mittelfest 2023

from 21 to 30/7



In that babel of languages, one did not understand each other, but was nevertheless united by the same destiny.
Vasilij Grossman, Life and fate

Coincidence and intention are two sides of a tapestry, my lord. You may find one more agreeable to look at, but you cannot say one is true and the other is false.
Ted Chiang, The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate

In the heart of an ancient eastern city, there seems to be a secret place, apparently an ordinary shop, but full of miraculous objects: anyone passing by and brushing quickly and distractedly against its door would see nothing abnormal. They would end up moving on. Instead, the young traveller, devoid of purpose and pretensions, rich only in his time and curiosity, who can wander hungrily through the tangled network of old streets, will have the good fortune to cross its threshold. Then the white-haired owner, an alchemist, will show him, perhaps, that strange mirror, which reigns in the centre of the room. The traveller’s attentive eye has already noticed the oddity of its reflection. It is not a mirror, but a portal to the years. On the right side of the frame, he is told, one can see that same place twenty years from now. On the left side, instead, one can see that same place twenty years ago. Anyone can pass through the portal, for the future as well as the past. The traveller, seduced by his irrepressible curiosity, passes through it from the right, to seek the self of tomorrow. What will life hold in store for him? Will he still exist, will he be rich or doomed to beg? The young man will find himself, older and wealthier, ready to welcome him with generous advice and thoughtful silences. When, restless and stunned, he returns from the portal, the traveller will resume the usual course of his time: he will risk, endure, rejoice, toil, until he becomes a wealthy and experienced merchant, rich in a wisdom that knows how to dispense advice and righteous silences. Only then will he return to the portal, no longer to pass through it, but to thank the mysterious alchemist, satisfied with how he reached the end of his life: he feels he has lived wisely, but he does not know whether because of his choices or because of inevitable destiny.

Our time, when viewed backwards, stretches out linear and secure, like the thread woven by the Latin Parcae, or the Germanic Norns, the arcane spinners of intricate human events. Any event reveals itself as an inevitable moment in a single and long history. So much is true of the life of each of us, individually, so much is true of the life of everyone. So, does this mean that the choices we make are not such, because they are determined by a given destiny? Do we glide swiftly, like balls on an inclined plane, straight towards a destination that cannot be avoided? What if, just a few steps away from arrival, something happens and the course of events changes? If one of the balls jolted off the plane, would that also be an inevitable fact?

Having reached, as Italo Calvino noted in his challenge to the labyrinth, “the phase of total industrialization and automation”, are we perhaps forced to act like automatons, to submit to the implacable mechanisms of an algorithm, to take inevitable steps in a world where “machines are ahead of men and things command consciences”? What is the margin still given to the decisive choice, to the one capable of changing the course of a mechanism that seems immutable.

Like the traveller passing through the portal of the years, or like those seeking answers for their future from the design of the tarot cards and the persuasive voice of the fortune teller, the vision of a distant future, standing there before us, however clear and defined it may seem at first glance, remains deceptive, because nothing reveals the long road it takes to get there. Seen from a distance and isolated from the rest, the goal of a distant future, whether seductive or terrible like the fortune of the tarot cards, can seem as definite as it is inevitable. Yet, as soon as one gets back into the maze of events, its features become blurred again. Once again one finds oneself settling or struggling with the decisions made and missed, never knowing whether, for better or worse, the point of arrival that awaits us is or is not inevitable. Who knows, maybe every destiny is a choice.

Giacomo Pedini, Artistic Director