The invectives launched by the Italian government against France, which were promptly followed by French retaliations, present an opportunity to remember what France owes to Italy, as well as what Italy owes to France, and what the world owes to the meeting of both countries.
It is not necessary to make an endless list of both countries’ artists who have worked in each other’s respective country, or the universal masterpieces that are the byproducts of these meetings, but it is nonetheless an appropriate time to give meaning again to this dialogue, which is over a thousand years old.
First of all, it must be remembered that it was through this dialogue that a great many concepts and practices were born, which remain, to this day, not only our own practices and our own values but also those of the world.
The dialogue between the artists and intellectuals of these two countries has indeed created the conditions for the birth of the artistic, intellectual and political Renaissance of the fifteenth century, of which we are largely the heirs, and which still feeds our conception of art. This dialogue is also an important part of what can be described as the Enlightenment, Human Rights, which constitute an important part of the common treasure of humanity today. And many other major discoveries that created modernity, which the Americans and Chinese have used as inspiration today.
Despite everything, we do not feel the same common fervor toward building the world of tomorrow.
France and Italy must find their way back to common projects. And there are many topic areas where it would be possible. To make myself understood, I will only take one example, an accessory that is often considered as material and trivial, but which is not: food.
In gastronomy matters, the art of eating well, the French and Italians have spoken to each other a great deal (for example, did you know that France is, after the United States, the second largest consumer in the world of 30 billion items called pizzas?). They have invented, separately and together, a large part of universal gastronomy. Italians invented the “slow food” movement; the French invented “the new kitchen.”
They still have a lot to say to each other and to the world.
It is not anecdotal. It is rather essential, because it is the food trade, and what we accept or refuse to eat, matters not only to the future of our major industries, from agriculture to tourism, but also to our relationship to the animal and plant ecosystem.
I could have taken other examples, just as legitimate and that would also be as deserving that we work together to improve the lot of future generations: architecture, object and garden design. All sectors that we believe to be anecdotal, when taking into consideration the major technological challenges, and that are not, concerning future challenges related to the human condition. All sectors in which French and Italians have already contributed so much to, but separately and together.
And what if we wanted to add a truly technological issue, then there is one that would impose itself, because it follows from the above-mentioned, and it will soon have more importance than artificial intelligence: biomimicry, which contemplates on what nature has to teach us and to learn about the innumerable practical consequences.
In all of this, artists, scholars, both French and Italian, have already taken an interest in and can still do more together. It is up to them to lead the way, once again.
It is worth remembering that no artistic renewal arises and flourishes better than in a vibrant democracy, where artists are left free to create, invent, resist, and transgress.