Atelier Biagetti Flex Their Midas Touch

Revisiting the concepts behind their celebrated Body Building series, the enigmatic duo sheathes a virtual set of gym equipment in gilded recycled plastic.

Body Building 2 by Atelier Biagetti. Rendering by Six N. Five

When Atelier Biagetti first unveiled Body Building during Milan Design Week 2015, onlookers quickly billed it as the “anti-gym.” Featuring a high-low blend of familiar exercise gear recast in sumptuous materials (think a metallic pommel horse and tube lights that resemble gymnastics rings), the series deftly demonstrated how these innocuous everyday objects can serve as either agents of change or instruments of torture. The concept, explain the work-and-life partners Alberto Biagetti and Laura Baldassari, “was born around the idea of transforming our body, and around the possibility to change and pursue an idea of beauty that, without balance, becomes an obsession.”

Obsessions are standard fare for the enigmatic duo, whose Milan-based studio’s highly conceptual projects probe human behavior and natural proclivities. They often provoke discomfort and unease, but the hurt is healthy—transformative, even. That partially explains why they’re revisiting Body Building five years later, when the world bears little resemblance to the halcyon pre-pandemic era. “The recent events in Milan, and in the whole world, have changed our perception,” the duo says, nodding to the city’s early struggle as an epicenter of the outbreak in Europe. “The boundaries between our bodies and the environment [have been] rethought.” 

Cavallina Gold. Rendering by Six N. Five
(FROM LEFT) Spalliera Gold. Palla Gold. Rendering by Six N. Five

Core elements from the first edition, such as the humble equipment’s ascendance into hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind collectibles that embody unrivaled Italian craftsmanship, remain unchanged. But unlike the previous iteration’s pony skins and beaver furs, items in Body Building 2 are completely sheathed in a glimmering gold skin, called BIOVEG, that consists of recycled polyester made from plastic bottles. (It clads soft items, like a star-studded punching bag, inflatable yoga ball, and exercise mat.) While sporting a sustainable narrative amid dire climatic conditions, the gilded layer also ascribes a laid-back if not slightly indulgent sense of leisure. “The material made us feel like contemporary Midas,” Biagetti says, referencing the famous king in Greek mythology whose touch turned everything into gold. But why gold? “The paradox of perception.” 

And for the time being, we’ll only be able to perceive the collection digitally. Given the ongoing social distancing directives, the atelier enlisted in-demand Spanish digital design studio Six N. Five to render the equipment in a sleek virtual training room with the help of curator Maria Cristina Didero for an exclusive presentation with Patricia Findlay at Design Miami Shop. The dream-like environs, whose monochromatic fittings mirror their gilded occupants, create a “virtual aesthetic dimension, in which our objects are frozen in gold waiting to be chosen and purchased.” They describe it as a type of performance design. “For us, performance means to understand what the limits of our body are, how through our actions and perception we can change our future and the environment around us.” And the public can participate: Though the made-to-order objects can, in fact, exist in the physical realm, the customer must actualize them—“a counterpoint that allows the public to be a spectator and protagonist [in the performance] at the same time.”

KO Gold and Yoga Gold Mat. Rendering by Six N. Five

Though aware that some may perceive the update of an existing collection as “a step backward,” the duo remains unfazed. “It has been very exciting to review, rethink, repeat, alter, and share our work,” Biagetti says. “We think it’s part of our language, and that everything we do can have different dimensions and possibilities.” On that note, both Biagetti and Baldassari seem enthralled at the increasingly blurred lines between digital and physical realms as more of our daily lives get digitized. Some may regard that with horror, but it’s in the studio’s blood to fearlessly embrace the new normal. When asked about an upcoming project, Biagetti nonchalantly said “Dracula.”

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