Monte Verità: are you ready to change your life?

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This article is published in number 48 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until November 30, 2021

The work will end, at least as we have known it so far. An enormous amount of time thus freed will open up in front of us, possibly – let’s say – supported. We will be able to choose how to live. It is not a future. It’s happening. Yes, for the pandemic. People who do not return to the office, who go away, who run away and go into hiding, who give up the blow. That blow he could no longer bear. The car, the queues, the horrendous sound of the snack falling into the hole of the machine. The homes of the parents of the boomers, or those rented temporarily by the sea or in the mountains in the past two years, have revealed the possibility of profound health, necessary to withstand the next bio bombs to come. It is no coincidence that Liguria, comatose until the day before yesterday, has real estate fever, we read around. Being in the sun, especially in winter. Lie down not to make a bat, naked if you want. To breathe. To live. Healthy food. To finally be able to be with whoever we want.

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The free dance theorized by the school of Rudolf von Laban.

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Building mixed families, complex and collective social structures (“socialist”, it was said 150 years ago) dedicated to pure thought and to the most profound, and therefore also corporeal, expression of oneself and oneself together with others. Try doing a dreamteam of friendships, regardless of time, now that past, present and future have long been one.

All things happening now, at great speed. They don’t sound new at all, though. Let’s go and dig a bit at the beginning of the last century. For partly inexplicable reasons, iAt the end of the nineteenth century, Ticino became a land of landing for free spirits. A few years later, at the beginning of the twentieth century, some of these set their sights on Monte Monescia above Ascona, which even becomes «Monte Verità». First a core is formed, then a magnetic vortex that attracts people from everywhere, the best and the best, the most eccentric, the ante-political thinkers.cool.

Starting with the founders: Henri Oedenkoven from Antwerp, the pianist Ida Hofmann from Montenegro, the artist Gusto grasses and brother Karl Grasses from Transylvania. The rumor about this “free state”, about this free peak (which can be clearly seen from the highway, passing by) reaches everywhere and the community grows and becomes stellar: Otto Gross (who plans a “School for liberation of humanity »), August Bebel, Karl Kautsky, Otto Braun, perhaps even Lenin and Trotsky; then Hermann Hesse, Else Lasker-Schüler, DH Lawrence, Rudolf von Laban, Bakukin, the extraordinary dancer Isadora Duncan, Hugo Ball, Hans Arp, Max Weber, Hans Richter, Marianne von Werefkin, Alexej von Jawlensky, El Lissitzky, Paul Klee, and then gradually Walter Gropius and all the greats of the Bauhaus. And let’s get Jung, too.

The central house of the community of Monte Verità above Ascona (Canton Ticino, Switzerland).

The entrance gate of the community sanatorium; dancers in a group

And then, decades later, the great curator Harald Szeemann, to revitalize it when it was the case: the seventies, of course. And to think that already at the beginning of the century the balconies, there, had decorated them with the symbols of yin and yang. In short, a cast worthy of a great novel – and a TV series? not yet: but there was a film of the same name this year seen at the Locarno Film Festival, by Stefan Jäger, which tells one of the stories of female emancipation that could finally come true, then, up there).

Dressed in clothing poverty-chic, long hair, work gardens and fields and start building houses – the Tea House, the Russian House, the very bright Central House and many others -, newly conceived huts and wooden furnishing objects (which would make a mustache, chessò, to Formafantasma and to the tender recycling designers seen at the Alcova space at the last FuoriSalone in Milan). We see them relaxing, in fact, with eurythmy and integral sunbaths. Their bodies just want air, sun and water, light. Foods of animal origin are excluded (complete with a menu at the table that emphasizes it). Nature for them is the definitive work of art. Attention: everything is strictly proto-bio and proto-ecofriendly, and it couldn’t be otherwise. We were in the boil of the history of the first twenty years of the twentieth century, and between the two world wars, and just as now we were also escaping from the horror seen and feared again.

The summer school of movement art directed by Rudolf von Laban, active on the mountain from 1913 to 1919.

It was truly a forerunner experiment of possible communities still to be reproduced and adapted today, to put into practice a deep and real love for nature (and pain and antidotes for its disappearance, and us behind, or before) and the rediscovery of ancient forms but also unprecedented of common living outside the grids of urban or urbanized terrain, and still surprisingly projected towards the unknown, towards the Open.

There is now an exhibition, in Florence, which tells all this (Monte Verità. Back to Nature, curated by Chiara Gatti, Nicoletta Mongini and Sergio Risaliti, until 10 April 2022 at the Museo Novecento) with a powerful collection of materials: among these, the original leather suitcase of the founders, the “vegetarian chair” and the veggy menus, clothes linked to dances (absolute discipline of the place), sensational visual materials. At least these free men and women have done the experiment of seeking utopia on earth (a beautifully full-bodied and sensational experiment). Now it’s your turn to invent one, even less chic, but certainly urgent. The time has come to remove the curtains, to try – while preserving what can be saved – to go in the face of the sun.

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