Space Electronic : Then and Now

Rossi, Catharine [Curator], Kelly, Ben [Designer] and Fisher, Fiona [Research team member] (2014) Space Electronic : Then and Now. 14th International Architecture Exhibition. .


Space Electronic: Then and Now is the result of an invitation received to curate an installation for the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale, the world’s leading architecture exhibition. This year directed by Rem Koolhaas and entitled Fundamentals, the installation will feature in the section Monditalia, which is housed in the Arsenale building and is devoted examining the current state of Italy. Space Electronic: Then and Now tells the story of a disco at the heart of Italy’s celebrated Radical Architecture movement. Space Electronic was opened in Florence 1969 by Gruppo 9999, one of the lesser-known members of the Radical avant-garde but who created one of its most important spaces. In the 1970s Space Electronic was a hotbed of multimedia experimentation in architecture, live music and theatre visited by everyone from Alessandro Mendini to Superstudio. The disco is still going today and is still run by one of the original architects; only now its radicalism has been replaced by a more commercial vibe. The installation is deliberately ambiguous: it attempts to avoid any nostalgia for the 1960s and 1970s, increase the mythologization of the Radical avant-garde or impose a moralising message on today’s generation. Instead poses a series of questions, and invites visitors to make up their own mind on these and other issues it raises. Is the story of Space Electronic a symptom of what has happened to Italy more generally? Is what happens in, or outside, of Space Electronic more or less political or progressive in the 1970s or today? What was the legacy of the Radical Avant-Garde and where could radical activity be seen, or be encouraged to emerge, today? Drawing on original research, the installation reimagines the disco to tell the story of Space Electronic then and now. Curated by Dr Catharine Rossi, a design historian based at Kingston University, the installation has come together with a team of collaborators. Behind the installation is the studio of Ben Kelly, the interior designer best known for the legendary Hacienda nightclub. It features a film directed by Gilly Booth, an internationally exhibited London-based artist, with the contribution of Paul Plowman (graphics), Dominic Robson (audio visual consultant) and Mickey Moonlight (soundtrack). The installation was realised by Jack Neville, a London-based designer.

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