by Irene Sanesi
This year Francesco Nuti passed away. Actor, director but also singer, screenwriter, and multifaceted artist, he marked the history of cinema with a very classic path -working his way up the ladder- and very Tuscan (and Italian) heir to that tradition of humor that is both profound (which is not an oxymoron) and light at the same time, with many traveling companions who distinguished a trait and a journey of auteur cinema. There are several (as we say in Tuscany to indicate the adjective many) considerations that arise from taking on his legacy. All are remarkably appropriate to the reasoning I intend to unravel in this issue of ÆS devoted to governance and economic sustainability of culture.
All the Fault of Paradise is the title of a 1985 film that features Francesco Nuti as director and lead actor, his brother Giovanni for the music, and the screenplay created together with Vincenzo Cerami and Giovanni Veronesi.
Filmed in Valle D’Aosta amidst a landscape of extraordinary beauty, it tells the story of Romeo (Nuti’s unfailing romantic streak) who comes out of prison and sets out to find his son abandoned by his mother and given up for adoption to a couple (Roberto Alpi and Ornella Muti), who will prove in Francesco/Romeo’s eyes to be the best future for little Lorenzo. A melancholic, ironic, poignant film in which the silences count as much as the lines and perhaps more, and the landscape of the Alps is like an immense theatrical backdrop that frames the story. First consideration.
No to reductionist approaches. Yes to complex approaches. Toward teal organizations.
Nuti’s lecture delivers this first lesson. Complex does not necessarily mean complicated as much as intertwined (cum-plexus).
That culture is not just the preservation of the past but the production of content and messages in the present is fact. A fact that is still too little recognized. In the collective imagination, there are museums, archaeological parks, galleries, big concerts, and everything that revolves around the tourist and commercial machine. It is not wrong, but it is closed. It is like having a reductionist approach if we were physicists. We need to embrace complexity as a philosophy of sustainability, as a mindset, and apply its rules (often more exemptions) to organizational models. Not only the hierarchical/functional pyramid is conceivable (feasible with several caveats for large entities, in Italy, mostly state museums), but new formats with more horizontal organizational charts in the manner of teal organizations must be imagined. I covered this topic in an article in Artribune in 20221. Teal is not just a color but also an organizational model whose purpose is to integrate a company’s resources-human, patrimonial, economic and financial, relational and reputational-into the perimeter (which looks more like a court of the gentiles than a hortus conclusus) of three foundational and cross-cutting values. Self-management as the natural ability to self-organize with increasing flexibility and empowerment; wholeness is the goal of authenticity, trust, and inclusion; and evolutionary purpose, a concept that transcends the mantra of continuous improvement propounded to us by years of quality certifications, to place the organization in the expect to get by with the support of volunteerism alone (valuable, but sometimes misleading from a strategic standpoint) or public contribution alone from a revenue standpoint.
The paradigm shift will occur when cultural enterprises become attractive to new (equity) partners, investment funds, spin-offs, M&A.
Today we are at a crossroads: wanting to persistently and stubbornly remain within the apparent comfort zone of the status quo or rather rethink ourselves in terms of economics, investment, research and innovation, partnerships, internationalization, etc. To achieve this, it is essential that figures emerge who are capable of expressing new leadership, inspired and trained in the plot skills device by crossing that increasingly clear boundary between efficient and strategic management.
Inside this reasoning that aims at valuing talents and roles, the various areas of culture have much to learn from the organizational and governance model of film and music, starting from the focus on copyright to the definition of roles and professionalism according to a logic that I explain in the consideration to follow (the third one) in which specialization is a value as a mosaic tile. It is mosaic art that is to be brought into play by combining and orchestrating (the polyphonic image is also illuminating) the profiles of individuals (the names in the credits) through the ability to lead with a vision and style (the choice of artistic figure is crucial). On this, there is still much to be done.
Yea and nay to specialisms. YES to a polytechnic and polyphonic culture.
Specializations are the result of a series of choices (starting with those of the higher and university education system) and market evolutions so that today, somewhat as was the case with medicine decades ago, we can find on a set figures with extremely precise tasks such as the assistant script supervisor, the one or the one who checks that everything is consistent. I went to watch the credits of All Heaven’s Fault but could not unearth this profile. It may be a lack of good eyesight on my part or simply in the mid-1980s this figure was definitely called in Italian and who knows if he or she held exactly that role, or rather was trained already in plot skills. In small and unstructured cultural organizations plot skills are vital, in large and structured ones they are vital as well, in this case, if they coincide with the apex figures and hold together: skills, technicality, relationships, overview and medium to long-term vision, credibility, and trust. Basically, this is how I imagine the role of a director, in particular, I think of words like credibility and trust, feelings that are fundamental for a person, no matter how much he or she is an actor and therefore predisposed to play a part-to put his or her life in your hands, not only professionally.
Fourth and final consideration
Beyond storytelling: remembrance must turn into memory.
When we are contemporaries of great artists, we need to notice them. Celebrating them ex post facto is not enough. It is essential to cultivate their collective memory, to make them influencers in spite of themselves, testimonials of positive careers, debunking still ingrained stereotypes according to which working in culture is a serial profession ... (you decide which one, excluding A, paraphrasing the paragon par excellence of the Italian myth: soccer). Italy has treasures that make us a paradise, which is not to blame, however. We are the ones who have to take responsibility for care, management, enhancement and promotion, and communication. And, not secondarily, governance and economic sustainability. Sandro, the lung enjoys, he says at one point with a smile on his face, addressing Alexander the adoptive father of his son. And so, several decades ago, there was already a Tuscan artist practicing and communicating sustainability, resilience, and acceptance of the other. Choosing places, characters, and stories. Often going against the grain, as true culture knows how to do. It is no coincidence that the last century saw the birth of the Vanguards. It would be necessary today to recover a sense and awareness of what distinguishes the Vanguards from the Academies, also in terms of governance and economic sustainability, without continuing to use old and above all inadequate models, having the courage to dare (to do and be more avant-garde), to change paradigm.
Quirino Principe, a masterful musicologist but also a sublime translator of The Lord of the Rings (to him we owe its fortune in the Italian version) speaks of strong music (not beautiful music, quality music, excellent music versus weak music) to represent true, authentic music, capable of leaving its mark. Francesco Nuti was great, really great.
A chartered accountant and auditor, Irene Sanesi is a partner of BBS-Lombard. Expert in economics, management, taxation, and fundraising of culture and the Third Sector, she carries out consultancy and training in these fields. She participates in conferences, talks, and workshops and is the author of publications on cultural management. She was president of the Centro Pecci in Prato and of the Opera Santa Croce in Florence. She holds positions in foundations and organizations, and teaches fundraising strategies in the Master of the 24 Ore Business School and the Feltrinelli Foundation.