Does biodiversity exist for objects?

Francesca Picchi

In an increasingly homogeneous landscape of properties and products, can a concept similar to biodiversity be applied to industrial products? As we know, biodiversity is the biological differentiation between individuals of the same species in relation to their environmental conditions. Like living beings, industrial products, too, need fertile ground on which to grow and flourish. And, in a very similar way, they are linked to the culture and resources of a given territory, influenced by their surroundings in which ideas are received to be developed, processed, engineered and realised.

Allestimento, Foto Max Rommel

It is a fact that the size of companies built on a global scale, the parcelling of decision-making processes, the separation of production from the other industrial ‘phases’, a logic of standardisation ingrained in marketing management, outsourcing, deindustrialisation and many other factors linked to the changes introduced by globalisation, pose a threat to the extreme diversity that has distinguished industrial output since its origins, ever since it began to pour with the force of a revolution a multitude of diverse goods into numerous different material cultures. Today, an impending model that envisages the image of a single large-scale market has sparked a process similar to that of the extinction of living beings. This seems also to have hit the multiform panorama of industrial products, by projecting objects ever more alike onto a unified horizon of goods and products. Instead, from this point of view, the exploration of Italian industry conducted for this exhibition,

“Created in Italy”, casts light on an infinite sweep of objects and products arising in diverse contexts. Their variety seems to follow the multiple state of a landscape where the “material” link between human beings and their environment is, in its way, very strong, albeit in subtly differing modulations.

The kaleidoscopic output of Italian objects and products, and its quality attained through continuous improvement, is due in part to the clear vocations of districts, so deeply rooted in their territories as to blend into a landscape in symbiosis with the production of its goods. It is due, again in part, to the initiative of industrial managers spurred by a competitiveness that smacks of Formula 1 racing, and apparently determined to get into pole position by means of ever newer inventions or better products. These, however, are just one of the many reasons for a scenario that accentuates the most decisive reason of all: the artisanal tradition. This is the background, especially in Italy, that industry is grafted into. In a tangle of innumerable contradictions and inextricable restraints, it certainly helps to explain an imprinting that causes the country’s industrialists to act like tailors intent on making products to measure. Equally contradictory and inextricable is the connection with agriculture, where the features making it peculiar to Italy are the same as those that make Italian industry equally special. The extreme fragmentation of the Italian agricultural landscape – seen as a problem by observers of the agro-food industry – in fact reflects a tradition sedimented in the course of thousands of years, depositing everywhere in Italy a remarkable variety of cultivated species. In the field of grapes alone, by way of example, the Register of varieties drawn up by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry lists 469 varieties of wine grapes with 1,140 clones, and 120 table grapes with 98 clones. Likewise, Italian industrial production, as we have said, by grafting into a centuries-old craft tradition, has left on Italian territory an extraordinary variety of objects and products, and an extraordinarily stratified material culture. We have built this sampling on the heterogeneity of instances proposed. It therefore only partially reflects the urge for diversity and difference that is such a conspicuous feature not only of Italian industrial production, but of the very nature of our nation. We invite you to view this perhaps under-appraised trait with a fresh awareness of its still latent, yet to be fully appreciated value.

Designers, factories and the impossible
Odo Fioravanti, Giulio Iacchetti

Needs are wishes
— Enrico Morteo

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