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That unionist, Leporello

· “Don Giovanni” at the Scala and the economic crisis ·

Being moved by art will not increase the gross national product. On the contrary, the more the GDP falls, the more art is perceived as an intellectual refuge, an instrument for dealing with existential or psychological difficulties which necessarily derive from economic ones.

Of course, if they don’t give me my pension, I probably won’t be able to be moved by a Caravaggio, even if I can see it for free in a church in Rome. But if my salary loses its buying power, the same Caravaggio can help me to fill that gap between what I would like to buy and what I can afford. And this is a risk for economists who maintain a safe distance from art because it may be that Van Gogh’s final period will move them more than the latest IPAD model. And perhaps they will keep their old model and resign themselves to the fact that it moves a tenth of a second more slowly. The collapse of consumerism and their theories follows.

When things are not going well, however, music, theatre, cinema and books can fill existential voids more than automobiles and other consumer goods that publicity tries to sell as panaceas. Not because the umpteenth Christmas vacation somewhere distracts us and allows us not to think about anything, but, on the contrary, because standing before a gigantic Mark Rothko we can enjoy and at the same time better understand what is happening around us.

Public service, then, becomes an essential instrument for mass reflection. For example, to be able to watch live on television the opening night at La Scala in Milan (in Italy on Rai5, December 7th 17:45), is an instrument for growth which should be taken into consideration in economics together with finding some funds for re-starting the sector. More precisely, in countries with a long-term outlook, the first thing to be done when the economy languishes is invest in culture.

If more attention to culture on the part of media and economics is necessary, it is also true that cultural institutions cannot continue to function on autopilot. Too often, when there is money in the bank and a concert to organize, the practice has been to call up an agency and find an internationally famous artist to book. It is a method which has always been misguided and is even more so now that both the private and public sectors are more attentive to where they put their money for culture.

There are two roads open: continue to complain about lack of funds, because there is a lack of funds and squander what little there is on passing concerts or continue to complain about lack of funds, because there is a lack of funds and use the opportunity to create strong programs which are original, cost nothing and therefore cannot be bought.

Art, culture, economy and public service could then find their moment of synthesis: art helps the individual to feel his lack and therefore the crisis less intensely, culture helps to re-launch the economy, and public service triggers a virtuous circle which makes it all apparent.

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