Ivan Dal Cin: speculative design, theory fiction and grey literature


  • Somewhere between the book and the Internet

お早う! I'm Ivan Dal Cin, a product designer based in Italy. This is my personal anarchive of projects in the fields of speculative design, theory fiction and grey literature. Tsundoku architect, I have a multi-disciplinary approach to cultural artefacts, social constructions and personal mythologies. Indeed, I can say that I am an undisciplined nomad, or just a player who works around the rules of the game and sometimes creates them for himself. I'm currently trying to remember the future.

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The pre-text of the project is to have a vacant empty space with a shop window. I imagined it as a contemporary stage, without the fourth wall, but also as an "architecture of crisis" through which enlight what is happening to historic centers. I wrote a script starting from some of Beckett's plays, incorporating various passages and developing their meta-theatrical and inter-textual component.

The imagined scene takes shape and voice through the dialogue between two characters sitting behind the shop window, with the audience outside. The dialogue is rendered in the form of a text chat, underlining the idea that it has to be read privately by the user rather than to be recited. It's therefore an improper script, lightened and closer to online content consumption, such as the infinite and additive scroll. Only a few props on scene draw the characters' attention. The sense of expectation and the inevitable end are continually fooled from within.

Le Vide Plein

In 1958 Yves Klein set up the famous exhibition of nothing at the Iris Clert gallery. In the same year, the physicist Wolfgang Pauli drew a rectangle, representing a void painting, at the end of a letter contesting Heisenberg's "theory of everything".

Klein's "Le Vide" was in a sense the most complete and radical solution to spatialism, followed shortly by its overthrow by Arman with "Le Plein". Were emptiness and fullness just formal or even substantial opposition? Subatomic physics was calling into question the very idea of emptiness, and at the same time was showing how at the core of matter there is more emptiness than substance.

This object book is made of 99.999998% emptiness, literally: only 2 pages out of a million have any recognizable content. These pages, placed side by side, bear traces of those two events, suggesting a profound connection. Finding the two pages inside a book that, if printed, would be at least 50 meters tall is practically impossible. A hint: consider the speed of light, expressed in km.

Ain't it painting?

Ten years after the Aummagumma project I resume my game with brushstrokes. What was a more or less explicit reference there - Lichtenstein's brushstrokes - becomes one of the two main sources in this morpho/ontological comparison.

Lichtenstein's revival of the "brushstrokes" theme in the 1980s complicated the nature of that work: the iconic painted brushstrokes meet the printed reproductions of real ones and, above all, those physically imprinted on the surface. It is no longer just action painting that is called into question, as in the parodied version of the 1960s, but the pictorial gesture tout court between pop, hyperrealism and analytical painting.

All this is a counterpoint to the more modest observation of the nature of brushstrokes in the shodo practice: a limited set of well-defined strokes, to be executed precisely in the right order, gives rise to thousands of logograms. The purely visual nature of these signs, unlike phonetic alphabets, and the calligraphic gestures suggest a different approach to painting, extremely synthetic and analytical.


I have always loved the work of Daniel Buren - and Adidas sneakers, too. I tried to figure out why, thinking about the striped-something.

The result is an interplay between different contexts and very similar visual strategies. Using the Adidas' website personalisation tool, I have created some "sneaker peeks" with superimposed textual snippets from Buren's interviews - and of course, with accidental hacks.

A Lambo in limbo

For my solo show at the Studiolo, my fav little space for art ("Not a gallery, No critics, No events, No performances, No wifi"), I have created the second chapter of my imaginary dialogue with great artists.

Conceived as a physical book (edition of 10), its pages have been spread and displayed on the walls in three linear clusters. Each artist/voice had a different paper color, combining in a visual polyphony of primary structures. The entire show is actually contained in this book, merging the gesture and the document.


Ummaremma is a site-specific art fiction, a social sculpture as an anthropic map, the hybrid representation of an alien place of our time. Twenty short stories, testimonies of those who live the Maremma in the present in all its facets, were collected in the area during the pandemic.

Each story brings with it an object, an image, or a work of art that makes it visible and physical. Often these are unusual objects, far from an imaginary that would have them simple or traditional, because in reality every place is now hyper-connected with many others, on several levels.

Begun as a small ethnographic research, I soon realized the inadequacy of the bare document and the need for the inhabitants to stage themselves as characters in their stories. Widespread auto-fiction, which reveals the hybridization in progress between vernacular culture and the non-linear languages of an accelerated contemporaneity.


Twenty-five years ago "Lisbon Story" was released: the movie with which Wenders paid homage to cinema in the year of its centenary. Did it still make sense to make films, in an era in which the flow of images became more and more pervasive, in a sort of expanded and scattered cinéma vérité? The answer, of course, was yes: there was still a need to tell stories, as Winter reiterates to a disillusioned Monroe.

Today it happens that cinema, understood as art and industry but above all as a place of sharing, is put in serious crisis by a double pandemic: the one caused by the virus that forces theaters to close, and the one conveyed by the new video sharing and streaming channels.

With this project I imagined the superimposition of these two scenarios, starting from the same place: a closed theater. In the movie, Monroe stored the "unseen images" inside an abandoned theater. Here, we find ourselves outside a symbolic place of Pordenone, the Cinemazero's theater.

Uncanny Canyon

When face images generated by GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks) appeared, I thought they represented the extreme point of the Uncanny Valley.

The images archived here were generated via the This-Person-Does-Not-Exist website, which displayed a new face on each web page reload. They are so realistic and natural as to be credible, yet some small details are very disturbing. We have always been used to knowing how to read and interpret the human face and its expressions, so the fact of being misled by these synthetic portraits is amazing and scary.

Alongside the portraits there's the transcript of the questions and some answers exchanged during the Loebner Prizes 2016-2018: these were the last editions of the contest, which rewarded the Artificial Intelligence software that performed best in relation to some Turing tests. Through a set of 20 questions, the evaluators had to understand whether they were dealing with a human being or an AI, looking for particular patterns and pain points in the answers. I have selected those that I find most uncanny: sophisticated, ironic or sometimes simply human.

That's file

One day my father brought me a memory card from his camera, saying that the images on it had disappeared and asking me to try to recover them. I installed a recovery program on my PC, but in the file previews there were only fragmented images. They were like geometric patchworks, where each image was composed of slices of multiple photographs. I started taking screenshots of everything I found, and the further I went the more the combinatorial complexity seemed to increase. Finally, I also copied some intact photographs - a minority fraction out of around 900 images.

Forgoing further investigations, I decided to use the material for a project on the non-linear and discontinuous nature of digital space (or memory?). I remember the defragmentation procedure that was used to keep the hard disk clean: this random decomposition and assembly of image slices is in itself already an anarchive, with its own logic that is obscure to me, which has produced incredible visual and semantic interweavings. Who am I to refuse such a wonderfully uncanny gift?

STBY Mondrian

In 1900 Mondrian had already written an important page in the artistic development of Modernism. This claim was confirmed in 2017, by the discovery of a Mondrian’s original manuscript in Cologne, where one of the most important contemporary art publishers came across a forgotten notebook with his sketches for a pavilion that was never constructed.

Wiener / Weiner

"He does not seem to realize that where a man's word goes, and where his power of perception goes, to that point his control and in a sense his physical existence is extended. To see the whole world and to give commands to the whole world is almost the same thing as to be everywhere."

"I have stated these things, not because I want to write a science fiction story concerning itself with the possibility of telegraphing a man, but because it may help us understand that the fundamental idea of communication is that of the transmission of messages, and that the bodily transmission of matter and messages is only one conceivable way of attaining that end. It will be well to reconsider Kipling's test of the importance of traffic in the modern world from the point of view of a traffic which is overwhelmingly not so much the transmission of human bodies as the transmission of human information." N. Wiener

La lana del Re

Where does the history end and stories begin?

At the Lanificio Paoletti in Follina, I tried to give an answer by telling a story and embroidering on it.

"La lana del Re" is a site-specific fiction, a free narration in images and words as a result of an historiographical research on facts and people linked to the Lanificio Paoletti in the period between the two world wars.


It's quite clear to me how the relationship between work, frame and exhibition space has changed. But why, with what purpose was the work itself renounced in favor of the context?

With this project I returned to the crime scene - the white cube - to affirm the indispensability of the image and its substantial independence from space. In doing this I use inversely a site-specific modality that confuses the contours of the space and the physical extension of the work by acting on the edge-limit that separates and defines both.

The adhesive tape acts on the separation between space and work without resolving in one direction or the other. The work consists of the future photographic series that will remedy the signs in space without being a simple documentation or installation view. Those traced with adhesive tape are multivocal visual tools: signs, supports, surfaces, work margins, spatial measurements, photographic delimiters.


"He reflects ironically"
"It reacts in a paradoxical way"
"He questions the mechanisms"
"He dismisses expectations"
"Combining everyday objects in an unexpected way"
"Creating an intervention specifically for this space"


Similar to the cover of Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, the images produced for the Aummagumma exhibition were composed of internal and cross-references between digital brushstrokes, chosen from the archive of the vector graphics software. Brushstrokes on the surface are actually icons, painting of painting in which action painting, minimalism and pop art flow back. It’s a fusion recipe that blends project and action, analysis and expression, type and token, order and chaos.

The title of the exhibition also recalls the Neapolitan vernacular expression "Aumm Aumm", an exhortation to silence and secrecy which has been accepted as a paradoxical strategy of visibility. Some paintings were printed on materials and surfaces used in advertising, designed to attract attention, which, however, seem to be throttled, tamed. The visibility quest turns in a visual research, which is also literally a false friend.

Inland Empyrean

These images are in some way connected with the real (?) imaginary world of David Lynch. The title is a tribute to one of his films, a place that contains many others, and that has been used directly as a set for the creation of some new images.

The two main elements that characterize these photographs are the enclosed spaces, the shadow and the sudden glowing of lights. The images that enter and leave the Lynchian chiaroscuro have inhabited the domestic space, as well as the filmic one, merging with my experience of darkness.


This is a sad story: the murder of a white cube.

The poor little beautiful gallery space became empty and the lights went off, transforming it in a "grey cube".

What kind of aura could be revealed by touching its walls with fingers?

Did really disappear any potential of art?

Nowhere, Now and Here

When my friend Ba Abat opened her studio/home to me, I discovered a little world beneath the surface of things, images and the overall architecture. I wanted to capture the frozen energy, the messy assembly of props and ordinary elements of a disordered reality.

By appling the tape as a situated visual device and signature that occurs in every shot, I documented down to the smallest detail of a chaotic but organic forest of symbols and existential magma.


“Artworks require constant and detailed mediation: explanatory texts, photographic documentation, speeches, catalogues, etc. From the work to the public, a series of steps unfold other than neutral and transparent. Each mediation selects, reorganises, interprets, adds or subtracts meanings and formal values from the original work. It is not only an inevitable communicative process, but also a fertile and fruitful concatenation to understand and generate further forms and meanings. Contemporary art has achieved a profound awareness of the importance of these mediations, to the point of often producing works that merely propose this process. Doubles is an exhibition in which six artists work in tandem, divided into pairs. Three artists are called to interpret and remedy, each through a pre-established medium, the works created by three other artists.” Denis Viva


What emerges is the use of writing as a tool. A use that is not literary but contextual to visual art. With "writing" I mean a linear and essential description of what is not seen but imagined. I am interested in working with images that we have internalized and that we already know how to place in the artistic context. Each described object is conceived within a specific exhibition space, which can be set up with mental images only. The processes of production and use of artistic work are modified, reducing the distance from the origin of the work.

Arte Partecipante

In 2003 for my dissertation I tried to superimpose some ideas, partly rehashed, about visual anthropology, net art, and radical music. I didn't know there was such a thing as "theory fiction" yet, and I'm not sure I can attach that label to this work. It was my first ambitious (ambiguous) theoretical act (hack).

By combining many notes and quotes with brief scripts, fake sources and a long interview built without questions, I've experimented with a multi-focal/vocal writing device that is involuted, self-aware and (of course) auto-ironic.


After 20 years, I've re-edited the email-thread-like structure of the original Cattamail script into a modern chat-like exchange. Read it on double-page mode, with main characters stream on the right and real persons messages on the left.

Cattamail was my first mail-art project during university. I've hacked the students' mailing list by adding fake users with nicknames of not-yet-famous or forgotten contemporary artists. The avatars started to interact with students, by disturbing everyday communications and assemblig a surreal choral dialogue.

La Biennale 2000

I had seen the portrait of Kippenberger, in front of the German pavilion, that he managed to shot in 1996 when the Biennale was closed. He was at the end of his career and life, and some way I fantasized to take up that legacy. I visited the Giardini in the spring of 2000, between the last Art Biennale of 20th century and the first one of the 21st.

I took some photographs of the national pavilions. The gardens were under maintenance, the doors of the pavilions were closed and through the windows I could see only blank and disassembled spaces. There was no sacredness in that place proving to be fully breached, but because of that it was really open to any occurrence of life.