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“The other shape of things”, when DNA becomes a matrix of art


The other shape of things (AAS47692 / Picea abies) is the title, inspired by the DNA code of the Norway spruce (Picea abies), of the exhibition by Emilio Vavarella at Casa Zegna, a new milestone in his artistic journey. Vavarella is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher at Harvard University, where he is doing a PhD in Film, Visual Studies and Critical Media Practice. His new work stems from an invitation by Fondazione Zegna, always interested in contemporary art projects and keen to dedicate space to emerging talents.

The exhibition examines the production of Zegna Group and the geographical setting of Fondazione Zegna and Oasi Zegna in a project that creates dialog between the history of the place and of the company, the digitalization of contemporary weaving techniques and biology.

Emilio Vavarella used various kinds of fabric in this project. First and foremost, the BielMonte™ collection of fabrics produced by Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna with 100% local wools from flocks that graze in Oasi Zegna and adorned by an embroideress from Mending for Good”, the platform that promotes textile craft excellence by upcycling fashion brands’ production leftovers.

The project was also joined by the celebrated textile manufacturer BONOTTO, which is part of Zegna Group’s Textile Luxury Laboratory Platform, which brings together the creative and experimental dimension and the culture of craft production and traditional techniques. 100% recycled synthetic yarns were woven on a Gobelin jacquard loom to produce a large tapestry (320 x 140 cm), the visual heart of the project.

Lastly, the linen and wool canvases hand-woven in the San Patrignano weaving workshop enabled the artist to fix a digital design on a highly textured warp and weft.

The graphic representation of the Norway spruce’s genetic code is also seen in the series of dye-sub printed aluminum plates.

Coming from a previous project, The Other Shapes of Me, in which he explains how the specific nature of every living being is tied to a unique combination of DNA’s 46 chromosomes, the artist was struck by the nature of Oasi Zegna, where the 500,000 Norway spruce planted by Ermenegildo Zegna from the ’30s onwards have created a very thick forest, a sort of ‘artificial’ vegetable fabric.

This idea of a forest made of thousands of variations of the same genetic code, a landscape at once natural and artificial, led Vavarella to take the DNA sequencing of a Norway spruce and represent it graphically by means of weaving, which is central to the company’s business and history. The symbiosis between information and representation of DNA code and fabrics thus enabled the artist to transfer Norway spruce’s code in various material forms created with different techniques and technologies, from printing on fabric to embroidery and tapestry.

 By transferring reality to woven code, L’altra forma delle cose (AAS47692 / Picea abies) effectively evokes the theme of contemporary memory and our relationship with technology and nature (present in the form of a root displayed on a wall), through encounters with technological innovations, part of a creative process in which emotional components and random elements interact with science and technology. “The other shape of things” is an intimate and exciting experience.


Casa Zegna, via G. Marconi 23, Trivero Valdilana

Inauguration: Sunday 22 May

Opening hours: from 11.00 to 17.00, every Sunday, from 22 May to 13 November.

Also open on 28 May, 4 June and every day in August.

Tel. 015 7591463,

Entry: 5 euros.

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