thank you Pier Luigi, Roger and Nina for having me and Oriana in this
It is very important for us and we hope that it will turn out into new
ideas for active collaboration involving multiple people on the list.
I'm particularly happy because I feel like I have just emerged from the
scenario introduced by Pier Luigi in the concept of this conversation.
We have just returned from Messina and Reggio Calabria, from what turned
out to be a mini-festival for La Cura, the Open Source Cure for Cancer
which we started in 2012 when I was diagnosed with Brain Cancer: a global,
participatory performance which used medical data to unveil new possible,
potential scenarios for disease. Drawing inspiration from Franco Basaglia:
how can we make the cure an ubiquitous, open, participatory performance?
This is what we started in 2012, and around 2 millions of people responded,
hundreds of artworks were produced, millions and millions of messages,
almost a hundred scientific publications were produced by interdisciplinary
teams, and thousands of actions. A book came out, and since its publication
La Cura has become a transdisciplinary education program.
But let's get back to Messina and Reggio Calabria, the "Stretto", the
The Strait is an incredible place: it is a fundamental location in
mythology, it has had an enormous importance in history, and in the history
of commerce and trade in the Mediterranean, it is a location of infinite
marine and coastal biodiversity, it is one of the most convenient places in
the world in which it is possible to study abyssal fishes and plants, it
unites the municipalities of Messina and Reggio Calabria, unites the
continent to the islands, it separates two seas. It hosts misteries,
legends, crimes, optical phenomena like the Fata Morgana, and more.
It was a fundamental location for Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Spanish, Normans.
And, recently, for Fascists, Axis, Allies, NATO.
It is currently one of the sites in which migrants from northern Africa are
distributed across Italy and abroad.
Everyone wanted and wants the Strait.
The Strait constitutes the Metropolitan Municipality of Reggio Calabria and
Messina. Meaning that, as "Strait", the two cities constitute a single
This is clear if you analyze the life of the two cities. The ferry boats
are like a bridge without the bridge: people go to the university across
the strait; they cross over for shopping or for an Arancino or Granita; the
ferries at office times are crowded like a subway (and, for residents and
students, they cost like a subway). When you did not want to go to school
and you didn't want to tell your parents, you hopped onto the ferry boat
and went to the other side, so that you would not be seen, but, still, in
your city. It is a urban experience which is very rich, peculiar and
In this scenario, two different organizations set up an initiative for La
Cura: Technè Contemporary Art Gallery in Reggio Calabria and COSPECS, the
Department for Cognitive, Psycological and Pedagogical Sciences of the
University of Messina.
I don't want, here, to transform this message into an advertisement about
the events (if you want to know more you are welcome to ask or you can look
here: http://la-cura.it/2017/05/12/la-cura-sullo-stretto/ , but it's in
What I wanted to focus on are the modalities in which the whole initiative
emerged, to highlight why we feel it as significant (in general and for the
current discussion), and to open up a couple of questions.
First of all: how.
The initiatives originated from relational networks which are anything but
ordinary. If you were to draw the network which brought to the organization
of these events you would find journalists, academics, cousins, researcher,
artists, friends, relatives, activists, psychiatrists, nurses, hospitals,
All organized in complex, organic, ecosystemic, emergent organization
models in which the university is not separated from cities and from their
communities, clans, families.
If you know something about these cultures, you won't have any problem
imagining this kind of scenario.
Families, social groups, clans, cities and, in general, relational networks
and ecosystems are very complex concepts here: both in their traditional
forms and in their contemporary, technologically driven evolutions.
South Italy's traditional families are numerous, organic, full of a variety
of branches. If you call someone "cousin", for example, it does not
necessarily mean that they're your cousin (but, rather, somewhat related to
your "clan", which can span entire villages, or continents). And they have
radically evolved through and across technologies, with multiple
innovations (both technological and organizational) to account for digital
inclusion (for example of the elderly), welfare, sociality, loneliness,
separation: a complex mix of email, social networks, whatsapps, and someone
taking the time to running two blocks in the city to scream from a window
that someone else's son has written on whatsapp that they arrived safely
home from the train.
Similar evolutions are seen also by other forms of contemporary family, by
younger generations in general. Those with exceptional unemployment rates;
sometimes living at home (in Calabria and Sicily, where it is not unusual
that the family adds/builds an additional floor on the family home, even
"illegally", to host the "family" of their sons and daughters, whichever
its form); most of the times emigrating; sometimes aiming at forms of
And, looking from higher above, all of these relations infiltrate cities,
making it really complex to define the boundaries of families and clans and
departments and neighborhoods and so on.
In these scenarios, it is really difficult to be "alone", or isolated. Even
at the fringes, multiple forms of welfare and connected solidarity exist
which are unthinkable in other, even apparently more advanced, cities;
which are beyond social services and, rather, refer to different
understandings of social living.
Which is, of course, a very interesting scenario for La Cura: one in which
caring, and inclusion, and presence is not something which is the object of
consumption – something which you purchase or have "administratively" (like
social services) or economically –, but, rather, a sort of emergent,
participatory performance which has, on the one hand, a character of
creative chaos (and, thus, resilience), while, on the other hand, a
character of sweetness, irony and organic beauty which one has no problem
in recognizing as art, theater, performance.
The events which constituted this mini festival ("La Cura sullo Stretto"),
thus, were organized in this completely relational way.
The results were amazing. Not only a whole gallery and an entire university
department were dedicated to the events, but they collected the energies,
intelligences and resources of multiple intellectuals, activists,
researchers, professionals, artists, across disciplines and approaches.
But there's more. This joyful chaos that I described also had the effect of
eliminating barriers between gallery, university and city. Grandmothers,
children, passers-by, and relatives which were summoned by other relatives,
people from other cities, different departments joined in workshops and
discussions, comments from students and citizens alike. It was like a
market, an open air fair in the city, in which serious discussion at the
level of excellence in science and theoretical approaches (for example the
COSPECS department at the Uni of Messina is one of the most meaningful
voices in Cognitive Sciences in Italy, and they engaged theBioethics Dept,
which also hosts some among the principal membrs of the Bioethics Committee
in Italy, and the Departments of Arts, Psychology, Psychiatry, and more)
were intertwined with the life of the city, with elderly who had a chance
not only to be in company byt also to explore how technologies and networks
could contribute to avoiding loneliness and separation, with ordinary
citizens, students and more.
For us (and for the University, the Gallery and everyone involved) it was
an incredible experience, in which scientific excellence, beauty, tears of
commotion, workshops, food, granitas, and civic action all came together to
create an experience which was transformative for multiple people.
All facilitated and catalyzed by art, design and creativity.
All activated through the beautiful, noisy, live relations that are typical
of the cultures on this side of the mediterranean, methodologically.
There would be millions of other things to say about this.
What I would like to focus on is the model. That is: what kind of
innovation and development model this would correspond to.
Because, it must be said, the ways in which innovation and development are
measured in "standard" ways (the ones which are useful for obtaining EU
grants, for example, or with Ministries or Banking Foundations to obtain
funds) would be able to capture only a minimal part of the impacts and
effects which an action such as this one brings to the ecosystem of the
A quantitative analysis and, even more, the localized (spatially and
temporally) quantitative analysis which is the standard to construct the
indicators which are necessary to detail if you want to access, say,
Horizon2020 or other funding opportunities, would be able to capture and
represent only a minimal part of the impacts brought on by an happening
such as this one.
Furthermore, these indicators correspond to a very precise conceptual model
for the definition of "impacts" and "effects".
Instead, from what I described above, indicators which are networked,
emotional, relational, generative (meaning: observing the capacity to
generate X) would be needed.
And, thus, a different definition of "impact" and "value" would be needed,
In more than one way, the Mediterranean is and has been a model for these
kinds of definitions. Always a crossroad for trade, migrations, art and
war, it is a sort of internet before the internet: a network of networks,
creating a condition of ante-literam hyperconnectivity. The Mediterranean
as a hypertext: Ulysses comes back transformed only after having travelled,
surfed, link after link.
And, as recognized by Giampaolo Fabris in his Societing, by Cova, Carù and
Dalli with their Mediterranean Marketing, and by Giordano and Arvidsson
with the update and partial reset they have brought to both concept through
Netnography, these times are particularly fit for enactment of new models
of this kind. The epoch of transition; knowledge as main productive factor;
postmodernity as economy of postindustry; new social, semiotic,
antropologic value of consumism; new social aggregation around consumption;
shift from transition to relation; user as partner and committent; death of
mass marketing; social dimensions of marketing; from marketing to
societing. These characteristics which Fabris points out, are then used by
Cova, Giordano and Arvidsson to frame a new dimension of markets and, thus,
of value and of the processes which are needed to construct it.
This is evident in Matvejević's "Breviario", where the names of objects and
things transform from interaction to interaction, across the Mediterranean
sea. In the book "the mediterranean is not only a geography. Its boundaries
are not defined neitherin space nor in tim. We don't know how to determine
them, and in what way: they are incapable of being reduced to sovranity or
history, they are not state nor nation. […] Europe was conceived on the
Mediterranean." The word "Mediterranean" itself is a transdisciplinary
travel in history and across ports, lighthoues, cultures, religions and
arts, resisting and adapting through languages and jargons, and resisting
to encounters and wars.
Going back to the event where I started this narration, and on the value
which it might represent, and on the methods and tools needed to "measure"
(in lack of a better word) its impacts and effects, to communicate them, to
make them more accessible and, in the mantime, to describe-by-performance
new types of innovation: more gentle, inclusive, desiring, cooperative,
aiming at coexistence, not consensus.
This is a great, important question in our practice, every day: what
directions, methods and tools can we use to propose the mediterranean
versions of "innovation", "impact" and "value" and, at the same time, bring
up those new sensibilities which are needed to make it perceivable,
comprehensible and adoptable?
A sincere alliance between arts, sciences and technologies would seem a
great, positive solution to this kind of question. Going beyond current
approaches towards arts and science collaborations and promoting art as a
platform to get sciences out of laboratories and into crowded, narrow
streets, with smell of spices, kids running lively with creativity, elderly
sitting in chairs outside, transgressive traders conspiring in whispers,
robots carrying some inscrutable package along the road, shops like holes
in walls along the market hyperconnected to resources around the globe to
enact trade, professionals eating under roasted seafood under umbrella
kiosks, served by bots driven by artificial intelligences, and asking them
professional advice and tasks, while they cook.
When describing the Third Generation City, Marco Casagrande says that it
"is the industrial city ruined by the people – human nature as part of
Like a weed creeping into an air-conditioning machine the industrial city
will be ruined by rumors and by stories. The common subconscious will
surface to the street level and architecture will start constructing for
the stories – for the urban narrative. This will be soft, organic and as an
open source based media, the copyrights will be violated. The author will
no longer be an architect or an urban planner, but somehow a bigger mind of
people. In this sense the architects will be like design shamans merely
interpreting what the bigger nature of the shared mind is transmitting."
When Gilles Clement talks about the Third Landscape, about the moving
gardens, the gardens without a form, he does not point in the direction of
the disappearance of the gardner. Rather he talks about a new form of
gardner, one who does not use rake and shovel as tools, but, rather, "wind
In both cases, a new sensibility is needed. To recognize value where now,
in our present condition, we do not see it.
Clement and Casagrande openly speak about a new education of the gaze, and
of the need for a new sensibility.
As does Gregory Bateson, when he describes the need for new aesthetics:
sensibility to a beauty to that which interconnects.
After all: "it takes two to know one."
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