From circularity to tricircularity: for the development of a circular paradigm
Cittadellarte’s director reflects on circularity, explaining how this concept is not ideal, inasmuch as it can preclude and lead to a ‘closure’, Naldini therefore illustrates three terms facilitating the development of a circular paradigm: interlocality, horizontal scalability and tricircularity. This last key word, which he is proposing, recalls a network of locality by expressing a vision addressed to building connections between ecologies and economies. “The paradigm of tricircularity,” – he claims, – “implies the concept of circularity, but it intends and extends it in a horizontal and polycentric, or rather acentric, perspective”.

The circular paradigm has established itself as a turning point compared to the linear one, indisputably failed. The circle can hide traps and limitations too, though. Circularity, which implies the idea of a cycle and auto-feeding, can lead to closure: in the event that a local ecology manages to perfectly accomplish the paradigm of circularity, how much will it care about what’s left outside the circle? It’s the theme of scalability, in technical terms. Or of the other, in terms of political philosophy. Human societies tend to “climb vertically”, which in the case of the circular paradigm might assume the forms of a widening of the circle. From the neighbourhood to the city, from the region to the economic area, from the country to the confederation to the planet. Circularity would remain intact and possibly even perfect. We would in fact have an empire. It wouldn’t be the first time.

There are at least two key words – and a third that I’m proposing here – that help explore different directions in which to develop the circular paradigm: interlocality, horizontal scalability, tricircularity.
Interlocality recalls a network of localities, i.e. it expresses a vision addressed to building connections between ecologies/economies. It conveys the paradigm of a network in which the knots are circular ecologies.
How to connect one to the other? Horizontal scalability aims at this objective. More than the paradigm of the empire, we can assimilate it to yeast or gemmation, a process according to which a ‘mother’ circular ecology produces other similar or identical systems.

The problem is therefore how to connect two different – both valid and legitimate – circular ecologies, between which there is an empty space, a membrane, be it physical, geographical, cultural, historic, demographic… Homi K. Bhabha talks about interstitial or ‘in between’ spaces, and describes their high generative and innovative potential. Pistoletto proposes the paradigm of trinamics, the dynamics of number three, which comes into play when a dynamic balance generated between two different or even opposite elements produces a third element (a third circular ecology, in our case) which wasn’t there before. It’s the creation. But the two starting elements remain. We are therefore in front of a trio. Considering this dynamics applied to circular ecologies we can speak of tricircularity.

The middle ecology interacts with the two pre-existing ecologies, connecting them. The trio can in turn represent a new starting element (for example an alliance or a group of local organisations) able to reiterate the above described dynamics connecting to another circular ecology (of the same or of a different order, i.e. possibly a new group). This way, the circular dynamics can extend in a virtually endless and continuously evolving pattern in full respect of the identity and autonomy of the other, with which new relationships and links will develop, giving life to new interstitial ecologies of connection and sharing.

The paradigm of tricircularity implies circularity but it intends and extends it in a horizontal and polycentric, or rather acentric, perspective.

We need the science of tricircularity, we need the arts. Fondazione Pistoletto works in this transversal and collective field, with local communities, institutions, companies and organisations of the most diverse natures, experimenting with actual prototypes of social design, with working sites (active or about to start) in Cuba, Rome, Biella, Melbourne, Quito, Budapest, Buenos Aires.
The symbol of the Third Paradise (a reconfiguration of the infinity symbol widening the point where the two circles meet to create a third central circle) represents this initiative which has involved over 4 million people in events and processes originated from art and deployed in daily life, in the organisational practices of the social fabric. The method with which the working sites develop is theoretically founded on the transformative and governmental potential that civil organisations composing the social fabric already actually have. Democracy is carried out attaining a factual (as opposed to ideological) practice. We call this shift Demopraxia.

If circularity can provide the demopractic working sites with sustenance and practices, tricircularity could represent a turning point in the spreading of the circular paradigm.

Paolo Naldini
Biella, 23rd July 2020

Cover image: Piazza Santa Brigida, La Pigna, August 2012, Sanremo’s Rebirth/Third Paradise Embassy, photo by Karl Khoe.