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November 19, 2007

The origin of Ingo Maurer's 'Porca Miseria'


Yesterday's Washington Post feature explored how this iconic 1994 lamp (above) came to be.

FunFacts: Production is limited to 10 per year. It takes four people nearly five days to make one.

Here's the Post piece.

    Hard-Wired to Shatter Perception

    "Porca Miseria" is a 1994 lamp made from broken dishes by Ingo Maurer, one of the most innovative and influential lighting designers working today. It is one of the objects in "Provoking Magic: Lighting of Ingo Maurer," the German artist's career retrospective in New York at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Maurer, who is 75, says he grew up on an island in Lake Constance, with a father who was a fisherman and inventor: "I was with him on the lake fishing. And the light on the lake is something very, very special." That prefigured Maurer's later move from graphic design to lighting design. He says he made the change after a chance encounter with an ugly bare light bulb — and he's let accident into his process ever since.

    Where does "Porca Miseria" come from?

    It was when we went to Milan once, for the famous Salone del Mobile [furniture fair]. And I found too many designs there slick and design-conscious. "Porca Miseria" is partly a kind of revolt against that tendency. I'm also an admirer of slow-motion explosions, like in the film by Antonioni called "Zabriskie Point," where he blew up a castle in slow motion.

    When I first showed it in Milan, I called the lamp "Zabriskie Point." But then the first few Italians came, and — since no one had seen this ever before — said, "Porca miseria!" which is a kind of a cuss: "What bad luck!" So I immediately changed the name to "Porca Miseria."

    We produce it in a limited number — we do only 10 a year. Believe it or not, it takes four people almost five days. We buy porcelain plates at a regular shop. First, we smash them: I have one, I drop it; or I take a hammer to it. It looks very much at random — and it is, maybe 50 or 60 percent. The rest is in a way constructed: There's a bit of calculation of how big I want to have the piece I want to use.

    Chance rules our life, much more than intention.

November 19, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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