Stefano Colombo, Eugenio Cosentino and Luca Marullo are Parasite 2.0, a liminal design enterprise based in Milan and Brussels. They investigate the status of human habitats in relation to technology, movement, color, and the hybridization of nature and artifice in order to picture different, nonexclusive cosmologies.
Colombo, Cosentino, and Marullo met at the Politecnico di Milano/Bovisa at the beginning of their university-years. They recall their experience as oppressive under the strict and conservative ‘Milanese School.’ Also, Aldo Rossi and Giorgio Grassi constituted the core referents that drew from architectural history and “The Architecture of the City” their lessons. As young architecture students they wanted to escape that frame:
To distance ourselves from this oppressive and boring environment, we decided to build up our own space of expression. To the acritical mimesis of contextualism, we opposed the parasite, an intrusive and external body. The 2.0 was a reference to the internet with the user at its core, a way for us to pay a tribute to the fascination for the cybernetic culture, which inspired architects and designers between the 60s and the 70s and dreamt about a less hierarchical world.
Since then, Parasite 2.0 has been researching the concept of “Architecture as Scenography” as they design and curate exhibitions, build temporary settings and collaborate with both institutions and brands. For example, they worked with Dedem S.p.A., Italian leader in the production of photo-booths, to rethink the booth as a monolithic ritual; or with Pantone Lab, a pavilion realized for Nicola Ciancio’s communication agency at the Brand Licencing Exhibition in 2017, where Parasite 2.0 investigated the communicative role of architecture. They argue:
The concept of scenography is central to our work, not from a formal or technical point of view, but more as a conceptual, or poetical idea itself. In this way, we engage with the possibility to imagine fictional and alternative worlds, even if temporary. The use of permanent or ephemeral architecture doesn’t matter to us.
In The Librarian Room, an exhibition designed in collaboration with Studio La Cube for the Madrid Design Festival 2019, was conceived through an exchange process with the publisher house Corraini Editions. The shared starting point was the reflection about the presumed obsolescence of some objects, apparently caused by the introduction of development-related technological innovations within the human habitat.
MIART 2019. Courtesy of Parasite 2.0. Ph. Andrea Pisapia
Parasite 2.0’s work is interested in blurring the limit between art, architecture, and design, in a quest to also overcome modern dualisms.
The performance of the object matters to the conception of Parasite 2.0’s designs. For the International fair of Modern and Contemporary Art in Milan, MIART 2019, they envisioned a box made out of simple tiles of Medium-density fiberboard wood, a fire-proof material. That choice came from a reflection on safety norms regarding the realization of spaces devoted to contemporary art. It was an attempt to exhibit in a profoundly simple way the technical reality of this kind of installations, mostly covered or hidden.
When we started we didn’t have the physical and material possibility to work with architecture. So we tried to work with media art—we built installations from scraps or very cheap materials like in Parasite Trip. It wasn’t what we define architecture but it still was an alteration of a space. It was also necessary for us to fix some concepts—let’s say that we are not afraid to use any kind of medium or tool to proceed in our research.
Continuing the idea of scenography, Parasite 2.0 engaged with the choreographic occupation of space, in which simple devices or actions would enhance the experience. For example, the project for the introduction of the new Fall/Winter 2019 collection designed by Luca Magliano for Grifoni, is a choreographic performance: the models transform into actors on a stage built with simple industrial products modified solely by the use of color. The spectator followed the performers’ actions from the top of the balconies looking down to a white marble pavement covered by a transparent green film. The color was placed in contrast to the materiality of the fabric and texture of the clothes. Everything turned green: food courses were characterized by the green of ingredients and lighting was composed by a series of neon lights also covered with green film.
Grifoni Fall/Winter 2019. Courtesy of Parasite 2.0
After doing mostly ephemeral projects, Parasite 2.0 finished in June 2019 their first interior design project: the Galeria e Bregdetit in Radhimë, Vlorë, Albania.
The approach was exactly the same as in other project ts: a work based on a physical and strong relationship with the place, as for the parasite and its host. The project was developed together with Elian Stefa in a one-week-long brainstorming inside the space itself. After, there was an approach to materials and the use of some elements that resemble other projects, like for example the MAXXI Temporary School or Cinemoderno.
The interior of the gallery is divided into two parts by a holographic curtain. The first space pushes the white-cube concept to an extreme, where the interior seems completely isolated and distant from the physical rules of the exterior. On the other side of the curtain, a rough space dedicated to residencies and to display artworks of big dimensions was completely undressed from every form of finishes and left naked, with a light square at the center and a series of modular furniture that provide different spatial settings. The exterior space, called Concrete Dunes, is a garden and a space for performances that mixes plants and artificial dunes, creating a multilevel space where the stage and the audience are totally and continuously mixed.
Parasite 2.0’s work is interested in blurring the limit between art, architecture, and design, in a quest to also overcome modern dualisms. In carefully designed constellations that strain the mere image of artifice, they interrogate the existence of nature. As they say,
The exploration of ‘anthropization’ modalities are at the core of our research, we have to necessary confront ourselves with what Anthropocene means to us; we have to look into and accept the strategies and modalities we used to shape the planet that failed. Accepting that the divide between natural and artificial is disappearing is the first step to destroy anthropocentrism.
Parasite 2.0 have worked and collaborated with ar\ge Kunst (Bozen, 2019); Damien and The Love Guru (Brussels, 2019); MAMbo Museo d’Arte Moderna in Bologna (2018); Terraforma Festival (Milan, 2017 and 2018); OGR Officine Grandi Riparazioni (Turin, 2018); domesti.city (New York, 2018); 501(c)3 Foundation (Los Angeles, 2017); Marres (Maastricht, 2017); XX Chil-ean Architecture Biennale (Valparaiso, 2017); Venice Architecture Biennale (2012, 2014 and 2018); MAXXI Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI (Rome, 2016); and the Shenzhen Architecture Biennale (2015), among others. They have led didactic activity at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, Faculté d’architecture de l’uni-versité libre de Bruxelles, Design Academy Eindhoven and Politecnico di Milano. They taught at NABA Nuova Accademia Belle Arti Milano, and since 2016 they have been regularly teaching at MADE Program-Accadem-ia di Belle Arti R. Gagliardi in Syracuse, Italy. Parasite 2.0 are represented by Operativa Arte Contemporanea Gallery and Galleria Corraini Arte Contemporanea.