Octagonal Orientations
Bialetti factory, Omegna, in 2019 and 1956 © David Bergé


Octagonal Orientations

Alfonso Bialetti has since 1933 moved coffee consumption from urban space to nearly every Italian household. His successor and son, Renato Bialetti industrialized the production in the 1950s and sold roughly another 270 million octagonal pots internationally. Renato branded his own body into the logo and moved men, through his televised marketing campaigns, to “where they did not belong”: “Where is papà?”, “Papà is in the kitchen using the Moka Express!” A modern design icon – coffee as a stimulus for hyper individualism, material power and patriarchy – that was not able to fully transpose to the 21st Century.

When in late 2018 Bialetti Industrie S.p.A. is facing bankruptcy, David Bergé started gathering and cataloguing Bialetti octagonal stove top coffee- makers in different sizes and models, as well as clones by other brands. Although the Moka Express itself is part of the collection of major Design Museums around the globe, it is hard to find a genealogy of the products, critical literature or even (ironically, coffee table) books explaining the history of Bialetti.

David Bergé is currently preparing a new artistic work to engage with this bankruptcy. In May 2019 he conducted field research in Omegna and Crusinallo, where since Roman times, copper has been excavated and where both the families Bialetti and Alessi maintain their factories. Most of the production though has today been relocated to China and debt has been taken over from the families by corporate groups (Rondine, Bialetti Industrie S.p.A and now LABialetti).

In this work David is interested in the cultural meaning of this industrial production, in the point of view of a wealthy industrialist with time at his disposal. Creating an icon by maintaining the same design for roughly 70 years, producing clones of his own product to beat competitors, controversial businessman Renato Bialetti did not deem it necessary to keep records, prototypes nor archives of any sorts. Instead he imprinted a cryptic classification system just underneath the lter of the octagonal coffeemakers.

Rather than producing evidence for his archive, David Bergé will operate within the constrains of his own archive of Bialetti’s and clones, resonating with the companies’ classification system. His work will take the form of a light installation in which through changing light intensities, moving light sources and optical effects, Bialetti percolators will disappear and re-appear over time, implicating and negotiating the viewers gaze, exceeding the material form initially associated with the icon.

David Bergé will further research and develop this research on light in a technical and explorative residency at wpZimmer, Antwerp in September 2019, together with light designer Pietu Pietiäinen.

The project will be presented in 2020 as an installation and book.