Monday, February 08, 2021

The Political Role of Landscape

The Political Role of Landscape**

by Antonino Saggio

Today, I shared something on Facebook that received a lot of feedback.  I said: “We are at the end (or almost at the end) of architecture; it hardly interests anyone anymore, not even architects are interested in architecture anymore, which is something that I myself recently realized.”  As I mentioned, this Facebook post was a success and received a lot of comments.  And now, because we have the technology that allows it, and we are in 2019,  I am live on Facebook and, thus, I am speaking to this audience, and my Facebook friends at the same time: (here is the link for anyone who is interested in listening: 33Ddb1V).

I want to start off by saying that the speech that struck me the most in the last two years was by Senator Emanuele Macaluso, because perhaps, having passed the age of ninety, he speaks the truth, and says things as they really are.  He said : “All of the evils of this country derive from the disruption of the relationship between politics and culture,” which is, of course, a fundamental cornerstone of any society.  Without the aspiration to pursue meaningful purposes, politics becomes nothing more than a daily bargaining.  On the other hand, when culture is severed from politics, it become self-serving, academic, a deposit of specialized knowledge with no real-life, and life-changing applications. It is precisely in the disruption of this relationship that lies one of the evils of this country, which is something that happened slowly and steadily, but I’d say, almost inexorably.  I cannot add anything of value at the presence the President of the Constitutional Court about our foundational document, but there is no doubt that our Constitution was brought to life in the context of an extremely strong, and healthy relationship between politics and culture.  

 I actually published a book in 1984 titled “Giuseppe Pagano between politics and architecture”, which started with a long quote from Antonio Gramsci. It’s Gramsci, indeed, who inspired Macaluso.  It’s Gramsci, he himself a political leader,  when imprisoned by the Italian fascist government, who thought long about the meaning of the Italian culture.  He knew that without culture, political action has no intrinsic meaning. 
That being said, let’s take a step forward.  So if culture is not a self-serving deposit of specialized knowledge, what is it? How can we define what culture is? Well, I believe that culture enables us to navigate reality,  create roads, and pathways.  And how can we achieve this? The symbolic image is given to us by Violante: keeping layers of knowledge of the past on our shoulders, but at the same time, maintaining an intuition for the future.  Allowing one’s orientation through life, that is what culture does.  And this constant conscious movement is what changes the world: we must constantly change the world, laws must be constantly changed, because change is what is necessary to address new crises, and new challenges. 

I will not speak at all about my main area of research, which is, as it has been mentioned, the impact of new technologies in the world, but today I only want to briefly talk about the concept of “landscape”, because it is equally linked to “politics” and “culture”, and because it is one of the crucial aspects of the "city of the future” being discussed here. Long story short, the concept of “landscape” is an Italian invention that arrived, in a specific place, at a specific time: in Siena, with the frescoes of the Good Government between 1338 and 1339.  Before, there was no landscape.  And landscape is not something merely physical and tangible, but is the cultural, and political ability to interpret an aesthetically shared view of the world, to publicly represent the values shared by a community.   And so the landscape is the cultural, social and, as a result, political sharing of an aesthetic vision of the world, that is so important that was depicted in the frescos of the Good Government in Siena.  This is the reason we immediately think about Tuscany, when we think of the world “landscape”, because that is were the concept was born. But since then, we have had the cultural ability to elaborate dozens of new ideas of landscapes, that still represent shared values of a community, and create culture, and unity of vision around them.  And here the English language helps understanding this concept: they use the suffix “scape”, which means “visione” in Italian, and they match it to describe what they need to: and so it becomes “land-scape”, “industrial-scape” “cheap-scape”, “moon-scape” and so forth.  This reflects the concept of an ever-changing idea of community. That is not to say that we don’t have tools to preserve the classical tuscan landscape, but we have also the tools to understand the vitality of some outskirts areas, for example.  I am thinking of the Italian INA Casa, and in general, that 1950’s vision that has had an enormous value in terms of creating unity, and culture around it.  Today, we also have new ways to think about the future in which we operate.  I don’t want to talk in depth about this today, but one of the most important concepts that derives from the world of technology is that the "center is where the action is”.  There are no longer predefined “centers”, but the center is where we can act, operate, and today, “ action” is inexorably linked to information, and of a city of information, which we should let guide and inspire us. 

Avevo voglia di trovare uno degli interventi in cui parlavo di Emanuele Macaluso. Eccolo. Fa parte di una tavola rotonda nel convegno "Creativity and Reality" nel dicembre del 2019 di cui sono stati da poco pubblicati gli atti completi. Qui un paragrafo è aggiunto, la traduzione è a cura di C. Saggio

"Creativity and Culture" edited by Orazio Carpenzano, Alessandra Capanna, Anna Irene Del Monaco, Francesco Menegatti, Tomaso Monestiroli, Dina Nencini. Editorial coordination Francesca Addario, Alessandro Oltermarini
Published by Edizioni Nuova Cultura Roma 2020

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