"Ornament is the reign of the dominion of the form" (M. Costa, 2000)

The taste for the ornamentation constitutes a fundamental characteristic of the human culture.

Materials and shapes of the ornamentation have always made reference to elements drawn from the hystorical/environmental context, translated into an abstract and figurative dimension.

Typical examples are the 'meanders' rooted in the Greek and Japanese civilisation, the entanglements of acanthus leaves, the renaissance 'grotesque', up until the apotheosis represented by the rococò style and the elegance of the art noveau style.

In the islamic world the ban for all public displays of images drawn from nature, as dictated by the Quran, has generated a pervasive decorative style characterised by a dense and complex geometric matrix, often incorporating sacred words. The whole eastern world alike, the syntax and semantic of decoration merge and blend resulting in a unitary sign.

The uninterrupted rule of ornament in the field of applied arts comes to an end in the 20th century, with the development of the industrial civilization. In 1908, in his famous essay 'Ornament and Crime', viennese architect Adolf Loos declares no longer permissible the tie between modernity and decoration, maintaining for the latter the total loss of meaning and role from both an economic and a formal point of view. Only with the advent of post-modernity the decoration will acquire a renewed acknowledgment and a positive cultural status.

DIGITAL DECO proposes a modern approach to this topic, assuming as a cultural and formal reference the world of mass communication and the universe of mass-media.

The birth and expansion of the World Wide Web has accelerated and made irreversible the incipient digitalization of the information (the possibility to transpose the representation of the world into a discreet/binary code) and its government through the computing-machine.

In DIGITAL DECO the formal starting-point of a new decorative alphabet is the building block of the binary code and machine-language of the computer: the BIT, basic numerical entity of information, and its graphic transposition, the PIXEL.

From this conceptual and formal starting point DIGITAL DECO develops a decorative and illustrative model characterized by few but clear syntactic rules:

1) use of the computer as a “low-resolution” design tool;
2) orthogonal and modular graphical mesh;
3) abstraction of the figurative subjects and figurativism (= symbolism) of the abstract subjects;
4) decorative saturation, or "hyperdecoration".

The new decoration for the 21st century will be:

- structured: because generated and constructed according to rational compositional criteria based on symmetry, reflections, alignments, cross-references;
- iconic: because characterized by a tight multiplication of different abstract signs, with or without symbolic references: like a great shopping mall smashed onto a scanner;
- narrative: both in its graphical and thematic development, resulting in a conceptual synthesis containing both the path of a microchip’s printed circuit and the Traiana Column in Rome.

The decorative orthogonal mesh characteristic of DIGITAL DECO belongs to the visual un-historical panorama of our sub-conscious world. It is traceable - with various possible interpretations - in some islamic calligrams of the 16th century, in the outlines of embroideries, in the graphics of some childish drawings, in ancient and modern floor patterns, in the “Televideo”, etc.
The innovation stands in its codification as a possible model of use for the contemporary world - as in the 19th century some popular handbooks listed several decorative 'styles' according to one space/temporal logic - with a free and open approach to the topic of the decoration comparable to the open source code software (e.g., the Linux operating system), open to the interpretation, modification and improvement from users.

Maurizio Castelvetro (2003)


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