Triennale Milano
Marble Space Odyssey - ©Aoumm

A Marble Space Odyssey

March 4 2022
The mission had come to fruition. A great success, as always. They would have to load the last massive blocks of diorite onto Frontier freighters, fill out the paperwork, set course and prepare for a long, well-deserved fifteen-month snooze. The captain couldn’t wait to get home. This mission, so far away and so long (fifteen months to get there, sixteen months there, and then another fifteen to return) had taken its toll. Psychologically, of course, but physically too. Age was beginning to do its thing on enduring fatigue. He still remembered his first explorations and sample collection missions; back then, he was just a young officer trainee, full of energy and motivation; that Starcop job offer had been a reason to live. He felt like a true pioneer, as if he’d suddenly become the star of one of his beloved wild west stories, only he, the intrepid explorer, had definitively shifted the frontier off-planet because, back then, the planet was too small for him. Today, though, he missed it mere minutes after launch. Today, that heroic streak was but a faded memory. Space in and out of Earth teemed with freighters of all types, neatly lined up along the many trade routes to and from the furthest destinations. The thrill of leaping into the unknown had, year after year, taken on the appearance of a rush-hour highway, the very thing he wanted to escape decades earlier. He no longer cared about all the money he had made extracting rocks from the cosmos, objects of incomparable exoticism that triggered out-and-out battles at pedigreed auction houses. All his toil and efforts eventually came down to decorating the floors of celebrities and tycoons’ residences. He couldn’t see the point anymore. “Enough. This really is the last time.” He lay down in the cryogenic tank, put on his helmet, and typed in the start-up procedure. The lid closed over him with a puff of smoke. 
Next stop: unknown - ©Aoumm
Uncut gems - ©Aoumm
Uncut gems - ©Aoumm
A Marble Space Odyssey is an AOUMM studio research project that combines the languages of art, graphics and texture design. Conceived as a way of synthesizing the stratification of issues and queries on a variety of contemporary life themes, characterized by increasingly articulated readings, it sets out to explore the growing debate on fake-news, deepfakes and news manipulability; the recent possibility of reproducing the appearance of materials found in nature, such as marble and wood, invading the market with replicants almost indistinguishable from the originals; and private companies’ renewed interest in exploring the cosmos alongside space agencies, even (and especially) with a view to exploiting its resources.

Cosmic job - ©Aoumm 

“Truth is the fruit of the tone and conviction with which we assert it.”
Toni Servillo, playing Silvio Berlusconi in the film Loro, by Paolo Sorrentino (2018)
Space Slices - ©Aoumm
Space Slices - ©Aoumm
The art world has often taken the lead on major questions, measuring the pulse of society to reveal what ails it, raising doubts and concerns, offering us artefacts that, by sometimes being cryptic, sometimes obvious, lay bare the thorniest questions without any requirement to judge the answers. With a hint of perfidy, Damien Hirst’s controversial exhibition Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable,2 shows how plausibly false information may at least become plausible. 
Then there’s the role of technology, which in the complex relationship between true and false is of critical importance. Fake, imitation or deception, they are all produced with increasing verisimilitude, almost to the point of rendering attempts to reveal them vain. The same holds for the surface design industry, in which we already have synthetic replicas of natural materials whose appearance, sometimes even their feel, would deceive even the most experienced eye, making it hard to work out (not just in photographs but in person) which one is real and which one is fake.
The third fundamental plank of this research is new interest in space exploration from domestic and supranational associations and private players. Today, it all seems motivated by the noblest forms of philanthropy and the highest expression of mankind’s exploratory nature. But what if, in future, cosmic travel became motivated by profit? How tangible today is this intention to exploit the cosmos for resources? And if indeed this scenario is plausible, will we see the continuation of predatory patterns we’ve already seen on Earth?
Ready for the market - ©Aoumm

“We’re kind of like the cathedral builders of the Middle Ages. We begin projects physicists will be working on generations after us.”
Fabiola Gianotti, Director General of CERN in Geneva, interviewed by Luca Fraioli. La Repubblica, 30 July 2019

S-Ottaviani.jpeg - Campioni fisici realizzati in collaborazione con  ABET Laminati - Foto: Simone Ottaviani
How far can a totally bogus narrative go while still coming over as plausible or true? If it is possible to imitate an element until it becomes indistinguishable from the original, is it then possible to copy something whose original is now unknown? When and how will we start taking advantage of space resources? 
The overlap of these three questions prompted the idea of producing space marble from unknown galaxies. Rather than seeking answers, it is about shaping a synthesis of doubts. The marble is fake, but verisimilar, multi-coloured, in unprecedented hues and with an in-credible narrative regarding its bizarre provenance. If a slab of stoneware can be so convincing it really does look like Carrara marble, why not exploit this ambiguity and break free from simple mimesis of the already-known? 
The story of these queries and doubts finally takes shape in an out-of-the-ordinary set of furnishings made of cosmic marble. Design objects are artefacts that symbolize industry and the transmutation of matter; they often embody an era’s cultural content. With their light, naïf appearance and upfront decorativism, these imaginary furnishings encompass a story told in layers, made up of many chapters and levels of reading that are revealed at different depths and meanings, depending on the observer’s inclinations and receptivity. 
S-Ottaviani.jpeg - Campioni fisici realizzati in collaborazione con  ABET Laminati - Foto: Simone Ottaviani
R-Balzarotti.jpeg - Campioni fisici realizzati in collaborazione con ABET Laminati - Foto:  Riccardo M. Balzarotti
This article is written by AOUMM: a design firm operating nationally and internationally within the domains of architectural, landscape, urban, interior, and exhibition design, developing projects where different expertise triggers unexpected synergies. AOUMM is based in Milan and led by Luca Astorri, Riccardo Maria Balzarotti, Rossella Locatelli and Matteo Umberto Poli.