In-between spirituality and rationality, mysticism and materialism, science and intuition… here is the mystery of man’s origin, here in Spoleto @ the 61st Festival dei 2Mondi
Interview by: Silvia Motta
Translation by: Fiammetta Cesana
This summer Spoleto hosts for the 61st time the “Festival dei 2Mondi” (Festival of 2Worlds), a global reality that gathers, in the Umbria’s art heritage city, a unique selection of theatrical and cultural events and a large international audience. Fondazione Carla Fendi has been conducting a research and supporting action to the event for years, also offering a significant civic commitment, thanks to a philological renovation of the Theatre Caio Melisso. One year after Carla’s loss – one of the five sisters who created Fendi maison – the nephew, Maria Teresa Venturini Fendi, is pursuing the brilliant path traced by her aunt.
We meet her to engage with the new influence and impulse characterising this edition’s program.
On Sunday, July 15 she will give three awards, consisting in an economic donation for educational purposes, to Peter Higgs and François Englert, who both received the Nobel Prize in 2013 for the theorisation of the Higgs boson (commonly known as the “God particle”) and to Fabiola Gianotti, particle physicist, director of CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva.
“Last year there was a great void: Carla passed away only 10 days before the opening of the festival. Everything was ready and then the news came unexpectedly. I felt like I was dealing with surreal circumstances: I was there, and she was not… For specific dispositions of Carla’s will, I picked up her witness, and what made me happier than anything, beyond what hopefully I will be able to do, was this recognition. Then, inspired by her dynamism, I will try to carry on, working at my best, this reality that was desired and created by her.”
We all know how Carla loved beauty and harmony, looking for what is unforeseen, not obvious…
“Also in her long work in the fashion industry, she has always had intuitions. She aimed to be a forerunner, grasping things before they actually happened… with a spirit that I would define as pioneering.”
In this edition, entitled “Il Mistero dell’ Origine” (The Mystery of Origin), you have introduced a strong matter, which is science: one of today’s most involving subjects, but least observed and related with our visual and artistic world.
“… And also with our bodily world. Like the mobile phone, that didn’t exist before, now is considered as an extension of our own. We are even told that probably in a while we will have microchips under the skin, and why not… anything can happen. I think that science has always took into account and even addressed social changes, but today, more than ever, our daily life is increasingly permeated by this doctrine. In the future, in the new world, technology, robotics, medicine, diagnostics, artificial intelligence, all these new languages, also visual, will interact more and more with our body and mind.”
Science has always been part of human life: especially in the old days, when man was closer to nature…
“In Spoleto we talk about astrophysics, and we reward Nobel laureates in particle physics. With Fabiola Gianotti, I went to visit CERN’s great underground laboratory – extending from Switzerland, Geneva, it crosses the French border – where many scientists and thousands of people work, and where young people come from all over the world, as it is represented by 22 international countries. These countries might have contrasts between each other but, thanks to interrelations, are able to overcome them. And through collaborative projects and team work, as Gianotti pointed out to us, true friendships have born.
The interesting thing is that many different groups can work simultaneously but separately on the same objectives. They share a great passion, as theirs is a work of years. Working in there, you don’t actually know when it will end, and you already know that there is a very little chance that your work will lead to a discovery. Thinking about Higgs and his boson, he took 50 years to theorise it. Then, thanks to CERN, he had the great fortune that his theory’s experimentation was accepted and tested. Also CERN physicists worked a few years and then declared it valid for the scientific world. Through this edition of the Carla Fendi award, it emerges that from physics also come up great diagnostic discoveries, such as CT and PET scans. There are also hospitals in Italy that have protocols for cancer care that come from the research of CERN. The Web (World Wide Web) itself was invented by CERN and released in 1993.
But interacting with scientists, reading their stories, it is even more surprising to see that beyond the rational and rigorous research process, many discoveries blossom from a great dose of creative intuition. There is a lot of imagination, as several physics’ stories teach us, such as Hawking’s theory of black holes, and Einstein’s, Galileo’s, Newton’s rationale. When a scientific discovery occurs, sometimes it is marked by unexpected experiences, not regarding the study but with that creative twist. It has something to do with intuition, a bit like in the musical composition… The musical scale is rational, at its core there are the mathematical principles, but then there is creativity. Without creativity you cannot invent. And there is an artistic component. The process of musical composition is, in my opinion, the most fitting example to define the one of scientific research.”
One of the defining features of the Festival dei 2Mondi is to put together different worlds…
“Yes, indeed. In this case, two universes… The former Manna d’Oro Baptistery hosts SCIENCE, a 3D installation, an immersive 7 minutes video which illustrates the origin of the universe from the Big Bang to present day, closing with CERN laboratory. So it doesn’t trace the line from man to heaven, but from heaven to man. Made in collaboration with INFN (National Institute for Nuclear Physics), as we intended to show real processes chronologically. At the beginning of the prologue, Fernando Ferroni, the INFN president, said: Art and Science are not separate universes. I found the statement very impactful”.
Please, tell me about the installation Myths, Transfigurations.
“The Lucrezia Borgia museum (Lucrezia Borgia Armory), a former civic museum, shows this beautiful, sophisticated exhibition, full of eastern and western artworks, which symbolise the human intrinsic and eternal need of looking for the mysteries of the absolute. So, on the one hand we present the research process in a scientific and rational perspective, on the other side in spiritual terms.
Among the statues, there are both oriental schists, Buddhas and Greco-Roman marbles to symbolise gods and spiritual forces which man aspires to. They reveal the story of how East and West, meeting each other, could create and build around spiritualist aspiration and knowledge.
They come from a millennium ago when Alexander the Great went as far as to the East, that now is called Afghanistan, showing us the blend between western and eastern iconography through the drapery, the faces and the postures of the statues. At the entrance there is a huge headless figure that you would say it’s a Greek-Roman emperor, but it’s no, it’s a Buddha: that is unbelievable, you would never say it as the statute doesn’t have the head, it is up to your own interpretation. We have precious statues, artifacts coming from the former Tucci Museum in Rome – now at the “Museo delle Civiltà” (Museum of Civilisations) – and from the MAO (Museum of Oriental Art) in Turin, and important relics from the various Roman collections.
Coordinating the whole organisation must have been very effortful. How did you manage it?
“The exhibition at the Borgia museum has been curated by Quirino Conti, who is also directing the shows of the award. SCIENCE video installation was produced by us alongside Lucas and Federica Grigoletto. She is a simulator for space agencies like NASA and the Institute of Nuclear Physics. I wanted to do something that was as close as possible to reality even if very spectacular, creating a 3D circular projection which faithfully and chronologically reflects what is claimed by CERN and the INFN Institute of Nuclear Physics, which had to approve the whole work”.
It would be nice to show it after the Festival as well. What do you think about it?
“Yes, I would like to. We also produced a short film about Stephen Hawking. The daughter, Lucy, who attended the inauguration presenting her new book A Sense of Wonder, initially didn’t want to talk about her father. But then, after having seen the movie, she was very excited and talked a lot about him. It is an unpublished work, as it is produced by us. So, yes, we are trying to make this work and fun to last longer!”
You have reached a very high level and even with a private foundation. Which are your future projects? Could the Foundation work outside Spoleto?
“This is just the beginning and we hope to keep up with this level and improve it. Spoleto is a stage, a corollary of what we intend to do for the future: work with scientific dissemination, together with some institutions. And then we would like to do something for the social environment since, paraphrasing scientific words, there are many black holes throughout the Italian social sphere. We face a difficult time in which the most vulnerable people, such as elder ones and children, pay the price for it.
So is the philanthropic focus a new mission for the Foundation?
“I don’t like to call it a philanthropic work, but I prefer to call it a new ecology of the soul. Carla had already done related works in the past, but now I would really like to focus on this new theme, on knowledge to support the weakest and the minorities”.
Festival dei 2Mondi Spoleto 61
Fondazione Carla Fendi
Spoleto, Umbria, Italy
From Sunday 1st to Sunday 15th of July