STILE DUCATI: The Anatomy of a Speed Aesthetic

The motorcycle is the most definitive yet prismatic design object of the post-war era. It is also as close as a combustion engine can get to being a “wearable.” This reality is reflected in both the machine’s style and its history. Emanating from the outlaw aura of the ex-GIs turned Hell’s Angels who began customizing their Harley Davidson 74s, the motorcycle embodies the spirit of anarchy intrinsic to our epoch’s cultural output. But the motorcycle is not only a cipher for meth-fueled nomadism in the American West. Its Japanese racing iterations drip with the energy of 1990s RnB, while the mud-splattered graphics of motocross have become an emblem of the extreme. Here, we learn that the motorcycle is a projection surface as much as it is an engineered object. Minimalist Donald Judd famously used Harley Davidson paint treatments on his sculptures to achieve a high-gloss effect. This choice transformed Judd’s hyper-geometric conceptual sculptures into planes of industrial desire, a gambit later pushed to its logical limit by Jeff Koons.

Surface-lust is very much the subject of Stile Ducati, a 240-page ode to the Bologna-based motorcycle manufacturer. With detailed photographs of 19 of the company’s iconic bikes, the book gently combs through a shiny and curved topology of polished and lacquered metal. It brushes over engraved fuel latches, dimpled seat cushions, and tail lights embossed with serial numbers, going almost as close as to examine the pores of the engineering. Punctuated with corporate mantras like “My strength is lightness” and “Our dynamic and flowing lines tell the story of speed,” this tour through Ducati’s output resembles a yogic exercise. Breathe in, breathe out. In the age of cosmetic surgery and Snapchat filters, this is a meditation on the body as a smooth, metallic machine – the commercialized skin of our culture.

Starting with the 1946 Cucciolo – an early moped ancestor with a leather bicycle seat – and unfolding outward towards 2016’s mean-looking 1299 Panigale S Anniversario, Stile Ducati is an unknowing thesis on the idea that form-function is not a dichotomy but rather a compound. The difference between style and machinery is negligible in the aerodynamic forms of its motorcycles – perhaps a trait that stems from the sculptors of the Italian Futurist movement, who mastered the art of turning speed into static form. This penchant is especially evident in Ducati’s graphic treatments, such as with the 750 Paso (1986), which has the words “Controlled Air Flow” written in a scientific sans-serif at the same angle as the vent of its side fairing. The 750 Paso is also credited with popularizing the manufacturer’s signature red, a color imported from the race track. It is a convergence of performance-style that begs the question: Did a motorcycle company invent sportswear?

Stile Ducati: A Visual History of Ducati Design is published by Skira Editore (Italy, 2016). 

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Issue #32 — Summer 2017"US vs. THEM"

How do you find truth in an age without facts? The answer: wake up and stick together. In this issue’s dossier “US vs. THEM,” creative director RICHARD TURLEY explores how the Global Right Wing’s blatant disregard for reality has given us all a license to become Nonsense Warriors. Turning away from “them” and towards “us,” CATHERINE OPIE, NICOLAS GHESQUIÈRE, and STEFANO PILATI take us into their inner circles of friends, while COLLIER SCHORR turns BELLA HADID into Lisa Lyon. We revisit the work of MICHAEL SCHMIDT, and how his community workshops turned Berlin into a cauldron of contemporary photography. JACKIE NICKERSON shows us what Robert Longo looks like with a faster Internet connection, while CARSTEN HÖLLER takes us into his kitchen to explore the post-digital nature of food. We speak with VIRGIL ABLOH as he plots a fashion industry coup d’état and follow JASON DILL on a skate odyssey to hell and back to Fucking Awesome. And, last but not least, we make a pilgrimage to Santo Sospir, the villa on the Riviera where JEAN COCTEAU created his greatest Gesamtkunstwerk.

Also included with the issue, our “HEAT UP HADID” TRANSFER KIT which allows you to create your own t-shirt emblazoned with this issue’s BELLA HADID cover.

Learn more about the issue below:

Nothing makes sense. Nothing ever will again. The year 2016 marked a total rupture in the theater of politics. Even if the damaging effects of Donald Trump’s election somehow prove to be short-lived, his rise indicates a crisis wherein digital acceleration has led to political regression. In our dossier “US vs. THEM,” creative director RICHARD TURLEY creates a handbook for our new political paradigm. Its central hypothesis: Only within the chaos of this media overload will we discover what is real again.

“I am not sure if the sculptures were even subjects for her photographs …” For her first ever magazine editorial, “Heroines: Paris/Los Angeles,” artist CATHERINE OPIEteamed up with artistic director NICOLAS GHESQUIÈRE to create a study on the power of classicism and ambiguity. The exploration begins on the beige stone of the Louvre’s sculpture garden and continues to Opie’s studio in Los Angeles, documenting a sprawling circle of friends and acquaintances.

On a surrealist journey into the past, Martin Mosebach visits the summer retreat of JEAN COCTEAU. At the Villa Santo Sospir, the artist spent a decade’s worth of summers smoking opium and creating his largest total artwork.

Back with a vengeance for her third 032c cover story, COLLIER SCHORR teams up with fashion director Mel Ottenberg for “Smith & Wesson Blues,” a shoot with BELLA HADID, inspired by the body builder and Robert Mapplethorpe muse Lisa Lyon.

“Duchamp is my lawyer.” From his fortress of irony, designer VIRGIL ABLOH is set on turning fashion into the industrial arm of the art world. In conversation with 032c’s managing editor Thom Bettridge, he explains how streetwear is not just a fad, but a logic inspired by Dada and destined to dominate the digital age.

Accompanied by a re-print of MICHAEL SCHMIDT’s 2002 story for 032c, Kolja Reichert explores how the photographer’s community workshops from 1976 to 1986 create a style born out of the “Gray Island” of Berlin.

For the story “Energy Crisis,” photographer LUKAS WASSMANN and designer STEFANO PILATI shoot an editorial inside Michael Sailstorfer’s exhibition “Hitzefrei” at St. Agnes. As his first for a magazine editorial, Pilati’s styling includes garments from his own personal wardrobe.

“It’s an exhausting reality,” laughs JASON DILL. In an odyssey documented with drawings and pictures from his personal archive, the skate legend takes us to hell and back to Fucking Awesome.

In “Push Me Shove You Oh Yeah Says Who,” photographer JACKIE NICKERSON, along with fashion editor Marc Goehring and 032c apparel creative director Maria Koch, presents a yogic meditation on a white collar dystopia.

“I’m very bad at killing, in general.” As an antidote to postmodern culinary mediocrity, artist CARSTEN HÖLLER takes us to his concrete perch on the seaside of Ghana and guides us through the 11 points of his “Brutalist Kitchen Manifesto.”

In the “SSENSE Files,” we bring you scenes of cross-platform madness, including interviews with RICARDO BOFILL, PLAYBOI CARTI, CHITOSE ABE, CHRIS KRAUS, HENRY STAMBLER, AMINA BLUE, and 69.

In our second-ever “BERLIN REVIEW” section, we speak with JEFF KOONS about Plato, retrace MARTIN MARGIELA’s reign at Hermès, dive to the underwater tombs of PHARAOHS, and explore our favorite books of the season.

All this and more on 296 pages!