This article was originally published on Domus 1079, May 2023.
At a time when the words community, solidarity, participation and the dignity of work are being keenly batted around, yet often abused and exploited by ordinary folk and above all in the political conversation, last March Academia Berlucchi unveiled a new project on the hill where the Castle of Borgonato stands in Franciacorta. The initiative is notable for its cultural honesty and humanity, and for correctly implementing participatory art.
“Vite Operose” (“Industrious Lives”) is the inaugural art project of the Casa dei Talenti Berlucchi, the first of a triad that will also illuminate Brescia and Bergamo to celebrate a hard-working region chosen as Italian Capital of Culture 2023. Involving workers of the famous winery, it was led by artist Valerio Rocco Orlando under the curatorship of Caroline Corbetta.
The purpose was to sum up the many facets of their work and the humanity of the workers themselves in a single phrase. Twenty people (out of a hundred) took part in the weekly workshop sessions on a voluntary basis. In the end, the phrase chosen to be set in the form of a neon sign on the tower, above the vineyards and clearly visible from the surroundings by day and especially when the evening shift ends and the sign lights up, was: “Il lavoro ha diversi volti” (“Work has many faces”).
The essence of the artistic work lay in establishing a pact of trust and becoming involved in a project without hierarchies. The process surprised and fascinated the participants, as well as those unable to take part in the workshops, with everyone seeing their experience expressed in it. In the coming months, the other two stages of the project will begin, with further workshop sessions and two neon sculptures, involving the community of students at the Politecnico delle Arti in Bergamo and cultural mediators at the Santa Giulia Museum in Brescia.
Opening image: Detail of Castle of Borgonato with the neon sign, almost 6 m long and made by hand