From the 7th – 27th of September 2016, some of the world’s most exciting and ambitious designers, innovators and cultural bodies came together at the inaugural London Design Biennale. This global exhibition, exploring the role of design in our collective futures, occupied the entirety of Somerset House’s exhibition spaces. Responding to the theme ‘Utopia by Design’, creative teams from over 35 countries reaching across six continents presented installations that interrogate the history of the utopian idea, and address and explore the role of design in solving some of humanity’s most pressing issues.

Representing Italy, the Triennale Design Museum of Milan challenged twenty Italian Designers to rethink the symbolic ‘White Flag’ as the utopian emblem of global truce. In response to this brief, each Designer produced their own interpretation of the flag, which was displayed as an installation in Somerset House, London. Antonio Aricò was selected to participate by Silvana Annicchiarico Director of the Triennale Design Museum in addressing the theme of Utopia by Design.

Antonio Aricò wanted to examine the form and symbolic meaning of the White Flag, interpreting this object through the use of hanging white sheets. Exploring the themes of ‘surrender’ and ‘belonging’, Aricò chose to visit an abandoned village in the heart of the Aspromonte, close to his family home in Reggio Calabria. The ‘ghost’ village of Roghudi on the southern slopes of the Aspromonte was selected as the site of Antonio’s artistic intervention. Abandoned in the 1970s, the residents deserted their homes, resettling throughout New Roghudi.

By draping the village with white sheets, Aricò aimed to repopulate a lost and abandoned place, bringing life back to the village with his creative energy. This ephemeral work was documented photographically by Aricò’s Uncle, Fedele Zaminga. These photographs were displayed as a part of the London Design Biennale installation alongside the Designer’s reimagining of the ‘White Flag’. Aricò’s flag is deconstructed, no longer in its archetypal and iconic form but simplified to a large bed sheet tied to a wooden pole like an improvised white flag.

Drawing from memory, Antonio Aricò recalls a nostalgic snapshot of the South with images of clothes hanging in the sun evoking a sense of freedom, conviviality and simplicity. Roghudi, brought to life with white sheets, creates a metaphor of a utopian and imaginative repopulation of the South. These sheets act as a symbol of the flight from the south (as surrender) while also echoing the memory of village life and the dream (utopia) of returning home. A very personal yet universal theme.

Photos by Fedele Zaminga.