“The Formula of Creation,” the comments of the readers: an interview with psychologist and psychotherapist Alessia Antonini
Michelangelo Pistoletto's new book, The Formula of Creation, published by Cittadellarte, was released on 21 December, and it traces, step by step, his personal history and, contextually, the process through which human beings have created religion, politics, science and the cultures of society thanks to the germinal ferment of art. With a view to giving readers a voice as well, we propose an interview with Alessia Antonini, who was the first to purchase the book on Cittadellarte’s online store.

21 December 2012 and 21 December 2023: the first marked the launch of the Rebirth Day, the event promoted by Cittadellarte as a celebration of the Third Paradise and dedicated to the day of rebirth, in which each individual is invited to take on the commitment to collaborating in a responsible transformation of society; the latter, 11 years later, is the date of the world event proposed in the wake of the principles of the trinamic symbol, i.e. the official release of Michelangelo Pistoletto‘s new book, entitled The Formula of Creation. On this evocative date, the book was made available for purchase directly from Cittadellarte Store or on the store’s website. Among the many customers who bought the artist’s literary work, we symbolically contacted the person who placed the order first: Alessia Antonini, psychologist and psychotherapist, “passionate about art and Lake Maggiore,” she introduced herself, “which is the setting of my life. Art, especially contemporary art, is for me curiosity, it is strength, it is the continuous discovery of new visions, it is emotions exploding in my guts, it is sentiment and reflection”. Within minutes of being posted online, she had already purchased the book, as if she had been waiting for it with anticipation. With a view to giving a voice to the readers of The Formula of Creation as well, we propose an interview with its ‘first reader’.

The book
In this book, edited by Chiara Belliti and Ruggero Poi and published by Cittadellarte, Michelangelo Pistoletto recounts in 31 steps the human and artistic journey that led him to define the formula of creation, which he himself also calls the formula of life. The book traces, step by step, the process through which human beings have created religion, politics, science and the cultures of society thanks to the germinal ferment of art. “In these pages,” reads the synopsis, “we understand how to deal with the epochal passage that humanity is experiencing, engulfed in the general crisis of the systems it has created. With The Formula of Creation, Michelangelo Pistoletto offers us the opportunity to reconsider the cornerstones of our existence and calls us to a new responsibility towards ourselves, towards each other and towards nature, of which we are part. It is the book that turns over a new leaf”. The universal rule, identified in The Formula of Creation, becomes, through the book’s development, applicable in every moment of our lives. It is an invitation to use the Formula of Creation to become co-authors of a new society.

Alessia Antonini at Castello di Rivoli with the mirror painting Three People Pushing the Sphere of Newspapers
QR Code – Buongiorno Michelangelo – by Ugo Nespolo 1967 – 1968, Turin
2021, silkscreen print on supermirror stainless steel, 250 x 150 cm
“To see myself in the work, to be part of it,” said Antonini, “and to create a new one through my photography… it is a powerful feeling, of completeness”.

Alessia, first of all, why did you decide to buy the book? And why the urgency?
I have long had a passion for art, particularly contemporary art, because I find personal emotion in it. Years ago, however, I did not want to immerse myself in this world, because I considered it too daunting. I had built myself a glass ceiling. Until one day I went beyond the limits I had set for myself and realised that there is no limit to what I can love. That is how Pistoletto’s art came into my life, and I thought that I wanted to get to know more about his artistic practice, I was very curious about it. When I heard about the release of the book on social media, I decided to buy it. I even put a note on my calendar to buy it as soon as it was available… (she smiles). I wanted, in fact, to understand the whole macro-world of the artist: I guessed that a book of that title would encompass and summarise Pistoletto’s thought in a single volume. The reading turned out to be much more than that…

What impressed you most about the book and what did it leave with you?
I was surprised by the fact that the text is not only fluent and engaging, but also complete in its content, including history, art history, science, communication, philosophy and even, to some extent, psychology. Moreover, all these topics – always embodied in everyday life – are touched upon with immediacy, simplicity and lightness. I was particularly struck by the relationship between the I, the you and the we of the Third Paradise, a symbol that I consider revolutionary in its simplicity. Both in the book and in the artist’s practice, I also find the transition from utopia to reality particularly relevant. In my profession there is a mixture of the abstract and the concrete: in psychotherapy there is a continuous transition between the abstract of the session and the concrete of the patient’s everyday life. With Cittadellarte, Pistoletto has shown that it is possible to move from possibility to reality; this has been a personal and professional catalyst for me and I have also had a colleague of mine who is involved in a delicate project read parts of the book.

Who would you recommend reading it to?
To everyone! Anyone, in my opinion, can find parts of interest in the book because what is treated in the book has repercussions in everyday life and because in its content the artist ranges widely, touching on every area of the social fabric. My partner, for example, despite being a computer scientist with fewer humanistic skills and concerns than myself, was pleasantly surprised by many passages in the book, such as, for example, the part on the multiverse.

At the age of 14, Pistoletto drew his first self-portrait under the guidance of his father and, ever since then, he has used the mirror to shape his creative process, an instrument that he deemed becoming “indispensable as I entered the age of my personal research totally aimed at the recognition of my identity”. As a psychologist, from the perspective of introspective awareness, how important is the recognition of one’s own identity?
It is fundamental. It is a long journey that starts at a young age: with children you can work using the mirror in a process of self-recognition, so they can better see who they are and who they want to become when they grow up, recognising their own uniqueness and diversity, and understanding that what they see reflected can be themselves in reality. Even with my patients with various pathologies, individual processes of self-acknowledgement are very important, because they are the basis for relating to other people and our planet. Therapy needs concrete practice that stretches to reality: in this process, a tool such as the mirror, which has a reverberation in life, can prove fundamental. In light of all this, I believe that Pistoletto’s work on the mirror, space and time is foundational.

Have you already been to Cittadellarte? Which work by Pistoletto do you feel most connected to?
Not yet, but I promised myself I would visit soon. As far as the work is concerned, surely the Mirror Paintings are the works that have struck me the most… I feel an emotional, almost physical attraction. However, when I have the opportunity to immerse myself in the spaces of Fondazione Pistoletto, walk among Pistoletto’s masterpieces and observe them up close, I will be able to answer in more depth.

In 1994, in his Progetto Arte, Michelangelo Pistoletto claimed that “it [was] time for the artist to take upon themselves the responsibility of establishing ties between every other human activity, from economics to politics, from science to religion, from education to behaviour – in a word, between the threads that make up the fabric of society”. As a psychologist, what responsibility do you feel you have?
The word ‘responsibility’ is important in my job, as is the therapeutic process a therapist follows with their patients, but behind this job there is a development that also concerns the personal sphere, not just the academic education. In order to focus on patients, we must first of all be aware of ourselves. I feel a lot of responsibility in the course of treating my patients: with them I share a bubble, where psychotherapy, aiming at their wellbeing, plays the role of a crutch in life, which, in time, allows them to walk again on their own legs.
As far as Pistoletto is concerned, I find his type of responsibility interesting, because it is non-judgemental and conveys important messages with an eye to the future. In this respect, although the outlook on the climate front takes on darker tones, the artist always opens a window of hope to light and to the possibility of doing: everyone must feel a social responsibility to co-construct a responsible future.