Riccardo Dalisi had an important role in perpetuating the Radical Design movements that originated at the end of the 1960s and that bloomed throughout the first half of the 1970s. The approach of the Naples-based artist, architect and designer supported the movement’s professed manifesto of creation by de-construction; in opposition to traditions, the creative process is generated by spontaneous, unconfined creativity, free of the standard canons acquired during years of education: the anti-design. Dalisi took conscious part in the social role that the movement and its ramifications, such as Global Tools had to play in society; the latter ‘was a system of teaching laboratories based on Milan and Florence, for the propagation of the use of natural materials and techniques and related behaviours, aimed to foster the free development of individual creativity’.
Already a professor at the faculty of Architecture at the University of Naples, together with his students Dalisi erected several such workshops in the local Rione Traiano neighbourhood. By establishing these activity centres Dalisi alleviated the community, offering the local youth an environment for creativity and confrontation, channelling the spontaneity of the uneducated young minds to execute ideas and designs free of any normal standards, following the ‘non-school’ mantra of the Global Tools movement, thus using poor materials, a simplified creation process and challenging the pre-existing educational system. In the artist’s own words, ‘There is beauty in navigating in a world of possibilities, of fantasy, also because it becomes a useful exercise for the students; just as a plant grows out of a seed, the idea of a shape changes over time. To design the most absurd, free and imaginative designs and then, after, applying a rational analysis: constructive fantasy, one could say, the reasoning, the analytic exploration, gearing up intellectually, finding a plausible, logic justification, rational and interesting.’
The ‘Pasternacchio’ chair was in fact born out of such context of social experimentation. Similarly to the primitivist, yet painterly furniture of Giacomo Balla for Futurism, and Gerrit Rietveld’s designs for Deconstruction and De Stijl, ‘Parsternacchio’ has become an icon for the Italian Radical Design movement. A first version of the design was exhibited in occasion of the Ambiente come Sociale exhibition at the Italian Pavilion of the XXXVI Venice Biennale in 1976, organised by art historian and curator Enrico Crispolti. Just like the movement it was celebrating, the much contested and forward thinking exhibition focused much of the attention on the process itself, by way of exhibiting mostly documents, photos and videos of the production of the works rather than exhibiting the finished product.