Interview to Filippo Del Corno - ISPLORA

Lockdown won’t stop culture


The shutdown of the cultural industry, first in Milan and in the Italian peninsula, then on a European and global scale, is a traumatic event for the knowledge-based economy. Today we remote interviewed the Councilor for Culture of the City of Milan, Filippo Del Corno.

Continuing along our path of creation and critical mass communication, today we remote interviewed Filippo Del Corno, Councilor for Culture of the City of Milan, who, through our channels, sends an important message of reaction to the crisis, strength and solidarity.

With the MET in New York closed until July, the New York Times reports an estimated economic loss of around 100 million USD. An emergency of art, not only in Italy, but worldwide. An economic crisis in the cultural and tourist sector. In your opinion, as Councilor for Culture of the City of Milan, how can we react to such a crisis and above all to this challenge?

I would rely on the etymology of the word crisis, which within it also holds the possibility of a reconstruction, of a positive opportunity, of rebirth. I think this crisis is basically revealing the extraordinary importance that culture has on a social and economic level for local and global communities, but also a certain fragility: inevitably, when the possibility of sharing the cultural experience diminishes, this system loses its balance. Here, from this turning point, starting again to understand how to make the sector of culture more stable, stronger, less fragile, in the awareness of its irreplaceable importance.

A series of "anti-fragile" initiatives are taking place, to quote N.N. Taleb, projects that focus on culture with new digital formats, with the aim of bringing the cultural experience beyond the limits of physical space and geographical boundaries. This is where the experience of has always placed itself.

It’s a very stimulating perspective. The digital infrastructure is showing potential that before now were always considered secondary and, instead, today are explored and traveled on. We are seeing a great reactive ability on the part of cultural subjects and institutions in responding to the necessary isolation with pro-active actions to turn the sharing process from physical into virtual. Certainly at this moment the digital dimension in the diffusion of culture is linked to the emergency situation, because it contradicts the economic and social aspects, which are crucial for the well-being of a community. However, I believe this moment of virtual reality of the cultural experience is precious, because it’s a very strong reaction mechanism.

What is Milan doing in this sense and what could it still do?

Milan has launched a specific program, MILANO COLLABORA, a platform that puts different experiences online making them accessible to our fellow citizens, a sort of critical mass in solidarity with what the cultural and social sector is going through. For example, as a direct service of the administration, the Media Library Online (MLOL) project allows access to the online library catalog: real and concrete bookshelves become virtual. Another experience, not directed by the administration, is the “Fondazione Cineteca Italiana” which has made available a catalog of its audio-visual heritage which over the years has been kept, protected and digitized.
Although aware of the emergency aspect of this moment, these are examples that show how direct services of the administration, but also institutions and cultural associations, have reacted and are reacting pro-actively. However, the social aspect of cultural sharing exists when experience has a physical characteristic: an emotion for a concert, a show, rather than an exhibition or a museum. In addition, culture is based on the balance given by the fact that it isn’t free, defining an overall economic sustainability, which is now highly endangered and for this reason, cultural sharing must not take place exclusively in a virtual form.

From a virtual experience in an emergency situation to a model of widespread culture. How can it help us today and, above all, how can it come in handy tomorrow?

In recent years the city administration has developed innovative projects for the urban diffusion of culture, for example Piano City and Book City and the support we have given to subjects who work in difficult territories. The element of physical sharing of cultural experience creates social networks that give the territory new proteins for the community fabric. This is exactly the risk we are going through right now: contracting and reducing that extraordinary energy of territorial sharing that we had achieved with the model of widespread culture in recent years. I want to imagine that when the emergency is over, we will return to regain possession of public spaces to share cultural experience as we have done in recent years.

A widespread culture that therefore has an urban depth: what will happen in the future in the city, through its institutions and places?

The crucial point is represented by places: returning a public purpose to the most fragile places in the city to develop a new aggregative dimension. Take, for example, the Cinema Armenia, the Centro Internazionale di Quartiere Cascina Casottello in Corvetto in Milan, the charm of Mare Culturale Urbano in the Torrette district, the Biblioteche di Condominio in many neighbourhoods. All these experiences represent an extraordinary network of sociality and, let me say, of security. This is the great path that the city is following.
One of the issues we will question ourselves about is whether this emergency will interrupt this path or, on the contrary, will strengthen it. We are in a phase where we are all allies, but the leader of the alliance is the scientific authority, doctors and researchers. We, who manage cultural policies, are responsible for understanding how to plan the aftermath: a moment to reformulate parameters, ideas and certainties that this situation has called into question. But we mustn’t retreat a single inch.

The issue of the re-appropriation of places of culture generations and disciplines to intertwine. Can it be the basis for a new cultural policy?

In part it already is. I think this moment of interruption must lead us to rethink in a lucid, critical but also aware way the path that has been taken by the city in recent years. Inter-generationality and multi-disciplinarity have been very important elements for the growth of the community. However, perhaps an important effort we will have to make in the future is to address public policies also in the creation of mechanisms for the diffusion of specific skills regarding the planning of cultural realities. Aside from direct investments which will be increasingly difficult in economic terms, perhaps a substantial share of responsibility should be added, that is, understanding that the diffusion of culture has a political responsibility, where the element of "attractiveness", a term that suffers today from a certain "drunkenness" can become subsidiary rather than crucial. This in my opinion will be one of the biggest changes this crisis will bring.

Finally, a message that could therefore pass almost as an "antidote", is to work on training.

Yes, working on the training of specialized figures in the various aspects, economic, organizational, in terms of content. Forms of spontaneity become very fragile when external circumstances such as the one we are experiencing are involved. In addition to supporting them, however, there is also the ability to transfer specific skills that can help make the system less fragile. These days there is a bit of a controversy over the fact that a critical situation like this will, so to say, dismantle the mechanism of the “weeks” that has animated Milan in recent years. My answer is that this mechanism actually created a critical mass in many organizations and associations that allows them to face this difficult moment, being able to count on strong alliances that were previously absolutely absent, bringing together large institutions and small associations, disciplinary sectors very distant from each other, public and private and this is perhaps also an outcome of that mechanism. It must certainly be rethought, some aspects need to be transformed, however participating with so much superficiality in thinking that a crisis like the one the entire world is going through now questions a structural path that the city has instead made seems to me a really wrong approach.

A network that is not always visible, the city of relationships, structures and alliances that keeps us afloat at a time like this. And the existence in Milan - and in a wider local and global territory - of this network today manages to keep us hanging.

Yes, it keeps us connected and supportive. An aspect that can’t be forgotten. Having created highly inclusive mechanisms triggered solidarity between structures, institutions and associations that up to ten years ago did not talk to each other and did not consider each other as interlocutors. Now, however, this network is demonstrating a pro-active, positive reaction capacity, which in the end will put in place many interesting signs that we will have to be able to read and accompany.

Signs that need to be read, interpreted and accompanied. Signs of a present capable of slowing down, metabolizing and restarting with greater awareness and responsibility. Signs of a network, a network of relationships and ideas that are built in the city, through cultural sharing and the social experience of architecture, between places and people, physically and virtually.


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