Where will you live?
Brief reflections on the quarantine
Throughout this long health emergency, and especially in the moments of great fear, when the spreading of the virus didn’t seem to stop and every media was telling us that the number of deaths was increasing, I wondered if my skills are useful and if art still has sense when we fear for our life.
They were days of estrangement in which we threw ourselves into reading books, watching films, looking online at museums we have never visited, finding in them and in the other accessible forms of art a moment of hope, of consolation and of necessary detachment from our daily lives.
That’s when I understood that art is cure: every work of art is a form of love, because every artist donates themselves to the other with enthusiasm and generosity, and this generosity creates an empathy with the spectator, who becomes a ‘resonating being’.
We can’t live without this enthusiasm. Art cures us of depression, and it is in this mutual caring, in this donating oneself that the sense of our life resides.
Thinking about this brought up in my mind the work Si aprono le porte (The doors open), which Giuseppe Spagnulo realised a few years ago to commemorate the martyrs of Padule di Fucecchio. The work, on display in Cintolese’s cemetery, is an enormous wheel made of terracotta blocks with as many numbers as the number of martyrs; some of the blocks have fallen creating a sort of portal inscribed in the circle.
Si aprono le porte is a secular sign, and yet it is impregnated with religiosity, alluding to a consolatory future. I remember both Giuseppe and the people present being quite emotional at the unveiling of the work; his soul was in that gift to us. Giuseppe died a few days later, but with that meaningful gesture the artist had reconciled us with our past and given us hope for the future.
Art is therefore also a collective experience, giving a community sense and recognisability.
A quick second reflection: what will happen to our being social? Will we still be able to trust each other and resume the right distances after this period of isolation? I thought about the Aristotelian concept of man as social animal. This concept has strongly emerged in this phase of reduced socialisation through the use of virtual channels, video conferences, video calls with which we have fed and kept alive pre-existing relationships; but the situation has also led to a new form of neighbourhood solidarity linked to intermediate spaces: we have been talking to neighbours we didn’t know we had, meeting in the gardens in front of our homes, on balconies, on communal stairs. These spaces will be radically different after this health emergency, and not only in our perception.
And this new solidarity, tenaciously grown like weeds, will need rethinking. These interconnecting spaces will be the cornerstones of the new idea of public space.
And there’s also a (re)found dialogue with a nature that has reclaimed spaces it had lost within cities, in parks and in streets. This will allow our renewed eyes to appreciate what we have at hand. Not only that, the new public spaces won’t be mere places of decompression between appointments, but contexts in which life can meet joy.