Fascinated by what he calls the “magical and mystical” qualities of light, lighting designer Ingo Maurer plays with conventional notions of brightness, shadow, and color. Trained as a typographer and graphic artist, Maurer worked in the United States before returning to Europe in 1963, where he was active as a graphic designer. The trigger for his transition to lighting design was his fascination with the light bulb as the “perfect union of technology and poetry.” Since the mid-1960s, he has created over 150 different lights and lighting systems, combining unexpected materials and found objects with various light sources. Maurer is a pioneer in the use of new lighting technologies and imaginative production techniques.
The Porca Miseria lamp came about through a 1990 commission to design light sculptures for a private home. Among Maurer’s final pieces was the dining-table lamp for the spare contemporary kitchen. Considering his first effort, made of paper, unsuccessful, Maurer eventually created an object made up of seemingly flying broken plates and cups that developed an intricate play of light, shadow, and chaotic energy in contrast to the minimalist space. Evocative of an explosion in a china cabinet, the lamp was constructed of fragments of dishes, cups, and pieces of cutlery attached to a structure composed of metal rods radiating from a central lighting element. About four years later, Maurer created the next, more complex and dynamic version, which he showed at the Euroluce lighting trade show, in Milan. A fan of cinematic explosions, Maurer first named his light Zabriskie Point, after the movie in which director Michelangelo Antonioni blew up a castle in slow motion. When one visitor saw the broken, exploded shards and suspended flatware, his first comment included the phrase “porca miseria!” (literally “miserable pig” in Italian, the phrase translates to “What a disaster!”). The delighted Maurer changed the lamp’s name.
Maurer and his manufacturing team produce a limited number of Porca Miseria lamps each year, and no two are alike. Despite their unplanned look, each lamp requires about seven days of intensive work by several people. Ceramic wares are dropped or smashed with a hammer, then the pieces, some as-is, others further broken and then smoothed, are arranged and mounted onto an armature and light source. Each lamp is a unique version of Maurer’s riotous design.