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“Hot” and “cold” re-use of the (media) instruments in the Albe and Lica Steiner and AG Fronzoni archives, through historiographic and pedagogical productions

Albe Steiner left an archive ready for use, with instruments based on a “system of images”, as opposed to the intellectual experience of AG Fronzoni which produced instruments guided by a “cold” re-use of the project narratives. This paper presents a comparative analysis of the two systems from an ethnological perspective. The process of analysis and synthesis of the sources produced by the two designers is similar to that of two ethnologists who constructed their own visual culture using two different methodological approaches: a method based on authorship for Steiner and a method based on classification for Fronzoni. Though they used two distinct modalities and processes, the two designers both merged the phenomenology of their creative production with their critical thought: the production of a socially oriented historiography in the case of the Steiners and their heirs, and in the case of Fronzoni, an absence of publications substituted by a rich oral history, originating in his teaching, and re-told by his students.
The transition between two paradigms – Atlas by Aby Warburg (1924-29) and Actor Network Theory by Bruno Latour, Michel Callon, and John Law (mid-1980s) – makes it possible to explore the ways in which archives preserve the connections and the meaningful exchanges between designers and theorists, in different historical periods and cultural situations, through the use of (media) instruments such as: identity narratives, critical reading, archives and pedagogical experiences, managed using old and new, analogue and digital languages.
From this perspective two main categories of archives may be identified. First, there are the “existing” or “ready-to-use” archives, second, the archives “in progress”, converting from the condition of “state of the art” or “artefact” to a worknet system. The poetics of AG Fronzoni’s teaching are the “existing” potential for an oral and political history of his work and his archive; the politics in the lives of Albe and Lica Steiner and the memory of their teaching are a manifestation “in progress” of their archive within an eminent shared cultural project.
This paper introduces a research study on the two instrument-actors, conserved in the archives of the two designers: the U magazine of the Umanitaria school and the U newspaper of the municipality of Urbino. The first educational project offers a comprehensive insight into AG Fronzoni’s intellectual experience, re-arranging in sequence a “cold” use of images; it is then compared with the second educational project based on the “hot” re-use of a “system of images” presented by Steiner, in a hermeneutic circuit oriented towards oral history and a social historiography of graphic design.

This article is only available in Italian.


Questo articolo è stato pubblicato in AIS/Design Storia e Ricerche, numero 10 dicembre 2017

Luciana Gunetti

Luciana Gunetti is an architect and a design research consultant based in Milan, Italy. She was awarded her PhD in Industrial Design and Multimedia Communication from the Politecnico di Milano, after completing a post- graduate course in Industrial Design at the SSDI School of the Federico II University of Naples. Since 2000 she has been involved in research projects in theory and history of Communication Design, also teaching at the Faculty of Design of the Politecnico di Milano on a regular basis. She also worked in AG Fronzoni’s famous practice-workshop in Milan, inventorying part of the archive. She is currently the acting curator of the Albe and Lica Steiner Archive, an important collection of artifacts managed by ASAB – Archivi Storici of the Politecnico di Milano.

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