As the historian Ernesto Galli della Loggia said, throughout their history man has tried to dominate nature and with pandemics nature tries to re-take possession of space it subtracted. The Spanish flu, for example, killed between 50 and 100 million people in the early 1900s, many more than the victims of the First World War. But it wasn't the first. For a long time we called them "plague": the plague of Athens (about 430 BC), the Antonine plague (about 170 AD), the plague of Justinian (about 541 AD), the Black Death (about 1350), the Manzonian plague (about 1630).

Towards the end of 2019, a new, very contagious virus began to circulate first in China, then in the rest of the world. A new virus, unknown to our immune system. In just over two months, the global scenario has completely changed and a new epidemic (it will be defined as a pandemic by the WHO on 11 March 2020) blocks the whole world. On May 17th, 2020 (WHO data) there are 4.494.873 cases confirmed worldwide; 305,976 the deceased; the world economy could lose 6.4-9.7% of GDP (source ADB).

Almost all countries have closed national borders; travel was severely limited not only from one region to another but also from one city to another. The lockdown has begun, the period of isolation with a ban on leaving our home except for emergencies or needs to be documented by police officers. Experts say world employment will drop by 158-242 million jobs and job income by 1,200-1,800 billion, fueling a huge crowd of new poor people. On the other hand, we witnessed a drastic reduction in pollution, animals invaded deserted cities, fish could be seen in the canals of Venice, children began to spend more time with their parents who stay at home or teleworking or because they lost their jobs. We have rediscovered more relaxed rhythms. We took the opportunity to do many things that before "we didn't have the time" to do. Many hope that the world of tomorrow is not like yesterday's world that the epidemic could bring about a new renaissance based more on people than on the economy.

Among these the artist Vincenzo Marsiglia who with his project:

#unitedaroundaportrait proposes to unite us around a portrait, ours, that of the doctor or the nurse who treats us, the portrait of the artistic and cultural community which continues to bring art to life… We are all expressions of this pandemic period that the world is facing. #unitedaroundaportrait offers to create a large real and virtual community by requesting a selfie which will be transformed into a real digital portrait through the use of the Interactive Star App. Everyday a series of portraits will be published, expressing a positive outlook and becoming the common voice, the hope, the impulse towards the possibility of creating new dynamics which aim at a solidarity without borders. We are not alone. We are all united, united to survive, united for the love of art, united through our portraits.

So, to explore the topic, I asked some questions directly to Vincenzo Marsiglia.

How was it born, what does it propose and how are you developing your #unitedaroundaportrait project?

#unitedaroundaportrait project was born from the need to sensitize a large community of people belonging to culture and not only, to generate a thought that grows more and more and becomes as "viral" as possible. The project is self-feeding and self-developing with the participation of the people who generate a positive message.

Why the portrait?

The portrait has always been a means of communicating messages already in the distant past and still now, then the portrait, the face, the person itself is always part of my concept of interactive work that generates a trace and creates questions for the person itself. An important factor is in the concept of reworking these images thanks to my Interactive Star App that allows you to perceive the true state of mind of the person, the essence of those who are reworked.

For the moment it is a project, if I understand correctly, that you are developing on social networks. Will it then take a different form, I think of an installation or exhibition or book/catalog, or not?

Yes your vision is exact, I am developing the project beyond social networks, thanks to the support of two important companies, one is the VAR Group, a leading company in the field of Digital Security and the Luca and Katia Tomassini Foundation, attentive to innovation in the digital and cultural field, the artistic director is Davide Sarchioni. These two external realities supported my concept and thanks to the two curators of the external events Julie Fazio and Laetitia Florescu site specific installations will be created, in fact, I am already working to unite more and more people to create collective events. My idea is to create a great global message without borders in order to give strength to a new vision of life and art thanks to technology and man, therefore the construction of a second Renaissance.

The focus of your project is the desire to create a solidarity without borders. A theme that the current virus in all its drama has confronted us. The virus reminded us if we forgot it that we are all in the same boat. How can art help us in this difficult moment?

Art has a fundamental task at this particular moment, it must reactivate that global communication force that allows you to emanate positive messages and generate beauty precisely in order to relieve all the ugliness of these very tense months between fears and mistrust. I would like to give light to the heartfelt theme of solidarity, in this case in strongly supporting the idea of the project and making its closeness felt by a group of important artists from the African continent, their emotional involvement made me proud.

The picture gallery that you have composed, that you are composing, is focused on the portrait; it focuses more on people than on individuals, that is, it tries to imagine a future similar to a community. How feasible do you think it is? How much are we willing to sacrifice for such a great ideal? I ask you as an artist but also as a person who, like all of us, lives this moment that only a few months ago seemed unimaginable.

When I thought about the #unitedaroundaportrait project, I had in my mind the sense of seeing many people close to each other, so it was conceptually to go beyond, at least digitally, social distancing. Now we think as a collective, I like that this message has passed, that is not the individual but the collective. Thus the idea of a constellation was born, beyond the reference to my sign (UM, Unit Marsiglia, four-pointed star), which expands and feeds more and more, new connections with others, therefore the strength is generated thanks to the other people and individuality lose strength.

Are there other future projects you are working on and can you anticipate?

Yes, and I take this opportunity to announce a new project that will be curated by Annalisa Ferraro entitled Tracce di Memoria - Linguaggi tra presente, passato e future. For this exhibition I will create a completely new work where I will push the use of technology even more thanks to the help of Hololens 2, they will generate virtual spaces but with the concept of mixed reality between digital and real with the emotion of the soundtrack created by Ocrasunset (Simone Boffa) with whom I have been collaborating for some time for the realization of a series of interactive installations, therefore music, with the use of the latest innovations in the sound field, becomes a 3D sound.