Speaking as a guest on Fabio Fazio’s TV program “Che tempo che fa” on Rai 3, in March 2010, artist Michelangelo Pistoletto explained to the public the project he produced for the 51st Biennale di Venezia: the Third Paradise. This work of Land Art takes the symbol for infinity and uses it to explore the issue of the unsustainability of our modern model of growth and the need for global rethinking to generate a new relationship between humans and the planet. Also listening to him was the FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano, a non-profit foundation that’s been working for over 35 years to safeguard Italy’s heritage of art and nature. Deeply impressed by the artist’s words, the FAI invited him to create a new version of his Third Paradise in a clearing in the Bosco di San Francesco in Assisi, a splendid example of Italian rural landscape (64 hectares) that Intesa Sanpaolo donated to the Foundation to be reclaimed and upgraded. In June 2010, Michelangelo Pistoletto took a pair of oxen and ploughed the symbol of the Third Paradise, a huge circle flanked by two smaller ones. 121 olives trees were to be planted along this symbolic furrow. In November 2011, the work was opened to the public and thus became a ritual walk ideal for reflection and self-awareness. Exactly two years on from the opening, Michelangelo Pistoletto told us about the genesis of a work that in May received the prestigious accolade of the Louvre Museum in Paris. What made you accept the FAI’s invitation to create a Third Paradise in the Bosco di San Francesco? The sign symbolizing the Third Paradise was created in 2002 and was produced in many places and with many different materials. But it’s in the Bosco di Assisi that it’s found its “focal” point thanks to the historical resonance that the message of friar Francis has had all over the world. A message that still expresses the need to feel united and close together and to live, indeed relive nature, certainly not to go back in time but to go forward using new technologies and sciences that help protect and safeguard it. In Persian, “garden” means “paradise” and here we’re in St. Francis’s garden. Is that the same message as the Third Paradise’s? The sign of the Third Paradise symbolizes union between nature and human artifacts. Having lived in full integration with the landscape, humans started to change it to suit their needs. In the last two centuries though, technological development has so intensified and extended the process that it is now a serious threat to the survival of our planet. To avert this imminent catastrophe we need start a new era characterized by virtuous integration between the natural world and the artificial one. An integration symbolized by the mirror-finish steel antenna placed at the center of the work to unite sky and earth. What sort of experience does walking amidst the work’s 121 olive trees give you? When spectators come to the large clearing that accommodates the Third Paradise (dominated by the Rocca Maggiore di Assisi) having walked through the woods along the Tescio (stream), they start out on a ritual course leading to awareness of a new relationship between humans and nature that we must all help create. The Earth is our Paradise. The time has come to start protecting it again, above all by changing our lifestyle, not only in practical terms but also morally, ideally, aesthetically and spiritually. The opportunity offered by the FAI to create the Third Paradise is fundamental: the visitors who walk along it activate the work themselves and thus become a creative part of it.
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