Habit is a powerful driver of human behaviour, and a lot of things we do on a day-to-day basis are done the way they are not because it’s the only way, or even the best way, but simply because that’s how they’ve always been done.
Under quarantine, all of that changes. Habit is instantly broken, as almost every aspect of daily life needs to be reconsidered in the light of the risk of bringing danger upon oneself or others.
Goldschmied & Chiari, Azione, 2020, photo by Gianluca di Ioia
At the scale it is being imposed in Italy, where I live and work, conditions one would have recently thought unimaginable have suddenly become normal. We don’t travel. We work remotely. We cook at home. Strange inversions happen: thousands flee the wealthy north, historically a destination for migrants, in search of relative safety in the south, only to be rounded up by the authorities and placed in quarantine as they get off trains. And so on. Life, however, goes on, and we find new ways of doing what we’ve always done. With the Triennale closed, we’re forced to put all our programs on hold. But we see this as an opportunity to question our habits in terms of exhibition-making and test new forms of cultural production compatible with the conditions within which we operate. Since last week, we’ve been experimenting with the idea of a new Decameron, a performance series inspired by Boccaccio’s tale of ten young aristocrats escaping the boredom of 14th-century quarantine by telling each other stories while waiting out the Florentine plague at a villa in the Tuscan hills. In the same way, every day at 5.00 pm an artist, designer, musician, performer, intellectual or poet will offer his own storytelling for Triennale. All this is more than just a fallback option - it’s a way to question our assumptions about how we operate as an institution.