Blindfolded, with scales and a sword in her hand. Justice as we imagine it seems to have little to do with beauty, inclusiveness and sustainability. And yet it is precisely the relationship between beauty and justice that closes the first phase of #NEBBuildsCommunityAesthetics!, the initiative with which Università Cattolica joins New European Bauhaus. The European project wants to build an inclusive and sustainable future, which starts from beauty to create meeting places and social environments through the dialogue between teknè and art: a dialogue between artists, teachers and experts in restorative justice in the Sala Fontana of the Museo del 900 in Milan is a step in this direction. The Conversation was introduced by Professor Federica Olivares, University coordinator of the project and director of the International Program and Master in Cultural Diplomacy. The title was “The Art of the Encounter: Building a Beauty that Builds an Inclusive and Just Environment”.
"Beauty, sustainability, together. The motto of the New European Bauhaus project seems to have nothing to do with conventional justice systems,'' stresses Professor Claudia Mazzuccato, Professor of Criminal Law and Restorative Justice at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and moderator of the debate. "They tend to separate the parties in conflict and are unsustainable in terms of economic and human costs. Beauty and aesthetics pronounced in prisons and cells seem almost an insult. There is another possible justice, it is restorative justice: a process recommended by the United Nations and encouraged also by the European Union, in which injured parties and those responsible for the damage participate together and actively in the resolution of issues arising from the damage with the help of an impartial mediator".
Art itself is emblematic of this opposition between traditional and new justice. This is the case of Arturo Martini and his “La Sete”, housed in the Museo del 900. As told by Jesuit priest and artist Guido Bertagna, the artist worked in the same years both on the construction of the Palazzo di Giustizia in Milan, a perfect example of the twentieth-century architecture beloved of Fascism and a symbol of conventional justice, and on this much more delicate and intimate work depicting a woman with a baby in her arms bent over what is perceived to be a surface of water. Art thus becomes a tool for imagining a new face for Justice.
"Imagination is the most political of human faculties", Brunilda Pali, a researcher at the Leuven Institute of Criminology, said, "because it shows that reality is not fixed but changeable. For me it is a powerful source of inspiration to work on justice and especially social injustice, not to accept it. Especially in this field we know that what is perceived as justice today actually changes over time and from country to country. This gives us the power and the duty to re-imagine it. Art has the power to work on the imagination. Through it we can create a world: ‘La Sete’ is an example of this".
"The thirst for justice is a common feeling", commented Professor Gabrio Forti, Professor of Criminal Law and Director of the Graduate School "Federico Stella" of Criminal Justice at Università Cattolica. But justice cannot exist without understanding the singularity of each case and the people involved in it. The judge must always find the balance between the system of laws and the individual case. The ability to be attentive, to listen is required. The aesthetic experience is also a great moment of listening. When we see something beautiful, we are breathless, we open a space of silence within ourselves where we recreate in our mind what the artist saw.
Beauty and justice can come together on a game board. "Viaggio alla scoperta dell'altro" (Journey to discover the Other) is a game designed by Bertagna and Mazzuccato as part of a project of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation in El Salvador. A sort of goose game designed to help children get out of the context of violence and poverty in which they are born and learn to know the Other: "This artistic work tries to make people walk a path. Even restorative justice proposes a path that one accepts to take. Art is like this: it has to be freely accepted, you have to let yourself be taken outside by the artistic language. This game forces you to get out of yourself and enter through words and gestures into the land of the Other".
"Through ‘Journey to Discover the Other’ we understand how imagination gives children the power to understand and change their world. First it makes them delve into the reality in which they live, because they live in poverty and violence. It is fundamental to start from reality because imagination is not creating what you want. It is grounded in reality, first understanding it and then transforming it," Pali concludes.
A similar approach will characterise the second phase of #NEBBuildsCommunityAesthetics!, starting in January 2022. Future Labs will be organised, in which students, project partners, stakeholders and experts will be invited to participate. Starting from the tools and practices developed in the three conversations, they will try to imagine three types of sustainable and inclusive future: a dystopian, a utopian and a desirable one. The results will be reported in digital format in the following phase of the project.