May 15th – October 24th, 2021
Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci

About the Exhibition

CAMBIO – from the medieval Latin cambium – means “change, exchange.” This is the title of a multidisciplinary exhibition by the duo of Italian designers residing in Amsterdam, Studio Formafantasma (Andrea Trimarchi, 1983 and Simone Farresin, 1980), which from 15 May to 24 October 2021 brings a project based on research on the governance of the wood industry to the Luigi Pecci Center for Contemporary Art in Prato. The exhibition, first presented and organized by the Serpentine Gallery, was curated in London by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rebecca Lewin, in collaboration with Cristiana Perrella at Centro Pecci.

The wood industry, which is extremely widespread around the world and thus difficult to regulate, began in the 19th century with the exploration for scientific and commercial ends of colonial territories and their biodiversity. It soon became one of the productive activities of greatest impact, in both economic and ecological terms.

The exhibition features data and research in the form of interviews, materials for further study and two films made by Formafantasma at the conclusion of their research. The show presents several case studies that provide information on how wood is purchased and utilized in the world. These investigations were carried out in collaboration with experts in the fields of science, engineering, environmental policy and philosophy.

CAMBIO offers reflections on the role of trees as information sources, sensors of global climate changes, but also as a solution for those changes, due to their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. From the microscopic analysis of wood and its characteristics, the interpretation shifts to a metaphysical comprehension of trees as living organisms, capable of acting as a warning for humanity against exploitation of territories and the monocultures that make the Earth more vulnerable to intense weather events.

The exhibition itinerary opens with rare hardwood specimens displayed for the first time at the Great Exhibition of 1851, which represent tree species logged to the point of extinction, and then continues with furniture and seating designed by Studio Formafantasma, all made from a single tree uprooted by Vaia, the storm that struck northern Italy in 2018. In the exhibition in Prato, the reflections arising from the research are also addressed by unusual juxtapositions and impression, such as the long-term focus on trees of the artist Giuseppe Penone. The works on view also include an “olfactory” piece by the scent artist Sissel Tolaas, suggesting the odor of damp earth and the flora of a forest, triggering vivid recollections in the visitor regarding what we will lose if we do not protect the environment and forests.

CAMBIO underlines the crucial role and responsibility of design with respect to the environment and the need for the discipline to get beyond its boundaries: through renewed understanding of the philosophy and politics of trees, the future of design can and must attempt to translate emerging environmental awareness with informed, collaborative responses.