From 14 to 30 September, craftspeople from across Europe will assemble on Venice’s San Giorgio Maggiore island. There, work such as Madeiran lace and Greek donkey saddles, British millinery and restored Ferraris, will be displayed over 4,000sqm within the Giorgio Cini Foundation.
“Our contemporary culture is not necessarily favourable to craftsmanship,” says Alberto Cavalli, the executive co-director of the Michelangelo Foundation. “We're getting accustomed to having everything now, and we often sacrifice beauty on the altar of newness. With Homo Faber we want to reinstall the value, visibility and prestige that these incredible master artisans deserve.”
To ensure the participation and correct representation of Europe’s craftspeople, many of whom are unrecognised and work out of some of the continent’s lesser-known regions, the Michelangelo Foundation invited a number of experienced practitioners, including designer Michele de Lucchi, architect Stefano Boeri, architect and designer India Mahdavi, dress historian Judith Clark and glass and ceramics expert Jean Blanchaert, to curate the exhibition’s 14 different sections. “We really didn't want to present ourselves as having a monolithic vision,” explains Cavalli. “Multiple points of view can better convey the multifaceted work of these master artisans.”
In line with the Michelangelo Foundation’s core mission to preserve, encourage and promote fine craftsmanship, some of Homo Faber's rooms will be technologically enhanced in order to better communicate the intricacies of the diverse crafts exhibited.
"Through technology, visitors will have the possibility to immerse themselves in a selection of fabulous ateliers,” says Cavalli. In a room dedicated to rare métiers, for example, 12 screens will be mounted around the room, displaying video portraits of a dozen different ateliers. Cavalli describes this display as a “video art installation” which recalls “the portrait galleries of Renaissance palaces”.
In the same space visitors will be invited to enter three further ateliers though virtual reality. “Technology can help us understand things better,” says Cavalli about the use of VR in the exhibition. “For us, it’s a matter of allowing our visitors to be marvelled: we want them to leave full of awe and admiration for what these craftspeople can do.”
With Homo Faber the Michelangelo Foundation aims to provide an educational platform and to inspire a new generation of master craftspeople, with the Foundation considering Europe’s métiers d’art to provide important competitive advantages for the continent. Moreover, in a time when automation threatens to replace human labour, the Michelangelo Foundation aspires to promote “the things that the human hand can do better than machines” – human creativity and dexterity, for example. “But we have to make one thing clear,” says Cavalli, “Technology is not the enemy of craftsmanship – ignorance is the enemy. The challenge is not in the object, but in the lack of knowledge.”
To the Michelangelo Foundation, technology is a valuable tool to communicate its mission. By embracing the increasing influence of technology, Homo Faber hopes to confront the stereotype of craft being invariably linked to the analogue. Ultimately, however, it is a vision of a more human future that will be on display at Homo Faber. “Technology can be aligned with excellent craftsmanship,” Cavalli concludes, “provided that it’s the human being that its at the centre of our consideration.”