Homo faber or the design jazz player are just some of the attributes that accompanied Ugo La Pietra's grand exhibition Progetto disequilibrante in Triennale Design Museum in Milan in 2014/15. It is exactly the plane of disequilibrated systems which is La Pietra's constant preoccupation that seems most interesting to us, representing the axis of exhibitions in Zagreb and Split in organization of grey)(area with partners. However, let us emphasize that the Croatian audience already had the opportunity to make acquaintance with La Pietra's work: he took part in the 2nd International Visual Artists Meeting in Vela Luka in 1970, and in 1975 he had a solo exhibition in the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb.
The trajectory of La Pietra's artistic development commenced in the late 1950s with symbolical experiments in painting, which he nominated sign painting, during his studies at the Polytechnic University of Milan, where he graduated in architecture in 1964. The first significant conceptual milestone in La Pietra's career is displayed by his work The House for the Sculptor. In his own words, that was the work that inscribed him within the area of radical architecture and that position was confirmed when he was invited by the curator Emilio Ambasz to take part in the famous exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape in MoMA, New York and for which La Pietra conceptualized the work Domestic Cell.
Collective action is a very important characteristic of La Pietra's status. As a founder and member of many groups, La Pietra spotted the possibility to overcome rigid societal rules very early. However, he has never left the self-imposed discipline of his own contemplative universe.
La Pietra starts from the premise that the designer’s materials are not physical entities but communication bits. Radical critique of neopositivism and modernism is reflected in that premise. Tedious repetitiveness of bureaucratized society is tackled in the works which Gillo Dorfles categorized as pittura randomica (random painting). From that structuralist approach, a series of objects and ambiances were developed, which the author nominated strutturazioni tissurali (tissue structures). Their feature is still the random effect, where La Pietra shares the interest for the relationship between the programmed order and the randomness of visual elements as well as their interactivity with the artists of arte programmata, the Italian wing of visual research within the New Tendencies art movement.
Gradually, in the mid-1960s, interior designs with the same denominator emerged, while by the end of the decade, La Pietra created immersive audio-visual installations, experimenting with immersing of an individual into light, sound, water, air. A group of works called behaviour models was the first result of La Pietra's theory of disequilibrated systems. More works followed, like the already mentioned Domestic Cell, or commercial outcomes like the shops in Milan: Mila Schön shop (1971) and Jabik shop (1972). These interiors, disequilibrated and therefore almost liberated from gravity, simultaneously represent his unique experience of constructed and built architecture. He builds to deconstruct, says Angela Rui. La Pietra's theory and practice of disequilibrated systems allows individuals and communities to distinguish and earn ‘degrees of freedom’ in order to ‘live’ and not just ‘use’ (or consume) a city. With his work, La Pietra confirms that the space within which we live and act is not more than the physical embodiment of power, and his need to deliver to society not so much an object but a method is to be read from the inexhaustible editorial work, but also from research, analysis and synthesis of the relations between peripheries and centres, as well as from the series of works that deal with re-appropriation of the city by its inhabitants.
La Pietra also described possible coastal interventions, where he collaborated on programme development of Plitvine bay near Vela Luka in 1972, as disequilibrated interventions. He thought that the fundamental desire of an urban man in a tourist settlement was to find space for collective creation, and he recognized the needs of a tourist for privacy, service, freedom, creativity and communication. His project proposed a spatial model for transforming the Dalmatian littoral landscape, which he presented at the accompanying symposium titled Emergenze urbane – Proposte per la Costa dalmata. The project is a continuation of his research Nodi Urbani, started in 1965. The proposal included a radical land-art intervention of cutting the top of a nearby islet, which is very similar to the project by Ivan Kožarić, who cut the top of a mountain but from another conceptual perspective.
La Pietra's films are another form of modulating synesthetic thinking and decoding the urban. Paletti e catene (1979) pinpoints, in a humorous way, the possible improvement of urban furniture (which, at that time, already restricted movement with chains and stakes). La Riappropriazione della città emphasizes that the process of reappropriation of the city occurs via mental processes and not via physical spatial interventions. Per oggi basta! (Il Commutatore) performatively places the artist's own body in an urban space whereby, leaning it against a simply constructed device, he alternates the angle of observing and therefore creates a new perception of space.
Spazio reale/Spazio Virtuale (1979) is a signifier of the phase of work that put forward the changes of human relation towards space and memory which occurred by introducing computing into everyday life: After twenty years spent building relationships between internal and external, world and individual, home and city, that have been so close as to be osmotic, at the beginning of the 1980s, Ugo La Pietra's utopia seemed to magically become reality: the world entered into home. Casa telematica was transformed for the presentation at the Milan Fair in 1982, and showed what we know well today – it is a dystopia, not a utopia. La Pietra wrote already in 1983: The new domestic media will lead to a decrease of socialization, whether incidental or wanted, allowing you to perform a series of tasks without leaving your home. Will they lead to an increase in the isolation of individuals within the family? These are the questions that often come up in these times of racing towards new tools: the answer is in day-to-day practice, in new social stratification of information control and other factors.
Obviously, 35 years ago La Pietra posed questions to which we are nowadays intensely trying to answer. Meanwhile, La Pietra decided to immerse himself in imaginary typologies of his incessantly evolving universe.
Ugo La Pietra :: disequilibrating systems is the first module in shaping the great international exhibition of International Meetings in Vela Luka from 1968 to 1972, which will be presented at the MMSU in Rijeka in 2021, after many years of project preparation by the grey) (area association.
An architect by training, Ugo La Pietra is an artist, filmmaker, editor, musician, cartoonist and teacher. He has been defining himself as a researcher in communication systems and in visual arts since 1960, moving simultaneously in the worlds of art and design.
A tireless experimenter, he has crossed different currents (from Informalism and Conceptual Art to Narrative Art and artist’s cinema) and used multiple mediums, conducting research that were embodied in the theory of the “Disequilibrating System” – autonomous expression within Radical Design – and in important sociological themes such as “The Telematic Home” (MoMA, New York, 1972 – Fiera di Milano, 1983), “Real Space / Virtual Space” (Triennale di Milano 1979, 1992), “The eclectic Home” (Abitare il Tempo, 1990), “Beach Culture” (Centro Culturale Cattolica, 1985/95). He has transmitted his work through numerous exhibitions in Italy and abroad, and he has curated several exhibitions at the Triennale di Milano, the Venice Biennale, the Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon, the FRAC Centre in Orléans, the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, the Fondazione Ragghianti in Lucca, the Fondazione Mudima in Milano and the Museo MA*GA in Gallarate. He has always critically maintained the humanistic, significant and territorial components of design through his works and objects, as well as his work in teaching, theory and publishing.