Magic Isle

Sara Maragotto from Italian collective Studio Fludd reached into the depths of the team’s external hard drive to reveal five etherial and previously unseen photographs from a residency on Venetian island La Certosa.

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These images are all from a series of Kodak pictures we took on La Certosa Island, which is located just in front of Arsenale in Venice, the main area where the Art Biennale takes place, to give you an idea. Despite this proximity, it’s pretty remote, mixed and full of contrasts – aesthetically, ecologically and politically. We camped there for a week in November 2013 for an artists’ residency called How we dwell: Make your own residence. They left us with a weird kit of materials, a Nineties disposable camera and John Cage’s quote, "Poor tools require better skills”.

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We looked at the entire island as a residence, following the natural suggestions for several room-like spaces. We carefully collected natural and artificial finds, relics and trash, that we put together to create furnishings and furniture. We put contrasting pieces together and displaced others to tell our story. In our land we arranged a rough kitchen, living room, bedroom, meditation beach, alchemist’s laboratory and a wunderkammer or cabinet of curiosities (above).

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This is an image of things we found and saved: different shells (washed up far from any beach), tiny openable plastic shells, some rose lipstick packaging, a Barbie pearl-white hairbrush, a vintage Fanta label, half a glass horse, hundreds of cyan soft-air bullets, colourful pieces of glass, and bones. Time and sea water makes rubbish interesting and somehow sophisticated.

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Back in the studio, we took a series of proper pictures that we called Poor Tools. We realised the objects gave back that clashing, fighting sensation that we experienced in the quietness of La Certosa. At 5pm in the evening everything was dark, with the nearby city lights sunk at the horizon. We had few candles and a lot of free time. The recollection of this bizarre and precious experience makes me think about the idea of ingredients: what we really need to make beautiful things? And to transform ourself? Is that really the point? For ancient alchemists transformation was everything.

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Design is about conflict and balance. It’s a way to activate new material connections and to explore less obvious analogies. We took our name from English alchemist Robert Fludd and we are fascinated by the metaphor and aim of transformating of ‘vile matter’ into gold through the creative process. Our purpose – like in this residency – is to always end up with some kind of tasty concoction.