issue #23: Slow living
1. Judging by the many projects to which you devote yourself (designer, journalist for Vice and ItalySegreta, @dip_trasformazione_digitale, @loiconversano, @munchies_italia, @colazione.email and especially @vita________lenta), it seems that your life is not slow at all. Where did the idea of opening an account called Vita lenta come from? How do you approach the ideal of slow living?
You’ve got me… I try to live a slow life, but it’s not an easy thing to do and I don’t always succeed… I call it “the Vita lenta paradox” because I actually lead a fairly hectic life, and one of the activities that takes up the most of my time is actually managing the Vita lenta account.
To be honest, I have never espoused the workaholic philosophy of working a lot, and by force… Even when I worked in Milan as a designer, I didn’t work more than my eight hours. And for this purpose technology comes to my aid, because it is an excellent ally when it comes to efficiency: when I set out to do something I always find the most strategic and functional way to do it. Also because I am quite lazy, and so I need my moments of relaxation…. What I am doing is imposing a limit on myself, such as setting myself a maximum of one work call a day, just to try to safeguard my free time. Then there are some activities that are difficult to really automate or make efficient, such as monitoring the Vita lenta community: it’s a really crucial job for me, because it’s from people’s posts that I find inspiration for creating more content.
So for me Vita lenta is not just going to the beach and standing there doing nothing, but it’s also little things… like postponing a call if it’s not necessary…
2. Speaking of efficiency and free time, I think of design: on the one hand the need to improve processes to the point of exhaustion, and on the other hand the need to unplug to create. Is that a connection we can make?
Yes, it should be so, but in reality this is not the case… Before opening the Vita lenta page (2018), I lived in Milan. When I went back to Apulia for the holidays, I used to shoot videos that I would then upload to Instagram stories, accompanying them with a short Vita lenta copy: a pure and simple juxtaposition of two words in Italian. Then, during the pandemic, when everyone’s life was slow for real, I thought of sharing my archive by posting it on Instagram and creating a real “editorial brand.” From there on, I started engaging my friends and posting their videos as well. What I realized is that before Vita lenta I associated slow life with the theme of boredom, then instead with the theme of creativity.
3. Beyond your creative vision, what is your personal relationship with boredom?
The theme of boredom is really one that I wanted to address, good that you are talking about it! In 2018 I had done a presentation on boredom within the company I worked for; I was investigating the scientific aspect of it, namely the fact that boredom serves to settle thoughts. Then there is a psychological-motivational aspect of it, which is: I am getting bored, so I have to do something to get out of this state of discomfort; and that’s where the insights come! Because, after all, boredom is an incredible trigger for creativity. I believe that boredom has to be accepted and managed; it has to be part of our life. On a personal level, I’ve been bored very little lately … Doing many things together is my personal way of defeating boredom and other negative emotions I may have. However, I try to ‘artfully’ create for myself moments specifically dedicated to emptiness: such as no longer listening to anything during the shower (whereas in the past I felt the need to fill even that moment with music or a podcast), and thus a boring moment that often becomes very intellectually productive. For example, I am currently planning an event, and I confess that part of the event I planned in the shower….
This awareness on the issue of boredom comes largely from my experience with the Vita lenta project: to do this curatorial/creative work there is a need for research. For me, the designer should also spend a lot of time on research and personal introspection, and not only on project-oriented research that one has to do… In life one has to be curious in a broad sense, because one day all that knowledge will find its own space. Nowadays, for example, reading a book is considered a boring and useless activity and is therefore often avoided. And yet it is precisely because of its in-utility that it should be done: it helps you explore with your mind. In a creative craft like ours all value lies solely on knowledge-and not on a manual skill for which we have to practice repeating one thing a hundred times-and therefore the more things we know, and are able to connect them, the more we will be able to create innovative concepts.
4. In the videos and shots of Vita lenta, a very articulate humanity emerges, on closer inspection anything but simple, made up of habits and rituals, irony, contrasts, relationships, feelings. In this humanist potpourri, how would you define yourself? What kind of humanity do you recognize yourself in? If you had to describe yourself through one of the Vita lenta videos, what subject would it have?
What a difficult question… The humanity I describe is the result of chance, and this statement is the result of my curatorial thinking; as I said, I have a huge archive of videos from which I choose what to publish, sometimes even with difficulty because I would like to succeed in representing humanity in its entirety, precisely to get across the concept that slow life is something possible for everyone. So many people ask me, “Is slow living only for the elderly?” The answer is no, although older individuals are statistically more outdoorsy. I try to represent different types of humanity, even ethnically even though it is not easy, because it is a page with a strong Mediterranean feel…
Turning to the second part of the question: where I place myself I don’t know, it’s really hard to answer, there is, however, a reel of a guy in France reading a book lying on the quay. In my opinion it is very nice because the subject is in a very nice pose, in an interesting location and he shouts a very impactful expression, “I am going to read this book in the middle of nature, away from everyone and enjoy life…”
5. Have you ever felt like getting to know any of these people?
Yes, some characters make me very curious and I would like to know more about their lives. Most of the creators, especially the serial ones, actually know the subjects and talk to them first: Vita lenta, on the other hand, is much more spontaneous, there is nothing agreed with the people portrayed. I also say that the videos I post are not made by me, but by young creators who very often portray older people. I really like the fact that the page pushes for this dialogue between generations.
6. Speaking of the topic of cross-generations, I read an article of yours on the topic of generational change in Italian music: we are on the same line since in the last Issue of Caleido we interviewed Santi Francesi, winners of X-Factor 2022. Speaking of this new generation of artists, what are the motivational and interest levers?
It is difficult to talk about generations in a general way: each person is indeed different from the other, but patterns can be identified. For example, that of today’s generation of 30-year-olds has to do with having to escape from a fate that seems sealed: a tale of a “loser” generation, the most educated ever but earning less than their parents. So one motivation is to prove that they want and can “do well.” Another motivation pattern is the environmental one, that is, the fact that we have an awareness that we are sending our Planet in the wrong direction, and therefore we must do everything we can to change this direction. My hope is that there is also a third pattern: that is, change in human relationships. Our generation has indeed lived through a period of peace, taking it for granted, and now instead we have realized that peace was not so normal….
7. Another thing I am very curious about has to do with your private sphere: what is a ritual that makes you feel good and/or unlocks any moment of stagnation?
In the last two years my life has changed a lot: I moved back to Apulia, I started doing sports on an ongoing basis, taking care of my nutrition, and doing psychotherapy: very significant changes for my well-being. For me the most important ritual right now is breakfast – which is also the name of my newsletter – making my mocha with coffee at home, it gives me the energy to face the whole day. I also occasionally play padel – currently the most hated sport – but for me it is a way to meet friends.
8. Part of our curatorial work in Caleido is to choose images from our guests’ profiles. And doing a search on your account we come across a Milan chapter that, compared to Vita lenta, is a bit cumbersome. Why after covid did many people decide to go south working? I’m thinking for example of the guys from Gnambox, whom we interviewed at Issue 09 at Caleido, who decided to open a pied-a-terre in Lecce. What is this phenomenon due to, and in your case what was the driver?
My driver has been chance. Before the covid I was even thinking of buying a house in Milan: I experienced the city very well, I still have many friends. I went back to Apulia for the vacations and then stayed there for the second lockdown, during which time I began to mature in the realization that ‘my Apulian south’ was no longer what it used to be … it has become a very lively area! There are really interesting people there, many of whom are still making their way up and down from Milan. Apulia right now is a magical place. Then, if I really need to move, I take a plane and go wherever I want. To date there are very few moments when I have said to myself, “If I had been in Milan, I could have done this.” I never think I’m the only one who has been to Milan and seen the world, there are a lot of people who are doing cool things, you never feel alone.
9. Is the content of Vita lenta definable as “video art”? What do you think about this kind of artistic expression? Do you have any particular references?
I would call them video art in light of the fact that others have told me so (laughs), so I’ve been calling it an art project for a while. Also because that helps me in my goal of moving to other channels, such as physical exhibitions. In fact, I would like to move away from Instagram as the only channel. On the level of reference, when I started I certainly didn’t have as many as I have today. I say this modestly, but I think Vita lenta was one of the pages that, at least in Italy, contributed to the birth of this trend: we can call it neorealism, or neo-neorealism. At that time we were already starting to see on Instagram those ‘badly done’ photographs, which however differ from my videos: those of Vita lenta in fact are not ‘bad videos’, on the contrary! Some of them we can call cinematic, however, they have the characteristic of being non-staged, that is, they are not created at the table. Instagram photos tire because they continue to be fake in approach: I go to exactly that place to take exactly that shot or that shot, which has already been taken identically by a thousand other people. On some popular pages I have to say that this approach still works, Vita lenta however is different: many locations in the videos are totally unknown villages that you have to look for them in maps. That’s really my driver: don’t show you the Amalfi Coast that you’ve already seen countless times. So going back to the references: I can say that there was a lack of that type of video, which is now instead starting to become mainstream also because it has been adopted by many, including brands.
10. As a final question, I ask you what we ask all our guests: what is one object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory attached to it?
It is difficult for me to answer this question, because as of now I live in a rented house and I suffer from the very problem that I still don’t feel it is mine. If I really have to choose, however, I think of a Roy Lichtenstein print I bought in Stockholm, which has been with me forever. It kind of represents what my taste was when I was young … It has a hyper baroque frame, in fact when I was young I was also teased a little bit because I used to dress very colorful. Now I dress definitely normcore instead.