Paradox Garden

Alcova 2022, Milan Design Week, From 5th to 11th June 2022, Milan

The unconscious works: Jacques Lacan, French psychiatrist and philosopher, said this at the beginning of the 1970s. The unconscious simply works, without calculating, rationalising or making judgements. The information that derives from this process is difficult to define and describe, yet the awareness achieved though it can take root to the point of irrevocably influencing the human being. I thought of something along these lines when the Parasite 2.0 design collective told me for the first time about the project they were working on with XL EXTRALIGHT®, a material that is exceptionally lightweight thanks to a revolutionary patented technology. For Stefano Colombo, Eugenio Cosentino and Luca Marullo, who systematically experiment with architecture, design and scenography between offices in London and Milan, direct experience is the basis of every possible advance in meaning. The goal is not the creation of an object or any finished product – or at least not only that, and certainly not in the case of this work. Their intervention, strengthened by a peculiar, empathic and intuitive language, was complementary to the data explored in the scientific laboratories where the innovation and sustainability (over 51% of some special formulas are recycled, or in some cases obtained from 30% bio-resins) along with the physical-mechanical properties of XL EXTRALIGHT® are developed.
The six paradoxical machines, staged in the Alcova garden for Milan Design Week 2022, speak directly to visitors without the need for mediation or captions. This large installation is activated by the glance of the people who observe it, in an interaction with the movements and the more or less explicit suggestions. With a change in the perspective of observation, the scenario is completely transformed. An overturned beam in raw concrete is supported by four pads made of the ultra-light material, which is the only coloured element, in contrast with the natural Carrara marble, stone and wood. The archetype is clear, the founding principles of logic subverted: the enormous weight of the world rests on a tiny, very light and bright idea, in a beautiful shade of green. XL EXTRALIGHT® was not invented for this purpose, yet there is no better narrative for talking about pressure, dilation and balance. Scientific research on materials translates into performance, and Parasite 2.0 pushes the acceleration of its heuristic practice to the maximum: without the need for a pre-established process and dogmatic rules, unforeseen circumstances are produced that grant alternative points of view, new knowledge and perceptions. Inspiration becomes free thought, writing a new alphabet of design that escapes the grasp of markets and academies. Who knows if the insiders’ impressions will have little or much in common with the perceptions of children, who perhaps will see in this setting a space where they can unleash their imaginations, not yet inhibited by adulthood.
Machines, whether simple or complex, are devices built for a specific function from the very beginning of their existence. The various components interact with a purpose, in search of an almost always quantifiable advantage. In the case of PARADOX GARDEN, the six multi-material giants detach themselves from the earth in an exercise of extreme balancing, challenging observers. The contrast between man and nature seems to finally disappear as a function of a new coexistence, an exchange made of balance and mutual observation. A reciprocal understanding that doesn’t need rigid boxes to work. Yet if one component were to be missing, the apparently solid composition would completely lose its meaning. It is child’s play, a liberating stream of consciousness. The machines dance and seduce us with the same hypnotic force of a human body dancing a ballet, unintimidated by the limits of gravity: the dancers are poised in an impossible balance on pointe – a wonderful absurdity. Come to think of it, it seems that the hybrid creatures created by Parasite 2.0 vibrate imperceptibly on their small points of support on XL EXTRALIGHT®. And if the unconscious continues to hum in the background, we hope that it works towards an ever-greater awareness of how even the most distant subjects, even those that are seemingly less compatible, can actually work well together if they are open to exchange and the sharing of common goals. It doesn’t seem difficult to put into practice, but it subverts the status quo: perhaps it could be enough to change your point of view.


Paradox Garden is a project by Parasite 2.0 x XL Extralight, at Alcova on the occasion of Milan Design Week 2022.

Production Company: Panel System Srl

Text by Annalisa Rosso

Collaborators: Sara Barilli, Giorgia Leone

Press office & PR: Maria Elena Barbati, Bianca Maria Bertolissi

Thanks to Sara Vecchiola, Carlo Vecchiola, Matteo Ragni, Walter Junior Cassetta.

Photo by Francesco Stelitano