French Art Informel and Tachisme. 

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The main idea behind this movement was to create art in which the material exists independently, emphasising the artist’s hand with a focus on light and space. This was something that Vigo strongly believed and expressed explicitly in her works.

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1969 Nanda Vigo, Cronotopo, aluminum frame, printed glass and neon lights_©Emilio Tremolada
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Chronotops, 1965, from Nanda Vigo Lights Forever at Galleria Allegra Ravizza, 2013_©Galleria Allegra Ravizza
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Glass block experimentation, 1966 Milan_©Magazzini Fly

Nanda Vigo’s Lo Scarabeo Sotto La Foglia

In other words, The Beetle Under the Leaf was a project collaborated with her then mentor Gio Ponti for the art collector Giobatta Meneguzzo in 1968. Located in the town of Malo in Vicenza, the entire house was designed by Ponti with Vigo in charge of the interiors. The house had a white backdrop extending onto the floors and walls with white ceramic tiles, a monochrome theme that was offset by the Vigo, artificial grey fur.

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Museo MAXXI, Rome 2018 “Arch/arcology”, dedicated to Paolo Soleri_©Alcantara

Nanda Vigo’s creations have more than just a retro-futuristic undertone of an architectural space. It’s a belief in going beyond the edifices of the built reality. Every element in her designs expressed an independent thought of its own, independent of human interference, independent of its role in space, independent, with its own identity. In truth, everything exists in darkness, but it’s light that brings life to existence. Her understanding of space was and will always be a euphoria unknown even to the aliens who in the future might grace her artworks and maybe speculate how far her imagination led to reality? Time will tell.

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References

1.Morrison, G. (2019). 7 Things you Need to Know about Lucio Fontana. [online] Sothebys.com. Available at: https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-lucio-fontana.

2.Magazine, W. (2020). In memoriam: Nanda Vigo (1936-2020). [online] Wallpaper*. Available at: https://www.wallpaper.com/design/in-memoriam-nanda-vigo-1936-2020

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3.Vic.gov.au. (2020). No Form Can Be Spatial, The origins of Lucio Fontana’s Spatial concept | NGV. [online] Available at: https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/essay/no-form-can-be-spatial-the-origins-of-lucio-fontanas-spatial-concept-2/.

  1. Entertainment, T.M. for A. (n.d.). INTERVIEW: The Late Nanda Vigo, Radical Artist And Designer Light-Years Ahead Of Her Time. [online] pinupmagazine.org. Available at: https://pinupmagazine.org/articles/interview-nanda-vigo-hans-ulrich-obrist 
  2. Italian Ways. (2020). Nanda Vigo: the “light artist.” [online] Available at: https://www.italianways.com/nanda-vigo-light-artist/ 

6.Casati Gallery. (n.d.). Nanda Vigo biography and works – Collectible design at Casati Gallery. [online] Available at: https://www.casatigallery.com/designers/nanda-vigo/ 

  1. Analogue Foundation. (2020). Nanda Vigo’s Lo Scarabeo Sotto La Foglia. [online] Available at: https://www.analoguefoundation.com/analogue-sound-lifestyle/620/ 
  2. Artland Magazine. (2019). Art Movement: Zero Group. [online] Available at: https://magazine.artland.com/art-movement-zero-group/ 
  3. Wall Street International. (2014). Nanda Vigo. Chronotops. [online] Available at: https://wsimag.com/art/11041-nanda-vigo-chronotops 

10.Floornature.com. (n.d.). Farewell to Nanda Vigo artist and designer of light | Floornature. [online] Available at: https://www.floornature.com/farewell-nanda-vigo-artist-and-designer-light-15492/.

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Author

An architect and innovator, Tanisha sees Architecture not as a single entity, rather as a confluence of people, in their time and its lasting imprint left for future explorers to further delve into. In her words, 'Expression is an act of acceptance, either to thyself or the world.

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