He is not afraid of loneliness and sees tomorrow as a cloud. The writer Tommaso Pincio, interviewed for Futuro Antico, is fascinated by unrealized or unattainable ideas.
Who is Tommaso Pincio?
Writer and portrait painter, lives and works in Rome. Published M. (Cronopio 1999), A love from another world(Einaudi 2002), The girl who wasn’t her (Einaudi 2005), The alien (Fazi 2006), Chinacity (Einaudi 2008), Exhausted space (minimum fax 2010), Zero star hotel (Laterza 2011), Pulp Rome (il Saggiatore 2012). His latest novel is Diary of a Martian Summer (Perrone 2022). He regularly writes articles for the magazine Rolling Stoneon the culture pages ofmanifestand with Friday of the Republic.
What are your inspiring references in art?
The main reference, almost a lighthouse in the night, is the fixed image that appears on my Twitter profile or X or whatever the hell this social network is called now. He shows a tattered white T-shirt with writing on it We make art until we die. It actually sounds more like a principle, a declaration of intent, I realize. However, references vary over time depending on age and circumstances, and it is not certain that they are always artistic.
Which project represents you the most? Can you tell us something about its creation?
For years I have been thinking about inventorying the paintings that appear in porn films, which are often set in living rooms or rooms where there is a painting or, in any case, something decorative above the sofa or bed on which the lovers perform , even if it were just a simple poster. The aim is to create an exhibition or catalog from the inventory, an irreverent reinterpretation of Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas, so to speak. I selected a few images, but for obvious reasons I never got around to doing any serious work on them. I fear that it will remain a failed project and that brings me to the point. I don’t think this hypothetical atlas represents me in any particular way, perhaps it doesn’t represent me at all were it not for its likely fate of incompleteness. I am fascinated by unrealized or unattainable ideas.
How important is genius loci to you in your work?
I come from art and therefore I see literature as a continuation of art through other means. My books are ultimately portraits or self-portraits or both, always conceived as installations in which the identification and definition of a place is an essential element. Maybe it’s because I graduated from the academy with a degree in stage design or because my city, Rome, is a huge open-air studio. Or maybe because, as a long-time gallery owner, I have organized dozens, if not hundreds, of exhibitions. My artistic work, which I still indulge in from time to time for pleasure, also has a similar characteristic. In fact, although I paint very mundane portraits, I tend to focus not so much on the individual painting itself, but on the context and the way it will ultimately be placed alongside other paintings.
Often the installation or choice of environment takes precedence over everything, complicating the overall vision. In one of these installations, I took the work hostage on the day of its inauguration and threatened to destroy it by throwing the forty-nine portraits that made it up into an inflatable water-filled children’s pool in the center of the room. I asked visitors to give me something impossible or nothing. Somewhat astonished, those present could only witness the destruction of the portraits. On the other hand, they took a lot of photos, which is the way people participate in and engage with things today Genius loci. This happened four years ago on the occasion of an art biennale in Prizen and the fact that we were in Kosovo took on an almost fatal significance. What I want to say is that gestures – and therefore things and people – derive their meaning from the place in which they are performed, just as places acquire their meaning precisely because they were the scene of certain gestures.
How important is the past in imagining and building the future? Do you think the future can have an ancient heart?
It is more than a heart, it has an ancient light. When we look at the night sky, in many cases we see stars shining that have actually been dead for millions of years, and yet that light will still be there when it is our turn to be gone. What kind of light is that? Past, present or future? Or these three things together?
What advice would you give to a young person who wants to follow your path?
I can’t give any advice, just a warning. Don’t be afraid of loneliness. If you are afraid of it, it is better to change direction.
Does the concept of the sacred still have meaning and strength in a defined post-truth era?
It depends on what you mean by “holy.” If you are not a believer, the sacred is an indispensable or uncrossable boundary that requires unconditional respect. The sacred then becomes not only important but also the only possible alternative because it precedes the idea of truth. Of course, how much of a good thing this is remains to be seen.
How do you imagine the future? Can you share with us three ideas that you believe will guide the coming years?
I need to return to the projects that have been missed or are in danger of remaining so. For years I’ve been thinking about a novel in which a huge cloud of unknown origin suddenly envelops the entire planet. On the surface, the cloud poses no immediate threat. The only concrete effect it seems to have is to hide forever and completely the view of the sky. Yet life on Earth is changing because the inexplicable and constant presence of the cloud still hovers over people like a giant question mark over their heads. I would say that this is how I imagine the future: a big and mysterious cloud.