Hominitheism and Demopraxy
manifesto by Michelangelo Pistoletto, 2012-2016

Michelangelo Pistoletto
Hominitheism and Demopraxy



Hominitheism and Demopraxy

This is my last manifesto.
The manifesto of a human being, at a certain point in space and time.
A being in part natural and in part artificial. Natural in so far as shaped by nature and artificial in so far as shaped by art.
An artfully made human being.
Its aim is to reconsider the foundations of sociocultural structure, to be specific of religion and politics, reinterpreting them through the new dual concept of Hominitheism and Demopraxy. It is my conviction that democracy (footnote1) cannot coexist with monotheistic dogmas. To demonstrate this I intend to follow the course traced out by art. Art has given rise to all the systems around which human society has been organized over time. It is the primary initiation. The first work of art consisted of the imprint left by a hand on the wall of a cave: the imprint of a hand is not the hand, but the representation, and thus the concept, of the physical hand. With the birth of the concept, human thought came into being.
The imprint of the hand is the steppingstone between the unconscious animal and the conscious animal, between the nonhuman and the human. Since that time, every act of initiation (footnote2) has reconfirmed and celebrated this primordial transition. The significance of the work of that unknown artist is immeasurable for two reasons.
In the first place, it gave rise to the language of signs that permits the communication of thought. In fact, handprints in caves proliferated and were grouped to represent, in embryo, society.
In addition, between the reality and the virtuality of the hand, art has opened the doors of the unknown and developed the sphere of the imagination, which has grown until it has become an entirely metaphysical universe. We think of this metaphysical universe as a Spiritual Arch. Religion has taken possession of it in full, considering it the work of a supreme artist. As a consequence, it lays claim to a monopoly of the unknown.
It is in the unknown that the Spiritual Arch traced by art advances.

And it is in the realm of the unknown that science carries out its research. But unlike religion, it offers provisional and relative answers. Therefore art, passing through the unknown, includes both religion and science. Religion and science exist because art gave birth to them with that first sign in the primordial cave. Since then, art has never ceased to play a part in humanity’s adventures, accompanying the evolution of society at every step. We now live in a society increasingly shaped by science and technology, in a world where artifice has become all-embracing.
Let us not forget that the root of the term artifice is the word art.
Understanding what art can do today is what this manifesto is all about.


From the Imprint to the Mirror 

In the middle of the 20th century artists, following a process of self-analysis of art, achieved total independence. They ceased to be the hands of the community and became individual hands. They took over the original imprint, turning it into a subjective sign. Thus artists assumed the greatest personal freedom and a matching responsibility in their relations with society. Personally, I have inherited this responsibility and assigned it a new function. This function consists in passing on the autonomy that the modern artist has developed with his or her own sign to every single person, so that they will be able to develop an independence of thought and assume an active responsibility for human coexistence. (footnote 3)
This manifesto has emerged as a consequence of the work I began sixty years ago, with the substitution of the hand by the mirror, understood as the maximum extension of virtuality in the face of reality.
I came to the mirror in search of my identity. Who am I? What am I? How can I establish my identity through art? Since I come from a totally figurative artistic culture, I took my personal appearance as the image to identify. To do this I utilized the method of the self-portrait, which requires use of the mirror. The image of myself, portrayed life-size, remained fixed in the picture, while the ground against which it was set became reflective. Into the mirror turned into work of art entered the world, and so my self-portrait became a self-portrait of the world. Through him or herself the artist discovers the other than self. The identity of my fixed image tallies with the identity of any other person who, looking in the mirror, carries out the same process of establishment of an identity as I did. Each of us, looking in the mirror, can examine the whole of physical existence that lies in front of the mirror. The exercises in truth that follow are part of this examination.
I propose, therefore, to share them with you.


Exercises in Truth 

The Mirror 
What is the function of the mirror?
To reflect what is in front of it.
If no one looks at the mirror, does the mirror exist?
The answer is no, because the mirror only exists in the eyes and thoughts of the person who looks into it. The function of the mirror cannot be separated from the mental process that communicates the concept of the real.
The mirror reflects you and exists because you look at your reflection in it. Only the exercise of thought makes the mirror work. The mirror exists solely if you recognize yourself in it. The mirror is an optical aid that the brain uses to investigate and know itself.

What is hidden in the mirror?
Are there mysteries lurking in the mirror?
The mirror has no secrets or mysteries, because it does not hide any part of reality. The mirror gives the lie to any arbitrary interpretation that we make of reality. No sign that we utilize to describe our thinking (be it a line, a point, a color, a word, an image or any other form of representation) can give a guarantee of being true, and so it can lie. The mirror presents the images of the things that it has in front of it exactly as they are. So it does not lie.
The mirror is the truth about reality.
The word truth implies, in fact, truth about something.
The mirror is the truth about things.
So the mirror is already an indication of truth.

But isn’t the mirror an illusion?
In the first place, the mirror in question is perfectly regular and does not distort.
Our perception of the mirror can, however, be clouded by the culture that has preceded and shaped us. There are cultural conditionings that distort the mirror. If we want to see ourselves correctly in it we need to take away these distortions and learn to read it.
The mirror has always been regarded as something magical, because it captures the image of the person, rendering it intangible and impossible to grasp. This magical thinking feeds the superstition that to break a mirror is to shatter one’s own identity and the certainty of one’s existence.
I have publicly shattered the mirror in order to put it back together again free of superstitions.

Relativity and the Absolute 
Does the absolute exist?
Yes, but it is relative.
Life viewed in the mirror appears to us to be totally encompassed in the phenomenon of relativity. The flows that lead to the formation of an image in the mirror are incalculable. Figures arrive from everywhere, approach one another, meet, intertwine and dissolve. In the mirror no form is privileged and the combination of the images takes place through the endless workings of chance, generating the phenomenon of relativity. The mirror testifies to the fact that relativity is all-embracing. The absolute, in fact, does not exist by itself, detached, distinct and distinguished from relativity, as the latter occupies the whole of time and space. The absolute, therefore, is relativity itself. This is one of the principles that derive from the truth of the mirroring work: relativity is absolute since it has no terms of comparison.

Chance and Chaos 
What is the difference between chance and chaos?
Chance is the height of punctuality, never early or late, just like every instant that is reflected in the mirror. Chance, viewed in the mirror, is the principle that combines all images, bringing relativity into action. Chance does not intervene just once but always and everywhere, forming the vortex of chaos. The imponderability of the scene in the mirror represents the chaos that is not disorder, but the only order possible.
The singularity of each accident is comprised in the immense vortex of chaos.
Chance can be symbolized in physical terms by a ball thrown into a group of people. Many of them will begin to make it roll around, starting a game. The actions of play, in fact, are designed to steer chance toward the goal that each of them sets himself in a direct clash between opposing players: from tennis to football to the random nature of roulette in which the adversary is chance itself. Gambling, therefore, is an attempt to coerce chance. Just as people try to guess the number that will come out of the roulette wheel, pinning their hopes on an unlikely win, they will put their trust in the chance of a miraculous cure when ill. As well as trusting in chance, we need to learn to make use of it.

Birth and Death 
Does the mirror give us any indication about birth and death?
The mirror tells the truth about birth and death. Every image that appears immediately disappears. It takes the place of the previous image and then gives it up to the next. Thus every image that is born simultaneously dies. The incessant dynamics of birth and death are concentrated in every moment of our existence and extend before and after that existence. The mirror always reflects the present, in which birth and death are inseparable, but at the same time it reflects the continuity of our presence beyond the moment. As if it were a movie shot in real time, we see ourselves moving and existing, for the duration of what we call life.

The Possible 
Is anything impossible?
Impossibility is relative to the possible.
Everything that exists comes from the possible and in turn creates possibility. The possible ends when it becomes manifest reality.
The mirror contains all that is possible.
The image that presents itself in the mirror today was not there in the past, but was possible. The one that will be seen in the mirror in the future is not there yet, but is possible. My presence in the mirror today was already possible when I did not yet exist. In the same way someone who will be born in the future is already within the possibility of the mirror: he or she just has to come into the world. All the past and all the future are a possible present in the mirror.


The Mirror in Front of Us and Behind Us 

The mirror opens up the expanse of the space before us in a continuous present, and at the same time, reflects us along with everything that is behind us. Thus we are also inclined to reflect the memory that is following us. And if we turn our back to the mirror, keeping in mind the awareness we have acquired through it, we know where we are going. In front of us lies the Third Paradise.


The Third Paradise 

The word paradise comes from the Eastern Iranian word pairidaêza and means a garden protected by the construction of circular walls, something that was done in arid and desert zones to screen it from the wind and maintain the level of humidity needed for the growth of plants. And to make fruitful a barren soil. Thus the concept of paradise was born out of artifice and was then utilized by Christians and Muslims for its ability to evoke a state of wellbeing stretching beyond life itself.
Why was the garden-paradise chosen as a metaphor? This metaphor was chosen because it appeared the best suited to representing life as a miracle. So the garden, a work conceived by the human being, was elevated to the status of a divine miracle.
For the Jewish religion, paradise coincides with the Garden of Eden. The term Eden derives from the Hebrew word edhen, which means place of delight, pleasure and bliss. But also a well-watered plain, or the land of the Fertile Crescent.
Subsequently Christianity adopted the concept of Eden, which became paradise on earth. This is the First Paradise, in which human beings considered to lack the capacity for independent thought lived in a paradisiacal state in so far as they were unaffected by the suffering that comes from wanting to understand and having to choose. As they were not the creators of that Garden of Eden, it was attributed to an omnipotent God. The metaphor of the bite of the apple represents the first moment of independence of the human being, and marks the beginning of the Second Paradise and the religious sense of sin. At that point humanity took possession of the natural world, exploiting and degrading it, turning it into an increasingly artificial world. The religious sense of sin has not been enough to check the growing abuse of our planet, which seems truly unstoppable, dooming us to eventual catastrophe.
Art, today, is asking science to apply itself to the creation of a new balance between artifice and nature. The apple with a bite taken out of it, logo of the famous technology company, has turned a symbol of nature into a symbol of pure artifice. The artificial apple has conquered the world, bringing the biblical image up to date and making it global. Science itself, in this passage that requires a genuine metamorphosis of human society, will necessarily have to work to mend the relationship between artifice and nature. The Apple Made Whole Again, a drawing I made in 2007, represents this act of repair. The Third Paradise is a consequence of the Apple Made Whole Again. It represents the society generated by this mending.
With the expression Third Paradise we are indicating a possible course for the human race. Aware of the symbolic function of art, I decided to propose a symbol that could be used to represent this course. It is based on the mathematical symbol for infinity, composed of an unbroken line that intersects itself to form two circles. In the symbol of the Third Paradise, the line crosses itself twice, shaping three consecutive circles. The two outer circles represent all the opposites, including nature and artifice where they have come into conflict. The central circle is the place where it is up to us to join them, so that they can impregnate the womb of a new society.
If the First Paradise was the time of unconsciousness and the Second Paradise was the age of knowledge, the Third Paradise ushers us into the age of responsibility.


The Path 

During a performance in 1976, I wrote on a wall “Does God exist? Yes, I do!” This declaration may be surprising, but in reality it is the essence of my reflections, and consistent with the practice of my art.
Below I recount the steps that led to my making this statement.
The child, from the moment of its birth, is protected by its mother or whoever is taking care of it. This is the First Paradise. Growing up, it gradually attains independence and develops the capacity to create. At the same time, it loses the protection of its mother. Seeking protection elsewhere, it creates an artificial one. This is the Second Paradise. Humanity goes through a process identical to that of the child. In search of this protection, it creates god. Thus god is an artificial creation. Just as society moves hand in hand with the life of a person, a person goes along with the trend in society. Society now feels itself more and more protected by the progress of science and less and less reliant on divine protection. Children, after passing through a phase of religious adolescence, become technological adults. Now, as an artist, I feel that it is up to art to help those adults along in their maturity, when they will have to assume total responsibility for their own protection, as persons and as members of society. Thus the time of protection on the part of god and science is over. Each of us, to the question “Does god exist?” will be able to respond “Yes, I do.”
This means that each of us is god, and so there is no longer just one god, as he is in everyone. The concept of Monotheism is replaced by that of Hominitheism.
To anyone who might associate this term with a presumption of power on the part of the human being, I would reply that humanity, as a whole, has no reason to exercise power over itself. That would be mere tautology. However, we see that today human beings have already, and to an ever increasing extent, exercised an emphatically devastating power over nature and themselves, in keeping with a vertical concept that, in Monotheism, places god at its apex. The responsibility for having created god falls on his creator and thus on human beings. The term Hominitheism signifies that from now on those human beings, by channeling their capacity for creation in a different way, will be able to apply it to personal relationships and from there extend it to the whole of society, so that it is totally regenerated.



I think that a real change in society can only take place through an outgrowing of the protection of god, or of science, in order to embark on a course of independence and individual and collective responsibility. If I still draw on the concept of theism, it is because it is rooted in human culture, part of our DNA. I don’t believe it is possible to bring about this change by severing all relations with our lengthy past. In order for this transformation to take place, the transition will have to be gradual. And as a consequence, this DNA will also be modified.



Looking back at the past, we can see the essential part religions have played in the great processes of anthropological formation and transformation of the whole world. Religions are true grammars of conduct, establishing practical rules, social rituals and customs, whether of small communities or large populations.
The religions that have conquered the greatest space in the history of the last few millennia can be classified into several major isms.

Literally “God is Everything” and “Everything is God”: a religious or philosophical doctrine that identifies god with the world.
Pantheism recognizes an all-embracing divine principle in the multiple forms of existence.

A religious system characterized by the worship of many gods, each of which exercises power independently of the others.
Polytheism was conceived as a way of toning down the social and religious tensions that emerged as a result of the fusion of different communities and getting them to coexist in a single domain by placing them under the protection of different gods. This served to avert social conflict and promote a single political and religious project centered on the person of a pharaoh or an emperor.

A religious system characterized by the existence of only one god.
Monotheism was generated as a reaction to polytheism on the part of peoples enslaved and tyrannized by dominant powers. The religion of the one god became a hope of liberation for the weak and oppressed in every land. A single thought, a single desire, a single faith for all those who cry out for justice, who are seeking salvation, dignity, understanding, impartiality and respect.

Denial of the existence of any god.
Atheism stands in opposition to Monotheism and any other form of religious belief. This position has become ever more precisely defined over the course of the centuries, and began to find open expression with the development of science. Atheism rejects any abstract entity and any transcendence precisely because it makes the verifiability of any phenomenon its guiding principle.



Hominitheism combines the ancestral principle of Pantheism with Atheism. There is, however, a basic difference with respect to both which needs to be made clear.
Pantheism brings the existence of each thing back to god and the existence of god into each thing. All this irrespective of human thought. Hominitheism neither denies nor asserts the existence of god, either as a distinct, unique and supreme creative entity or as an entity integrated into every element of the universe, but is founded on the responsibility that derives from the human capacity for thought. In fact the only statement of fact possible is that human thought exists and the perceptible world exists. Hominitheism focuses on the human mind’s ability to process information. In that way every person assumes in full the responsibility of his or her thought and action.
Atheism asserts the need to verify every phenomenon. At present we can neither deny nor affirm the existence of a cosmic divine principle. However, I consider it necessary to continue research into our relationship with the universe in order to seek answers to questions that have always been at the center of human life; questions so fascinating that they have made thought soar beyond what it is reasonable to think. Yet, even if taken to extremes, the questions are still of a scientific character and we cannot respond to them in mystical terms. Such an unlimited way of thinking, understood as a form of spirituality, cannot in any case leave us indifferent, but needs to be brought back within a complex sensibility comprised between knowledge and personal responsibility. The individual independence of spiritual awareness is at the heart of the Hominitheistic concept.



Drawing, painting and sculpture, like writing, have always been means of communication.
Since the most remote times, representation, of which artists were the creators, has been practiced by all political, social and religious systems. The only exception has been the iconoclastic faiths, which from the 8th century after Christ prohibited and destroyed sacred images.
With the Renaissance, artists, when executing an image commissioned by the ecclesiastic or secular authorities, began to allow themselves some freedom in their mode of representation and this came to constitute the artistic signature of the work.
The Renaissance artist, like Piero della Francesca in his work The Flagellation of Christ, drew perspective scientifically, ushering in the evolutionary process of science and technology. By the late 19th century this had led to the extraordinary discoveries that launched the industrial age. One of these great discoveries was photography. With its automatic reproduction of the image, it took the place of the artist’s hand, stripping it of the role it had performed up until then.
In doing so photography threw art into crisis. Some artists started to ask themselves: can art survive? And devoted themselves, in different ways, to the search for something deep down, a raison d’être that must still be there, quite apart from the use to which it had been put in the past. And so art began to analyze itself. It all began with the Impressionism of the late 19th century. Then came Cubism, Surrealism, Dadaism and various other isms, before arriving at the Abstract Expressionism of the mid-20th century.
Through this process art progressively developed an intellectual independence that had no precedent in history. In the fifties avant-garde artists concentrated on the creation of a form of their own, a sign of their own, and encapsulated every spiritual, cultural and social meaning in it. All religious and political symbols were compressed and fused in the unique, individual, subjective and autonomous sign of the artist. Thus art no longer represented god or any other power and neither did it set out to document ordinary life. The artistic sign has become the symbol of a self-referential thought, free from any subjection. In this way artists have withdrawn from the established systems of power, culturally underlining a sympathy with every aspiration to freedom, independence, liberation and renascence.
My thinking is profoundly linked to the modern conquest of autonomy by the artist. But, as a consequence, I have wanted through my work to transfer this artistic independence from subjective and personal engagement to engagement with the community. It is in this way that art opens itself up to comprehension, sharing and participation by all. The autonomy of the artist is made up of freedom and responsibility in equal measure. Since liberty by itself is dispersed in indeterminacy it has, in fact, to be balanced by the determination of responsibility. The mission of art is to bring into society an assumption of freedom and responsibility on the part of each and every one of us. We must be careful though. The attainment of such a passage requires the development of a broad awareness. Between the indeterminacy of freedom and the determination of responsibility has always lain the narrow and closed circle of limited and privileged interests. The system of power concentrated in that narrow circle dominates society, and fuses the terms freedom and responsibility in the top-down idea of the absolute. Whereas the society put forward by art relies on the extensive concept of relativity.
Outstanding among the exercises in truth proposed earlier is the phenomenon of relativity, revealed by the mirror. Both Hominitheism and democracy are defined in relativity, as a principle of identity for both.
Hominitheism leads individual thought to construct conscious interpersonal relationships, just as in democracy political action is shaped by participation, exchange and dialogue between conscious people.
In Hominitheism and democracy the interaction between community and individual takes place on the broad and complex plane of relativity and not on a top-down one based on the absolute.
As I live amidst the creative labor of people in the world, I must make use of my art to bring divinity down to a human dimension and cooperate in the shaping of a society made up of conscious and responsible people.
In this way art creates Hominitheism and connects it directly to democracy.



Democracy signifies “power of the people.”
How can the people exercise power if it is not assumed individually by each person and then extended to everyone else?
It is vague and specious to speak of democracy in a merely populist sense. What is needed is to set in motion practices of understanding, awareness and discernment on the part of the individual in the direct relations between people, and then spread them out to encompass the whole of society.
The election of political representatives to govern them by citizens is the best that the democratic system offers us today, and yet nowhere has full democracy been achieved. What is getting in the way?
Research into behavioral economics has shown the extent to which the factor of individual fraud can estrange the terms of reference in any social, economic or political relationship. For example, the greater the distance that separates the elector from his or her political representative, the less possibility there is of the former being able to keep tabs on the honesty and correctness of the latter’s actions.
When the number of steps between the two increases, the opportunities for fraud increase too and the sense of guilt diminishes. It is in this light that the system that regulates the relationship between voting and governance should be reformed. Transferring this observation from the political plane to the religious one, it becomes clear that the distance that is created between the believer and god by all the intermediaries that stand between the two makes the possibility of fraud extremely high. Hence the invisibility of god favors the deceit of those who exploit this distance. The religious phenomenon, in a reductio ad absurdum argument, could therefore be considered a fraud agreed to by all believers, as they are willing to accept the impossibility of verification and control.
Less distance between people is a prerequisite for a genuine rapport, which brought down to its essentials takes the form of a one-to-one relationship. Let us look, then, at the case of the mirror, whose division generates two mirrors; and when these two reflect one another they produce an infinite number of mirrors within themselves. Thus from division comes multiplication. Since multiplication is consequent on division, it cannot be a principle. Yet the great economic, financial and political interests treat multiplication as a principle. The principle is that of division. In fact, on this basis, they have up to now produced accumulation of wealth on the one hand and exclusion and poverty on the other. Democracy, by contrast, can only be founded on the true principle, that of division, which economically and politically finds expression in what in Italian is called condivisione, or sharing.
In essence the term condivisione, “dividing with” or sharing, applies both to the Hominitheistic spirit, as subdivision of the divine in each of us, and to the practice of democracy, as subdivision of responsibility in social relations. “Dividing with” means bringing to the other one’s own conscience, consciousness and cognition. In addition, if doing things for gain and without asking for anything in return are both present in equal measure, in a balancing of opposites, the interpersonal exchange will lead to shared wealth. Democracy grows in relation to the degree of sharing between the parts. Sharing is, in the first place, interpersonal and then extends to the global level. Careful, though: if the mutual understanding is restricted to a small and exclusive circle the democratic phenomenon is subverted and diametrically opposite effects are produced.


The Game of Profit 

In today’s virtual age the whole of human society depends more than ever on rules of the game invented and put into effect by groups made up of very few people, who decide on the moves by which the entire human race plays. The system of thought that has underpinned all planning for the future up to now has been shaped by the idea that economic power depends on the alternation of destruction and construction. The game played by a few based on this principle can deliberately bring about terrible catastrophes in accordance with the equation: the greater the disaster the greater the profit. It is possible to act on entire populations directly in situ, managing them from a distance, making them prosper at will or paralyzing them not just through a lack of physical material, but through computer viruses or other forms of infection. The level of the fraud referred to above has grown exponentially.



How can we develop a democracy that produces a healthy condition of life, overcoming systems of power which lead to practices that are increasingly distant from the obvious need for a sustainable balance in global society?
If we look at reality from the viewpoint of international politics we realize that the word democracy is used as a synonym for the culture of consumption. The system of growth in consumption, which is based on the blackmail of poverty, has become the democratic model. Today many parts of the world are going through the same process of development as the countries of Europe and North America (which have on the other hand begun to experience a slump in growth) and are benefiting from their emergence from conditions of hardship, privation and suffering, as if after a long war. But these nations will soon reach the saturation point that follows any rapid growth and the destructive consequences will be on a scale never seen before. Do we have to accept the prediction that catastrophe is endemically inevitable at the end of reconstruction?
Personally, I am one of those who are deeply committed to moving on to renewal while avoiding the abyss that yawns at the conclusion of this disproportionate growth of the artificial world. We are faced with a decisive question, one that has to be tackled to ensure that the artificial system of destruction-construction is reconciled with the natural one of regeneration. The process of nature turns on a combination of life and death, but is based on a sustainable balancing of this alternation. We, on the other hand, live in situations of profit that lead to the destruction of resources and to disastrous departures from the natural dynamics of regeneration. The forest, for example, always looks the same thanks to a continual process of internal replacement. A very different phenomenon from the deforestation brought about by human beings for speculative purposes.



The basic problem is primarily a moral one.
We are accustomed to regarding religion as the source, repository, temple and caretaker of morality. Just as we are used to seeing spirituality as the monopoly of religion.
Can we consider the transcendent nature of religious faiths sufficient to check abuse of power, degradation, iniquity and the atrocities inflicted by people on people? Can reliance on divine admonition be enough to avoid the carnage, devastation and mass slaughter wrought by human beings?
In the modern era the dependence on transcendence as a source of morality is proving increasingly ineffective, while an ever-increasing barbarism driven by pure cynicism is permeating, corroding and corrupting society all over the world. So it is essential for us to completely reassess the way in which morality is understood and practiced. This, in the social sphere, can be compared to the conduct of the most advanced scientific research. Nanotechnology is growing increasingly important, as we explore the smallest dimensions of existence in order to understand the effect they have on the universe. So perhaps we need to take an approach to morality based on forms of micro-research rather than sticking to the macroscopic one that has been applied up to now. It is necessary to set up debates and forums, networks for the reexamination and discussion of the subject of morality. To take codified forms of ethics and cut away at their structure in order to permit the introduction of new lifeblood, of ideas and procedures oriented toward interpersonal awareness and responsibility. That said, I have arrived at the personal conclusion that morality should be identified with and practiced in the encounter, connection and interaction between opposing subjects or concepts, in a continual effort to find a balance between them.


Loving Differences 

As part of the process of shaping a new morality, I created a work in 2000 entitled a Multireligious and Secular Place of Meditation and Prayer. (footnote 4) It takes the form of a temple that revives the concept of polytheism, bringing together Judaism, Catholicism, Islam and Buddhism in a common space. A unifying element is situated at the center of the space: the Cubic Meter of Infinity, something I conceived in 1965. It is a parallelepiped composed of six mirrors facing inward. We see only the back of the mirrors that form the cube, while on the inside the mirrors are multiplied endlessly.
With this work art becomes a catalyst of the meanings related to symbols of religion, each placed on a pedestal and arranged around the cube. An empty pedestal is dedicated to those who have no religion or to anyone wishing to bring the symbol of a religion that is not represented.
A multidenominational place exists in reality too and has been handed down to us by history. It is the city of Jerusalem. But here art has not yet placed a symbol that would, like the Cubic Meter of Infinity, be capable of stimulating the attainment of a reconciliation of its political and religious conflicts, which have ruinous consequences for the world as a whole.
The same intention as the Multireligious and Secular Place of Meditation and Prayer, but this time with a political aspect, lies behind LOVE DIFFERENCEArtistic Movement for an Inter-Mediterranean Policy, launched at Cittadellarte in 2002. The path taken by Love Differenceproceeds through operations that unite the traditions of different cultures, with the aim of setting in motion a process of change where their differences find points in common. Loving differences takes the place of the concept of tolerance, implying the involvement of feeling as well as reason. The project was conceived as a preliminary step toward the establishment of a Mediterranean Cultural Parliament, which would create a vast cultural network and foster an exchange between religions, educational systems, idioms and tastes, with the aim of making possible the birth of a genuine democratic politics of the Mediterranean.
Mediterranean means between the lands. Love Difference does not just concern the sea called the Mediterranean, but also the other six seas that have the same characteristics, inasmuch as they are surrounded by countries with different cultures, traditions, religions and economies. They are the Black Sea, Red Sea, South China Sea, Sea of Japan, Baltic Sea and Caribbean Sea. Love Difference works on fertilization of the differences in these seas between lands. So it functions as a workshop focused on realizing the aims put forward by the Third Paradise.


Workshop of Responsible Transformation of Society 

I have just spoken of Jerusalem, a Mediterranean city sacred to the three main monotheistic religions, which have a common root: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And I have also spoken specifically of the Mediterranean, the sea that unites three continents. The humanity of today originated in Africa and spread initially through Asia and Europe and then to the rest of the world. If we look at the reality of human society today, we cannot help but realize that the Mediterranean Sea has become the center of political, economic and religious tensions that pervade the whole planet. Religions provoke political wars, the financial economy sets off religious wars and politics unleashes economic, financial and religious wars. It is paradoxical that religions, which developed to protect and reassure human beings, are the incessant cause of horror and calamity.
The Mediterranean is a crucible of civilization, but at the same time it is a sea in which civilization founders. Conflicts are concentrated around the Mediterranean, where they reach their highest levels of tension. So a workshop on the responsible transformation of society finds extraordinary material for study here. We have seen that that the uprisings that have taken place in the Middle East and the Maghreb, like the Arab Spring, or the wars and revolutions that resulted in the fall of dictatorships in Iraq, Egypt and Libya, have led to new and tragic conflicts. From all this it is clear that it is very difficult for revolts, of whatever kind they may be, to bring a new balance into society. Let us take art as an example. Many artists produce significant works of denunciation, where the condemnation, born out of noble intentions, is continually bought and promoted by the very systems that the artists want to denounce and combat. The same thing happens in rebellions: the young throw themselves into them with enthusiasm, not realizing that a bigger game is being played, guided from afar by systems opposed to the ideals they believe in, in which they are mere pawns. And that make a profit out of then.
Cittadellarte marries art with politics, trying to solve the problem of the ineffectiveness of systems based on pure rebellion and passing from condemnation to proposition. Criticism is inherent in the proposal of an alternative but it does not stop at this, leading instead to the creation of new conditions. Cittadellarte is a school where the critical issues the world is facing are identified in order to find new methods of education, based on the idea that before starting any revolution it is necessary to acquire the capacity to propose new systems able to manage the identity to which we aspire in politics, in economics and in every part of the social fabric.
It is a school of political education for young people who intend to devote their energies to a responsible transformation of society.



The Dalai Lama has explained to the world that we have to find an ethics that goes beyond religions. I have always thought this was something art had to do. In my 1994 manifesto Progetto Arte I wrote: “Art is the most sensitive and complete expression of human thought, and the time has come for artists to take on the responsibility of establishing ties among all other human activities, from economics to politics, science to religion, education to behavior—in a word, everything that makes up the fabric of society.”
Cittadellarte was set up in 1998 on the basis of these premises. An experimental laboratory made up of artists, researchers and experts on various sectors of the social fabric with the aim of inspiring and bringing about a responsible change in society.
The name Cittadellarte has two connotations: that of citadel, in other words an area in which art is protected and well defended, and that of city, which corresponds to the idea of an openness to the world and a complex interrelationship with it. Cittadellarte, in fact, pursues the objective of combining the aesthetic qualities of art with a fundamental ethical commitment to bringing about a real transformation in every area of civil society.
With this resolve Cittadellarte is helping to steer the profound and epoch-making changes underway in a responsible and beneficial direction, thereby extending the initial idea of a City to that of a Civilization of Art. We are entering a new phase of society, one of which we are all co-authors.


Democratic Horizontality

Democracy cannot be achieved by following the principles of absolutism, and so the Monotheism on which the absolute is based cannot be a reference for democracy.
Monotheism established itself during the persecution of the Jews by the pharaohs. (footnote 5) The pharaoh had political authority over the entire kingdom of Egypt, and at the same time was endowed with the nature of a deity within the polytheistic system. As the Jewish people were split into tribes, they had no single leader with the political power and divine nature of the pharaoh. This state of affairs made the Jews captives of the government that had subjugated and enslaved them. Lacking a figure recognized as a political leader of divine nature, the Jewish people exalted political power to the level of the sublime, equating it with the oneness of god. A god who was above the human persona from a political perspective as well.
This is how they were able to find the strength that has allowed them to remain a cohesive whole, wherever they might be. The formula of monotheism was the salvation of the Jewish people. And it was later adopted by the part of humanity that was struggling to free itself from subjugation by the great oppressive powers. Over time, monotheism has systematized the divinization of power, bringing religion and politics, united, to a verticality that leads to the absolute, and thus to absolutism and dictatorship.
Today this dictatorship finds clear and unmistakable expression in the great concentrations of power, and it also creeps at every moment into the recesses of our daily lives. Even in avowedly democratic political structures. So it has become necessary and urgent to flush out vertical power and replace it with a horizontal practice of political and social relations.
This happens with Hominitheism, which is achieved horizontally through the exercise of personal and interindividual responsibility. It penetrates into the sufferings and injustices that are rife in the lower levels of society and brings effective solutions, avoiding their subversion by religion and politics from the height of their vertical power.
At this point, the very term democracy has to be reconsidered, in order to eliminate the concept of power which, even if it is attributed to the people, retains the atavistic flaw of domination.
In the move toward new practices aimed at attaining sociopolitical equilibrium it will become indispensable for us to replace the concept of power, i.e. kratos, with that of practice, i.e. praxis, arriving at Demopraxy. (footnote 6) So the work that needs to be done is the development of good practices.


The Myth of the Navel 

The navel has always had mythic status because it is the symbol of birth that every person carries at the center of his or her body.
The joining of all severed umbilical cords, binding humanity together ideally, has perpetuated this myth to the present day. We presume that it will be perpetuated in the future. Each navel, through the umbilical cord, unites the son or daughter to the mother. For this reason, the woman carries with her the instinct for preservation of the children she has brought into the world. As a consequence the woman spontaneously assumes responsibility for giving humanity a future.
The central circle of the Third Paradise is the symbol of the womb of a new humanity. So the myth of the navel is inherent in the myth of the Third Paradise. The child born from this womb will be given an education that will turn him or her into a responsible adult, able to deal advisedly and on a daily basis with all the dualities out of which life is woven. Among them, just and unjust, good and bad, dignity and ignominy, love and hate. And instead of seeing them as drastic opposites, the child will be able to arrange them in a profound concept of morality. Thereby continuing with the formation of the future society.


The Theorem of Trinamics 

Trinamics is the dynamics of the number three. It is the combination of two units that gives rise to a third distinct and new unit. In Trinamics three always represents a birth, which occurs by fortuitous or deliberate combination of two subjects.
Trinamics comes into effect in the process of conjunction, connection, combination, conjugation, interaction and fusion of two elements that are in themselves simple or complex. The Trinamic phenomenon occurs in chemistry and in physics, extends to the physiology of bodies and can even be applied to social life in its cultural, political, economic and religious aspects. The sign-formula of Trinamics, also used as the symbol of the Third Paradise, consists of three circles in a line. The two outer circles represent all opposites and any kind of duality. In the theorem of Trinamics the middle circle, generated from the conjunction of the two outer circles, represents a third and previously nonexistent subject. Trinamics acts in the natural sphere as well as in the artificial one, including every area and aspect of human society. We find it at work for example in the reaction between oxygen and hydrogen that gives rise to water; in the interaction between masses of warm and cold air, causing thunderstorms; in the connection between positive and negative poles which produces electric power; in the union between male and female that generates a new being; in the dialectic between thesis and antithesis that produces synthesis; in the fusion of the opposing political models of absolutism and anarchy out of which democracy has sprung.
In the specific terms of this manifesto Hominitheism and Demopraxy are two different subjects that produce a new social system when joined.
Trinamics is the science of relations and balances. But it is before all else the principle of creation.



Now we have to make clear where the difference lies between the term creation and the term creativity.
Creativity is something that every human being possesses. This prerogative of our species originates from a primordial impulse that marked the beginning of the development of the artificial world.
Creation, on the other hand, takes place every time there is a passage from nonexistence to existence. This transition is achieved through the Trinamic process.
Artists do not like to be described as creative because they see themselves as creators, that is to say capable of making something completely new.
In my case, artistic creation brings knowledge that did not exist previously. I say knowledge because the result of my work is not limited to my personal expression, but also pursues the aim of a search for understanding of what exists, just as happens in science.
It is important to bear in mind that I am a visual artist, and so my research does not deal directly with the physicality of things, but investigates them through their image. With the Mirror Paintings I was able to identify the image phenomenologically with space-time. Now, as well as with the image, I continue to work with the imagination. Through it, I propose to shape a scenario that opens onto the future. And I see us moving into the future with the Trinamic development of the Third Paradise, the new course uniting nature and artifice.
In nature creation is ruthless, it shows no mercy.
On the one hand human creation acts ruthlessly, and on the other it is able to generate mercy. The act of placing mercilessness and mercy in the two outer circles of the Third Paradise in order to obtain a third element is in itself a point in favor of human creation with respect to natural creation. Thus the use of the Trinamic symbol becomes decisive in the attempt to find a balance between the monstrous and the virtuous which coexist within us and at the same time divide us, as happens in the interpersonal context.
To attain this equilibrium, it is necessary, in practice, for the symbol of the Third Paradise to become the connection between person and person. In other words that the two outer circles embrace one another, so that creation can take place in the central circle. Not just in a biological sense, but also and above all in an intellectual sense.
Creation, passing from the singularity of the artist to the duality of people, extends to the whole of society. The freedom and responsibility of art become the freedom and responsibility of all.


The Finite in the Infinite

Many people, after coming across the Trinamic symbol of the Third Paradise, are surprised to find it in some decorations on old works of architecture. The same thing happened to me. Clearly this design is an archetype, coming down to us from the distant past and charged with a variety of meanings throughout history, even though, as far as I know, they have never been described, specified and codified.
Today I can say that I am happy to bring my own contribution to the understanding and spread of this symbolic message, which has been a quiet presence in the past, and make it effective for use in the future.
In my research, I did not start out from that sign, indeed I had not yet identified it. But I came to that sign along a route that began to take shape with the first Mirror Paintings. It should be said, however, that it is not a subjective and personal expression. There is nothing arbitrary about it. It is instead the discovery of a symbol of identity that regards everyone. The very fact that we find it has already been used throughout history is proof of this.
In scientific research discoveries lead gradually to a knowledge and understanding of what already exists, and the same thing happens in this case, where the result adds knowledge to what is already known. To be specific, I have to say that for me an important, indeed fundamental passage came with the identification of the infinite in my mirror works, and it was starting out from those that I arrived at a recognition of the mathematical symbol of infinity. I realized that this symbol was a graphic representation of what I had discovered visually, and I continued my research by analyzing that sign. Let me summarize this analysis. It is a line that intersects itself to form two circular shapes. Immediately a question springs to mind: where does infinity lie, in the two circles or in the point of intersection of the line? Infinity is in both, because node and circles are functions of one another. First of all let’s stress the fact that there is only one line and it is unbroken, but it comes from both sides and can be followed in two opposite directions.
The line comes from the past and goes into the future, and vice versa. It passes through the present in two opposite directions without ever stopping. It doesn’t even stop at the intersection, but carries on to form two circles, rendering the present dynamic, but at the same time isolating and immobilizing it.
The two circles traced by the line have a symbolic dimension, but one that can be understood in a broad sense which has no limit. They generate an extremely small point of intersection and, in turn, the point of intersection generates two extremely large circles.
One of the two circles forms before and one after the intersection, but given the reversibility of the course the before can come after and the after can come before.
The way in which we understand the flow of time itself is modified by the symbol of infinity. We say that the future is tomorrow, what comes after the present. But we also say that the past comes after the present, because tomorrow the present is already going to be past. Is this a contradiction or the real state of things? For me this reversibility is not just dialectical but corresponds to a phenomenology discernable in the sign of infinity. On the basis of experience, it has been established that time moves in just one direction, one way from the past to the future. Yet the symbol of infinity shows us a line that has neither beginning nor end, that intersects and runs in two opposing circles, before intersecting again and so forth. The line, as we have seen, is two-way and brings past and future together, each coming from the opposite direction.
The fact is that the only certain point is the one where the two circles meet, and this point is the present. Infinity, therefore, is the present that concentrates every possible dimension.
As I said in the section on “Birth and Death,” an image in the mirror lasts only an instant. It was not there before and it is no longer there afterward. At the very moment it is born, it is dying. In the present, birth and death are simultaneous. Just as the circles intersect simultaneously. As for the line, it seems inevitable that it should describe its course in the two circles, as without these the intersection of the present could not occur.
I intervened on the symbol of infinity, by making the line intersect twice, and immediately a third circle appeared, putting a distance between the two points where it crosses itself. I broke in half the symbol of the single and infinite present that gives everything and instantaneously takes it all away. By this means I included the duration of the finite in the instantaneity of the infinite.
The finite makes room for life between the two limits that are birth and death, as in the representation of the central circle. But in the Trinamic symbol, life is not disconnected from infinity. It remains represented in the two circles that precede every birth and follow every death. Life, be it that of a human being or a fly, a tree or a civilization, has a beginning and an end. Each of these lasts for a certain length of time, and during that time is never static. It is a continuous process of creation. And it is precisely the phenomenon of action that gives meaning to the process that occurs in the central circle of the Trinamic symbol. Creation breaks the present, i.e. infinity, in half, bringing into existence a moment that did not yet exist. Creation makes the infinite moment dual so as to be able to generate a finite moment. It is in the repetition of this process that space and time come into existence.
Infinity does not remain confined in the dimension that precedes and follows life, but participates in life itself, delivering us the present, which continually breaks in the duality necessary to the generation and duration of life.
Let us close this chapter by saying that the Triple Circle of the Trinamic sign recognizes life in infinity and infinity in life. By superimposing the symbol of infinity on the symbol of Trinamics, we can put this claim to the test.


Identity and Memory 

At this point, we can see that what has been said up to now is comprised in a single denominator: the Triple Circle of the Trinamics formula. We see that this sign has an identity of its own, which constitutes in itself a completely new phenomenon, corresponding to the sum of the phenomena discussed in these pages. It is clear that by seeking, with my work as an artist, to identify reality, I have come to define a symbol, and it has proved to be the identity of reality itself. And as such it becomes synonymous with identity. It can be said that it is the symbol of identity in an absolute sense, for it is the symbol of the identity of relativity, in that it connects all the possible terms together.
I arrived at this sign through the search for my identity.
I think it is essential to give a brief account of the process that led me to this result.
Let’s start from the mirror. The term mirror appears this manifesto almost from the beginning. In the same way it can be found in all my artistic activity, commencing with the first mirror picture of 1961, entitled The Present. That work was the initial result of my search for identity centered on the self-portrait. The practice of painting self-portraits runs right through the history of art precisely as a means for artists to investigate their identity. The mirror has always been the tool used in this exploration of identity.
So the search for my identity has been focused on the self-portrait and the mirror has been its indispensable medium. Toward the end of the fifties I realized that in the passage from the mirror to the canvas, through drawing and painting, my identity was interpreted by my will, and thus subject to it. I could not find out my true identity in so far as it was always dependent on my personal interpretation in execution. I was not able to achieve a true identification of myself with brush and paint. I worked intensely on the quest for this “true” identity until, by painting a very shiny monochrome black ground, I succeeded in making the canvas reflective. On that shiny black and reflective surface I painted a life-size self-portrait and my image, surprisingly, detached itself from the background, where everything was moving. And I could now reproduce my image and see myself reflected directly in the picture. Then I made the background even more reflective by covering the canvas with a sheet of steel polished to a mirror finish, before eventually replacing the canvas completely with reflective steel.
The passage from reflective black paint to a sheet of stainless steel polished to a mirror finish led to a fundamental turning point. The figures that appeared in the mirror were so real and objective that they would have precluded the traditional manner of painting the figure, which could in no way be as objective as were the mirrored figures.
Out of necessity, therefore, I tried a variety of means of producing my image in a truly objective way. And I realized that I had no alternative but to resort to photography. The act of blowing my photographic image up to life size, cutting it out and sticking it onto the mirror surface produced what in chemistry would be called a reaction and the end result was the discovery, or rather the recognition of my identity. I found my identity irrespective of my will. And I attained an identity that is not subjective but objective, and that goes well beyond my image and even beyond my own person. Thus the resulting work is totally phenomenological.
The mirror-photograph duality has set an artistic and scientific process in motion of which it is hard to see the limits. Between the continuous changing of the images that are reflected in the mirror and the immutability of the image fixed in the photograph extends the dimension of time. The work, therefore, is realized by producing in itself the “fourth dimension.” In the phenomenology of the picture, the photographic element is decisive because it fixes the unrepeatable instant and turns it into lasting memory. Photography, which had thrown art into crisis, returned to art, called back by an unequivocal necessity. In the Mirror Painting memory and the present are coprotagonists. The present passes, but memory is turned into duration, for the photograph records the present and makes it outlast itself. Memory, as I have identified it in my work, has become for me the phenomenon through which to look at the future. Not just in relation to my personal activity, but also for what it signifies in scientific and technological research. Memory is an essential component of thought. We know we exist as long as we remember, i.e. as long as we keep the memory of ourselves alive. Everybody looks to the future in hope of life and at the same time with the terror of death. The terror of death is not irrational, but rational, inasmuch as we are aware that after death we are never going to be the same.
Yet thinking about death inevitably produces feelings of deep anxiety that are wholly irrational. Religions have always sought to alleviate the anxiety inherent in the thought of death. They do so by promising a better life in the next world, or reincarnation in the future. In reality we know that, when a living body dies, it becomes something different from what it had been up until that moment. But the human mind, unlike that of any other species, is totally dependent on the system of reflection, which concentrates in each of us the idea of the self. So death is tragic, because people recognize in it the total loss of their identity.
We now expect real miracles from science, such as extending human life as long as possible. We do not even exclude the miracle of immortality. And this prospect is becoming less and less hypothetical.
As an artist I came to identify the duration of time through the memory contained in the photograph. I am now thinking about the possible transformation of sculpture into an invention on a par with that of photography. If the photograph is true and objective memory, in what way would the invention that replaces sculpture contain a true and objective memory? The two-dimensionality of the photograph, be it printed, projected or turned into a hologram, cannot take on the physical character of a human body, while it is possible to capture the body of a person in the three-dimensionality of sculpture. Robots are already sculptures that tend toward the living. Microscience and microtechnology are taking giant steps in this direction. It will be a matter, in my view, of inserting a person’s memory into a living sculpture of that same person.
But in the end I ask myself, should this ever come about, just how long will that person want to live? If the moment comes in which scientific research attains such enormous power and human beings, preserving the memory of themselves like a computer that can store millions of megabytes, realize the dream of eternal life, what will be the consequence? At that point humanity will ask itself what is the point of knowing everything and what reason is there to live, if there is no longer any need to know.
I can say even now that, having attained the maximum of knowledge, people will try to return to a state of ignorance, even accepting limits on the memory of themselves.
Perhaps we can already start seeking a balance between remembering and forgetting, between knowledge and ignorance, by making the best use of the Trinamic symbol of identity.


The Empty and the Full 

In 1968, in a text entitled “Tra” (“Between”), I wrote about my group of works called Minus Objects 1965-66:
Rather than the objects what interests me is the passage between objects […]. We move between objects in a room along conventional and stale routes because we take only the presence of the objects into consideration and not the empty space that we are really living in […]. When two individuals move, for example, they consider their own and the other’s bodies to be real, rather than the space without substance that lies between them. It is in this empty space that they can actually meet and communicate […]. My presence is made manifest not in the space and time of objects but in the invisibility of their non-presence.
In the Mirror Paintings we see the mirror as a total void filled with the whole of existence. The mirror, in fact, has no semantic properties, no signs or images of its own, but gathers within itself all possible signs and images. The semantic void of the mirror demonstrates that the void exists. Extending the emptiness of the mirror universally signifies filling it with images of the whole of physical existence. So it can be argued that absence and presence, like the empty and the full, nothing and everything, are both primary elements of creation. It follows that the physical universe would not exist without the void, i.e. nothingness, that contains it and it also follows that the void, i.e. nothingness, would not exist if it were not contained in the universe. Affirmation and negation are partners in duality; nothing and everything affirm and negate each other in turn, giving substance to creation and at the same time denying it. The same thing is true for the extreme relationship between never and always, according to which the whole of time contains all and nothing in every instant.
Everything exists just once, in the moment in which it is reflected in the mirror, between the nothing of before and the nothing of after. But there is an image of reality that is reflected in both the nothing of before and the nothing of after. In this way the chain of nothing and of things is forged: the chain of things is intertwined with the chain of nothing, and the chain of nothing is intertwined with the chain of things.
For everything that exists carries its negation within it. In fact what exists now was not there before, while what had come into existence is already no longer there, because it has become something else. So creation is matched by uncreation, an annulment already present in birth.
For science, the maximum speed is that of light, for it is unable to measure the speed of nothing. The empty and the full, like the nonexistent and the existent, are revealed at every instant of our life between everything done and everything to be done, in a present that is annulled in becoming and becomes by annulling itself. The answer to Hamlet’s question “to be or not to be?” is “be and don’t be.” The empty and the full, like the all and the nothing, are also perceived unconsciously: between two moments or between two people, between one decision and the next, between two feelings or two emotions, between two wishes and two decisions. Getting up in the morning we are faced with the emptiness of the day and in one way or another we get going, seeking a coordination in activity, in order to fill that vacuum. Happiness and distress alternate in the attempt to fill the emptiness that pervades life. The need to obtain food is a biological cure for the sickness of the void and all sorts of artificial means are used to cure the sickness of the void that pervades society. Lack of power produces a sense of emptiness. In the past a horror vacui held sway in the corridors of power, so that all space was filled with decorations and all time with music. Today the great occasions of aggregation, such as the rock concerts and football games that fill stadiums, serve to fill the vacuum between people. I feel this sensation of emptiness and I practice art to understand what existence is through the void of the mirror, in which the infinite comes to an end at every instant. In 1993, when I presented Cittadellarte, in the still empty space at Biella, I declared publicly: “My legacy will be an empty space.”
All of us feel the presence of the great nothing at every moment, even though science does not recognize it because it works in the completely full. And the religions venture into the void, creating God and the gods, in an attempt to fill the mental vacuum in which humanity flounders. But they cannot fail to recognize the duality in opposites, and thus assert the existence of both god and the devil. In Christianity there is also the Trinity, which places the “Holy Spirit” at the center. In the decorations of the remote past, as I pointed out before, we often find designs that resemble the Triple Circle of Trinamics. We have no explanations of these, but they already convey a sense of energy and balance. Visiting the Sistine Chapel, we always look up to admire the frescoes of Michelangelo Buonarroti. But if we were to look down, we would see the Triple Circle on the floor, used as a decorative element but undoubtedly chosen for the meaning it bore. In the Triple Circle the central space can be seen as the vacuum that is filled with our collective creation. We are seeking the rules of the universe, but in the meantime we can at least try to create a human society that is able to temper science with mercy.



Let us look at the concept of power. To this end it will be useful to refer to a photographic work of mine from 1975, entitled La conferenza (The Lecture).
A speaker stood in front of an audience made up of twenty people. A camera was given to each of them. The audience photographed the lecturer and at the same time the lecturer photographed the audience.
At the end we reproduced the image of the lecturer twenty times, while the whole audience was reproduced in a single image, the one taken by the lecturer. This is a photograph of power: the whole of the public is concentrated in the person of the speaker, while the person of the speaker is multiplied by the number of people that are in the audience. The lecturer can be someone who speaks to us in the name of god and the audience can be the congregation kneeling in front of him. The lecturer can be the dictator and the audience the people who listen to him.
This work makes it clear how, in both politics and religion, a condition of dominance and subjugation can be produced.
Very different is the stance that finds expression in the effort, made by every person, to understand and be understood by everyone else, as represented in another of my works in which everyone takes each other’s picture. This generates a chain of mutual projections and comprehensions.
Thus the Trinamic effect of the interpersonal relationship radiates out into society.



Money meets the requirements of the Theorem of Trinamics in so far as it is a third element created through mediation between the parts. It came into being with the function of facilitating exchange between human capacities and activities, in precise quantities and qualities.
The purpose of currency is to symbolize the values that are proper to things and people and the relationship that binds them together. Over time, however, its function of mediation has been lost. Money has become an end in itself, invalidating the very reason for which it was invented.
Today we have to meet two pressing needs. The first, to find a balance again in the relationship between work, production, commerce and shared prosperity, giving money back its original function.
The second, to create new rules, so that money will take on a social function, becoming a guarantee of the dignity of all people.


Doing Something for Nothing

It is necessary for democracy to dissociate itself from the destructive model of exponential consumption and turn back to the principle of sharing. This principle will have to be put into effect in the relations between people and be extended to those between people and the environment. The concept of doing something for nothing fits into this sharing. Nature regenerates itself without expecting anything in return, while human beings no longer seem able to renounce the search for profit. The time has come to bring the relationship between human speculation and natural processes back into proportion.
Making a profit and doing something for free seem to be opposites, but they can be complementary. They just have to find a balance. Pecuniary advantage cannot be regarded as the highest and sole objective. The attainment of an equitable existence for everyone is a value that is in itself free of charge and it is the true aim.
The balance between these two extremes, making a profit and doing something for nothing, should be sought, in a society that is today undergoing profound transformation, through new practices that exclude the accumulation of money as the only goal. Above and beyond philanthropic donations, everyone, from the richest to the poorest, has the space and time to do something for the responsible transformation of society without expecting anything in return. Each of us is called on to contribute to the good of society, which has no cost. It is a question of shifting the desire for the personal accumulation of power and money toward a scheme of fairness that will distribute the “interests” of doing something for nothing at every step of the everyday economy.



A human being needs another human being.
I am one or the other of a pair.
No one can accept being really alone, the search for the other is continual for all. God has been created as the other for everyone. Religions have always placed god between two people to solve the dramatic difficulties they face in their direct relationship. Direct connection between individuals is essential. The exchange of love is important but not enough; an exchange of authority is needed. I have to be authoritative for you and you authoritative for me. Authoritative does not mean authoritarian. What is needed is a system of social coexistence sustained by an authoritativeness that spreads and branches out among people, i.e. by the possibility and capacity that each of them has to vouch for the other. I vouch for you and you vouch for me. It is a matter of creating mutual trust. If believing means trusting, I have to be able to believe in you and you in me. If the two of us learn to trust one another we do not have to fear betrayal.
This sharing of trust and authority extends to the dimension of small, medium-sized and large communities and all the way up to society as a whole. Authoritativeness is what each of us seeks in the other. If we don’t find it in those who are close to us then we look for it farther away. But distance, as was pointed out earlier, increases the risk of fraud. The new society is formed between people who are in close contact and exchange their complementary capacities. The Web increases the possibility of people meeting at a distance but it is inconceivable that merely bringing the vox populi onto the internet would be sufficient to change society. It is necessary to create a practical interconnection between people on the plane of real life. And this can only happen through a widespread organization that, from country to country, gives a voice to the citizens of the world, including them directly in the practical functions of politics.
This theme will be explored further in the last chapter, entitled “Demopraxy.”


From Predation to Domesticity 

The globalizing dimension of contemporary society obliges us to tackle the current widespread crisis on all levels: spiritual, cultural, political, economic, environmental and demographic.
We are reaping the consequences of the failure to complete the process—one which began millennia ago and has accelerated over the last century—of taking our species from the animal state to the “human” one by means of artificial progress.
Specifically we have not yet freed ourselves from the instinct of predation, which still holds sway over us despite the efforts science and technology have made to guarantee the sustenance needed for the survival of the whole planet’s population. Not only have we continued to kill and eat every kind of animal, but we have applied the concept of race within the human species itself, extending the act of predation to people as if they were beasts, in order to “feed” on our fellows.
In doing this we have transposed the phenomenon of predation on animals onto the cultural plane; thus we can speak of outright “cultural cannibalism.”
This practice has given rise to two alternative outcomes in the relationship between individuals: war, which has as its consequence the survival of just one of the two parties, or a state of subjugation, exploitation or annihilation by one person of another. History shows us that the two outcomes are linked, consequential and repeated.
At the present moment in the history of our species, therefore, the abnormal contrast between the advances in scientific knowledge and the backwardness of the behavior in which we all remain trapped is only too evident. And it is on this profound discrepancy that there is an urgent need to work. In fact we can only speak of progress by freeing ourselves from the predatory instinct, which still conditions people and affects the way the whole of society operates. In order for this to happen it is indispensable to take our cue from situations in which the predatory nature has already been overcome.
They are situations that can be summed up in a key word: domesticity. It is easy to grasp how the meaning of this term offers a solution to the dilemma of human incompleteness if we consider how the animals that live with us, in the domestic environment, have been brought to a point where they have overcome the instinct of predation. The dog has been transformed from a predatory wolf into a tame and faithful companion.
Extending the phenomenon of domestication from the relationship with animals to the relationship between people, it would be possible to develop a civilization liberated from the primitive condition that has up to now justified the proverb homo homini lupus, man is a wolf to man.
To progress in the creation of an advanced society it is first of all indispensable to establish a relationship of full respect between ourselves and animals. I am thinking, among the most repugnant of cases, of the torture to which they are subjected before being sacrificed at our table. They suffer just like we do, even if their intelligence is different from ours. And we have to realize that the atrocities we habitually inflict on animals are frequently turned on human beings as well. So it is in domesticity that the relationship of respect for both animals and people is sanctioned. Domesticity is a realization of the desire to share the moments and spaces of life, in other words it is the practice of being together with mutual satisfaction. In this sense the gratification of relationship overrides the instinct to subjugate and “consume” the other.
A new maxim ought to be “do in order to give, and give in order to have,” in other words “I feed you and you feed me.” In this way the concept of “use” is subverted: the other is not eliminated to your advantage, but you obtain spontaneously the benefit of what has been done and given to satisfy the other. A benefit that is spread not only amongst people, but also between people and the environment that surrounds them. We have found a way to bring animals into our homes by taming them, so it is we who are offering animals the possibility of being domestic. Just as human beings work together for their common good, animals are taught to do their part of the collective labor. Knowing that they have, in an embryonic state, the same capacities for learning as have been developed by humans themselves. But between the possibility of learning and training the human being can act toward the animal in a coercive and violent manner, something that also happens very frequently between people in the context of education. This type of training is inherent in predatory culture and is done exclusively for the benefit of the trainers. Such practices need to be replaced by an education in the family and school that develops on the interpersonal level the kind of empathic relations that are established with animals when the exchange is extended from a question of sustenance to the emotional plane, producing respect, trust and sharing. It is a way of handling relationships that ought to become customary in civil society.
The idea that domesticity can provide an example on which to base a harmonious coexistence should be given serious consideration and explored by bringing many different opinions to bear on it. However, it remains clear that the main problem to be solved, in order to achieve this harmony, is hunger. The first act in the process of taming a predatory animal is to offer it food. Once hunger has been eliminated it is possible to move on to trust, friendship and mutual benefit.
Thus, in human society, once the need for sustenance has been met, it becomes possible to establish a balanced and peaceful relationship in all the others aspects of life in common. Scientific and technological progress, steered in an ethical direction and toward sustainability, is capable of providing the population of the entire planet with food. It is now just a question of will. And this means a commitment to responsible change in the cultural, economic and political sphere. The craving for possession and power leads instead to the worst use of culture and science. So it is essential to solve the problem of hunger. Succeeding in meeting the physical needs for food on a global scale would also result in the intellectual regeneration of human beings. In this way, through domesticity, we could rid ourselves of cultural cannibalism.
We should not forget that the term domesticity comes from the Greek doma and Latin domus, house, which is the home of coexistence.


Homo Artisticus 

What has been said up to now concerns a commitment made by art to human society. The commitment is to lead this society through and beyond the phase of transition which it has reached. This “last manifesto” of mine does not end here, but I want to briefly take stock of what has happened and is happening with respect to the prospects for our future.
From the time it took possession of the human system, Homo sapiens has moved further and further toward possession of the whole world. And today it is demonstrating, unequivocally, its ability to do so.
Homo sapiens has realized that it can itself produce what nature has not yet produced.
The passage from the First Paradise, when we were totally integrated into nature, to the Second Paradise, the artificial one, could be said to have reached its conclusion here and now: with the emergence of Homo technologicus.
As a living being and an artist can I remain wholly indifferent to this transition from Homo sapiens to Homo technologicus? Can I do this while I myself have one foot in one and one foot in the other of the two Homines?
As a responsible artist, I want to give myself a body that has both of these feet. And standing on both is able to find a new balance. Succeeding in this intent means giving rise to Homo artisticus, which, in part by ceasing to escape from nature, is capable of taking us into the Third Paradise.



The universe exists owing to its incessant work. Plant work, animals work. Out of necessity and for different purposes everything and everyone works. Work has existed for human beings from the moment they recognized its existence. The drawings of hunting weapons on the walls of caves are consequent on the first artwork: the imprint of the hand. The discovery of the virtual hand prompted the idea that moved the physical hand, which made and gripped the work tool.
We can say that work unites the physical activity of the body with the intellectual activity of the human mind, starting from an awareness of existence, of action and consequently of the capacity to produce. Work has allowed humanity to acquire an independence with respect to the organization of things by nature. We call this autonomy of action artificial activity as distinct from natural activity. Thus work is intrinsic to art and generates the arte-fact.
At night, when I sleep, my body works independently of my will. When I awake and get up, I bring into play my will which, being human, is artificial. Animals continue, even when awake, to act by instinct, according to nature. Human beings “create” tools and use them to exploit nature to their own advantage. With the creation of tools artificial work was born and this process of creation continued all the way up to the development of modern technology.
This morning I got up and set about writing these lines. I began, that is to say, my daily work. Having taken up the profession of the artist decades ago, I carry on with my work of establishing a connection between art and life, i.e. between nature and every kind of artifice in existence or in the process of coming into existence.
As an artist I work to bring nature and science, humanity and technology into balance. Between me and the world of human society lies the work that unites the freedom to do things with the responsibility of acting.
My work consists in developing an awareness of the human that corresponds to its capacity for understanding. The Trinamic union of awareness and knowledge results in a process that leads to balance, and I think that this must in itself be the greatest achievement of humankind. Such a balance is reached through a work of creation spread all around the world. It is the creation of a work of art of which we are all the authors. That is what Homo artisticus is.
As an artist I do not limit myself to utopia and do not content myself with theory, but work to realize the work of art, and to do this I have to turn utopia and theory into practical reality.
To create a work of art you have to “operate,” and thus work. If the artwork is individual the work is localized, but if that artwork is collective the effort is spread out and shared amongst a wide range of organizations.
Since the work consists in extending that balance to the scale of society as a whole, the effort involved truly requires from everyone an interpersonal ethical understanding, which I will sum up in three words: fairness, respect and trust.
Everyone works already, but with aims so divergent that the distances and contrasts seem insuperable. Those who maintain their predatory instinct in their work will certainly have difficulty in playing their part in a widespread balance and harmony.
It is up to artistic initiative to create methods that will permit the transition from cultural cannibalism to the culture of the “human.” This shift can take place by developing the practice of shared responsibility, starting with work. Human work (sometimes called labor or toil) is the activity of generation par excellence, and so is anthropologically “constitutive.”
The first article of the Italian Constitution declares: “Italy is a democratic republic founded on work.” It does not specify what work, but is referring to work in its broadest sense. Such a foundation foreshadows a political, economic and social harmony that includes every specific or particular human activity.
Article 1 of the Italian Constitution should be adopted as article 1 for the RE-PUBLIC of planetary society.


From Democracy to Demopraxy 

In democracy organizing does not mean constructing the pyramid of your own power, but responding to the trust placed in you by creating more trust to give back to society.
It is necessary to devise and put into effect practices that will make the relationship of trust inescapable in the whole of society, i.e. to establish a web of close interpersonal and intercommunity ties that will permit an immediate verification of the processes of collective living, through the reciprocity of a continual exchange that is never passive or inert.
Monocultural systems, from religion to politics and including the agricultural practice of growing a single crop and the centralization of economic and financial processes, reduce or eliminate the possibility of establishing this network of relationships. Consequently these systems remove the possibility of control from individuals, relegating them to an essentially passive role.
The elimination of differences produces a monotheistic and monopolistic culture and devitalizes the different individual elements. So we are trying to get a kind of politics into place in which people can participate directly, allowing them to channel their energies into their own capacities, in the physical and practical sphere as well as the intellectual and spiritual one. The participation of citizens can no longer be limited to the delegation of power to a representative, but neither can it be permitted to get bogged down in endless debate. We need to develop practical methods to take concrete decisions and actions that affect the real life of individuals and communities.
With the direct participation of citizens in the management of public affairs, the concept of “power” undergoes a radical change: instead of being seen as a dominating force, it is conceived as “empowerment” on the part of each and every one of us. Thus expressions that in some way take us back to the idea of power as an overriding, monotheistic and monopolistic phenomenon do not apply to the process which we are trying to put in place, which aims to get everyone to acquire greater freedom and take on greater responsibility in the context of society. Thus, the word power, kratos in Greek, from which the term “democracy” is derived, does not chime with a process which involves putting people in a position where they are empowered, where they “can do.” So we are replacing the word democracy with that of Demopraxy, from the Greek praxis, which means practice or doing. The objective is to establish a truly “demopractical” politics.
We think that people’s education, from nursery school to university, should be based on the project of Demopraxy, so that this demopractical approach will become integrated into the daily behavior of people in all walks of life.



How can this manifesto be put into practice?
How is Homo artisticus going to bring the Third Paradise into existence?
How do we move from democracy to Demopraxy?
December 21, 2012, the date on which the Maya calendar ended its cycle, was popularly predicted to be the day on which the world would come to an end. A rumor of tragedy blew through it like a gust of wind over the earth. For me, this rumor coincided with the threat of extreme disaster that was really hanging over humanity. I immediately thought of taking that ill omen and turning into an occasion for hope. I realized that the end of the Maya calendar’s cycle coincided with a date of significance everywhere in the world, even outside the time in which that Central American civilization existed. December 21, in fact, is also the winter solstice, in the Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, and the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Since the mists of time, that day has been celebrated with a festival of rebirth. At Cittadellarte we decided to take up that celebration and renew its significance in reference to the process of regeneration set in motion with the Third Paradise. So that day has been declared “Rebirth Day.” The moment of the end of the world has become the moment of its renascence.
The first Rebirth event in 2012 already saw the participation of artists, individual people and whole communities and private and public institutions in many parts of the world with works and happenings reflecting a commitment assumed for the time to come. Out of this sprang the dual concept of Rebirth-Third Paradise.
From those circumstances a process of broad participation has rapidly developed in many countries of the world. The Trinamic symbol has been taken up and reinterpreted hundreds of times, even within the realm of social institutions and international politics. Many of the collaborations that have taken on an active and ongoing role have been given the specific name of Rebirth-Third Paradise Embassies. New Embassies are springing up all over the planet and these are the main agents of the effective and practical realization of the Third Paradise project. Each of them, in its own part of the world, does not just organize events on the occasion of Rebirth Day, but constitutes a permanent center for the staging of ongoing programs, interconnected with the cultural, socioeconomic and civil fabric and in partnership with Cittadellarte and all the other Embassies. The common goal is to put the prospects outlined by the Third Paradise into concrete practice, in every sector of human activity.
The work of the Embassies is specifically focused on bringing about the transition from the democratic tradition to demopractical innovation.
What is the logic behind this change? And what role do the Embassies play? To answer these questions we need to take a brief look at history.
In the chapter entitled “The Path” we saw how the religious and political system that has governed human societies from the beginning finds its raison d’être in the common need for protection. In practice this need has divided the community into two wholly disproportionate parts: on the one hand almost the whole of the population which is seeking protection, and on the other a small number of people who assume the role of offering it. These last, in theocratic societies, are representatives of the deity that is identified with supreme power, i.e. the entity that can do anything, just as the figure of the mother was for each of us in our childhood. In polytheistic systems, under the aegis of an earthly god, whether pharaoh, king or emperor, the number of deities multiplied, their distinctive characteristics serving to idealize aspects of life with which each person could identify to some extent. Those deities can be compared with modern political associations and their temples with party cells. The former had proxies who acted in religious terms just as parties today have proxies that act politically: in this way, at different times and in different ways, the system of power has been spread.
Religious and political organizations have taken on the task of managing the ever increasing complexity of human communities as they have passed from tribes to cities to states: the search for protection persists in the population’s delegation of the right to organize every detail of the intricate social structure to this pyramidal system. This protection comes at a very high cost for the population. The result has been the subjugation, enslavement, exploitation, suffering and poverty that has led over the centuries to violent revolts and bloody revolutions.
The notion of democracy sprang from the need to overcome the contradictions arising from the desire for protection and the abuse of power by recognizing the sovereignty of the people. Democracy is an old project, but it is marred by the same flaws as the forms of government it proposes to supersede. The idea of power remains implicit in the very word democracy, even if it is understood as power of the people. Why is it precisely this word power that prevents democracy from being achieved? Because the people is an entity made up of very many individuals all separate from one another, who singly cannot have power. In seeking forms of aggregation it was thought that people could reach an understanding and find a common purpose through ideologies. Out of this came political parties, each of which relied on its own ideology, in a similar way to the old religions, to group the formless multitude of individuals into “parts” of society.
Between the 19th and 20th centuries two overarching ideologies were formed, like two great parties, that led people to side with one or the other. This duality corresponded to the division between owners of capital, first in the form of land and then in that of industry on the one hand and workers on the other: the right and the left. In Great Britain, the Tories and Labour. These two ideologies had a practical basis and therefore considerable substance. They could really offer their adherents a form of protection, defending both the interests and the identity of the people on each side. Even the wars that, led from above, have torn humanity apart have had the function of binding people together in an ideal sense of identity. In war and in peace, democracy has identified itself with the common good, but it has split into two parts: communism and capitalism. Communism has betrayed its very name, turning into dictatorship, while capitalism has equated the common good with the unchecked growth of consumption.
In 1989 the communist ideology collapsed and only the capitalist one was left.
The consequence has been an increasingly globalized system of power, under which democratic political parties have proliferated like a multitude of “subdeities.” Each of these has created its own ideology and ideologies have multiplied in step with the number of parties. Each has reestablished the relationship of protection and asks citizens to delegate their authority to it.
At each election, from the municipal to the regional to the national, those who are elected move farther and farther away from the practical and contingent needs of their electors to play their own power games at the top. In this way they leave a void that, added to those left by all the other political ideologies, becomes a “great void” and in the end the illusion of protection is shattered. It persists only in the form of a patronage reserved for a few, while the majority are excluded and left to their own devices.
In reality, therefore, the delegates seize hold of power, taking it away from the people, who tend to progressively dissociate and distance themselves from politics.
Faced with this scenario, we realize that there is no longer any need for parties in the organization of society. The need is for unprecedented methods, innovative organizations, means and systems that can be used to reconsider the running of public affairs.
This is why we have formulated a system that will make it possible to pass from democracy to Demopraxy. This transition is being made through the activity of the Rebirth-Third Paradise Embassies. They structure and coordinate, each in its own part of the world, the Forums and the Workshops of Demopraxy.
What are the Forums and the Workshops and how are they organized? The Embassies do the organizing. First of all they pinpoint trade and other associations, institutions, foundations, businesses, public and private organizations, for-profit and not-for-profit bodies, committees, clubs, workgroups and any other kind of grouping of individuals on the basis of specific subjects and interests in the region in which the Embassy Rebirth-Third Paradise operates. They then invite a representative of each organization to take part in the Forum. This takes the form of a meeting lasting for three days. Subjects of general interest are identified as a basis of understanding, including the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations. Starting from these goals, specific themes of particular local relevance are chosen. The Forum carries out its work alternating plenary sessions with roundtables at which sit no more than ten representatives of the bodies involved. Each table, coordinated by a facilitator, discusses the aspirations, problems, experiences and proposals of the participants and presents, in plenary session, the conclusions reached, which are compared with those of the other roundtables. The resulting proposals, once framed, are combined in a program that will be carried out over the following twelve months: this varied program of joint activities is known as a Workshop. The conduct of the Workshop entails interconnecting with many different parts of the social fabric, in an effort to put the proposals that have emerged from the Forum into effect and to take on others over the course of the work. At the end of the year another Forum will be held at which the results achieved by the Workshop will be presented. Forums and Workshops will continue to alternate, maintaining the connection with the different bodies of the social fabric.
The participants in the Forum, unlike the elected delegates in the system of political parties, do not part company with nor acquire independence from the body that they represent in so far as they have to remain part of it, bringing the necessities raised by their own organization to the Forum and the results of the Forum back to it.
On the basis of our experience so far, the most suitable number of participants has proven to be around one hundred, each representing a body that may have tens, hundreds or thousands of members. Working together, the Forums are able to gradually involve the whole of society, touching on every aspect of community life.
The Forums and Workshops will convey these needs and proposals to parliaments and governments so that they are able to influence the choices they make. This system complements the institutional bodies run by the elected representatives of the people, using alternative methods to those of the political parties.
In this way, the citizens who work together in the Forums and Workshops fill the empty space that separated them from the institutions of government to which they make proposals and over which they exercise control. Such a practice takes the place of the party framework. And this is a fundamental change of the entire political system because it leads to the implementation of Demopraxy. In fact it allows everyone to play a politically active role both in their own area, with the proposals they can put forward directly, and in wider society, through the conjunctions that are produced in a participation that embraces all its members.

Michelangelo Pistoletto


First version “OMNITHEISM AND DEMOCRACY”, 2012, ed. Ruggero Poi
Second version “HOMINITHEISM AND DEMOPRAXY”, 2016, ed. Chiara Belliti




1. Demopraxy supersedes the concept of democracy. In the process of defining this term, I consider it necessary, for a greater understanding, to still use the noun democracy.
2. An act of initiation sanctions the passage from a condition that is not recognized by society to one that is socially recognized.
3. In 1978, in the manifesto Art Takes on Religion, I declared: “[…] Art takes on religion means that art openly takes over the part represented by the structures that govern thought, such as religion. Not with a view to taking their place, but in order to come up with a different system of interpretation as a substitute for them, one intended to enhance people’s capacity to exercise the functions of thought independently.
4. Lieu de recueillement et de prière multireligieux, realized in 2000 at the Paoli-Calmettes cancer hospital in Marseilles.
5. A historic decision to impose a monotheistic faith was taken by the pharaoh Akhenaten in the 14th century BC, which is why he came to be known as the Heretic. The attempt was not a success and was never made again in ancient Egypt.
6. Paolo Naldini “L’Arte della Demopraxia,” in Arte al Centro di una Trasformazione sociale responsabile (Biella: Cittadellarte Edizioni, October 2012).


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“Ominiteismo e Demopraxia” is also a book (in Italian), published by Chiarelettere in October 2017.

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Michelangelo Pistoletto 
Ominiteismo e Demopraxia