We made ourselves questions about the just passed 2023 and about 2024 and then answered them! Good luck with the reading – it's long :)
Is there anything you discovered or learned that sensibly changed your relationship with yourself?
VIDA: I am too impulsive. I need extreme preparation to be disciplined.
ELENA: I discovered and accepted to be slow.
ALJAŽ: I discovered the bees, which changed my relationship to the landscape of Topolò and I hope also the relationship with myself. The latter change is still to be determined, but I’m sure it’s there.
LAU: I discovered that becoming an adult means taking responsibility for not being perfect.
DORA: I learned to walk with a donkey, so I learned to follow another rhythm of moving and observing what is happening around. This experience made me discover the pleasure of walking into the woods, step by step from one point to another, to follow a path with no rush or special intention, just to enjoy it.
JANJA: I discovered that I planned too much in my life. And those plans were not just facts, there were daydreaming scenarios, stories and conversations in my head and when life happened, a lot of these stories didn’t end exactly like I imagined... This year I realised that the most beautiful things will happen to me, if I accept life with an open heart, and patiently keep and slowly nurture my desires.
An unexpected encounter (person, thing, situation…)
VIDA: Everything that happened while travelling to Amsterdam and Switzerland and while staying in Berlin was unexpected. The tenderness towards places. The long walks. Sleeping in a library.
While in Topolò: encountering bees, attending bell chiming, almost swimming in cold water, discovering a new path and collectively opening it up and re-walking it.
ELENA: Agreeing to go on a tourist trip to Aquileia, which I had not visited since primary school, with friends from Trentino. Concluding with the Rilke trail and bathing in the sea after a moment of climbing enthusiasm (!) which also made me reconsider Petra's skills (with love).
ALJAŽ: There were more. Let me focus on people, though. Erika, our beekeeping teacher: leaving bees aside, she is one of those incredible people, who if they didn’t exist, someone would just have to make up and you would probably read about them in a novel somewhere. Incredible energy, knowledge, and just really fun to be around. And love the genau - miss you, Erika! We’re coming soon to Roma!
And then let me also highlight the Neue Berlin Crew we met (Lorena, Jean-Marie, Juan …), but most importantly, I had some really fun times and important moments with Rosario and Julian - I think of you guys a lot, just so you know! I day-dream of Julian using the old school as a studio and of talking to Rosario on our balcony in the summer.
LAU: I think the most unexpected encounters have been with some people I have known for many years. When you think you have an idea of who you're dealing with and instead, magically, you discover something new, completely different.
DORA: One day, on a boring evening at work, I met an interesting girl from Germany who moved to a small village just over the border. How she arrived there and why that evening decided to come to the opening of an exhibition is still not clear to me…so , something to investigate in the future.
JANJA: There were many. But the friends I met in Japan (Kishimoto san, Mutsuko san, Takami san) made me a bit happier and a more grateful person, who wants to be a little kinder and nicer every day.
What did you learn this past year?
VIDA: Three big things → how to be with bees and how to collect honey (thank you Erika!), how to bake bread (thank you Jack!) and how to play double bass (thank you Aljaž!).
ELENA: To sand a wooden floor.
ALJAŽ: I started to learn how to deal with bees. I also learned that beekeeping is not easy. I also learned quite some songs on the guitar thanks to the new duet I have with Vida on the double bass. And I think I learned a bit more Italian on the way - I’m very happy about that!
LAU: I learned that the jet leg is not an urban myth.
DORA: To do a Pivot table on exel.
JANJA: I learnt quite a few japanese words, took some ikebana lessons and independently finished the documentation of the executed project (don’t really know the english word - and yes it was learning by doing). I also learnt to step forward and stop hiding behind emails - phone calls and talking in person move mountains.
What/who are you grateful for?
VIDA: I am grateful to Rosi, who included me in the Climate Care festival adventure, who proposed to the Topolò fam to have bees and who made me (and us) meet special people (between Sokolowsko and Kreuzberg). I am grateful to Eveline, who invited me to spend time with her at the Sitterwerk library and at the Kunstgiesserei in St. Gallen, making me encounter one of the most beautiful places and people of this year. I am grateful to Michael, Rosi and Gilly who helped build a connection between Robida and the special Diffrakt space and collective in Berlin. I am grateful to Judith, Matteo and Carolina who wove beautiful connections. To Yvonne, Sophie, Melissa, Alessandra, Sandi, Alessandro, Michael, Natalia and to the Robide for some meaningful conversations.
ELENA: I am grateful that I have friends who host me around the world, who listen to me when I complain, and who make my life a little more special. I do not make a specific list of names because I know that those who read already feel included.
I am grateful to appreciate the little things and consider the sun my greatest medicine.
ALJAŽ: I was always grateful for those 5 minutes of peace I get a day. This year, I’m grateful for half an hour of peace I get almost every day, sharing it with Vida when we play music together. That was a real game changer this year.
LAU:I am grateful for the freedom that despite all the difficulties characterizes my life. I am thankful that I can make most decisions independently and learn to value this more and more each day. And I am grateful that I never get used to the little things that make me euphoric.
DORA: For my own bathroom (and specially for the bathtubs).
JANJA: Oh my, it will sound cheesy again. But I never felt so grateful in my life. Maybe I just didn't realise how lucky I am.
One nice Robida-related memory
VIDA: When, guided by Antonio and Jean, we opened up an old unused path in the forest.
ELENA: When we all have the same proactive energy in welcoming new things (bees, guests, goals, challenges). When we laugh till we cry during our weekly zoom meetings.
ALJAŽ: The amazing, engaging and exhausting two days Robidas spent together in Topolò in December. Talking about the past, the present and the future in real calm and serene tones of voices. I hope to never forget them.
LAU: The excitement and indescribable pleasure of playing "All the small things" with the double bass (for the very first time) together with Alj, Vida and Janja.
DORA: The dancing, on the cinema floor on a summer evening.
JANJA: Last 2023 working sessions in Topolo, talking about our strengths and where we can support each other more. After sharing some emotional thoughts I received such beautiful hugs and later we sang and played together and we went for dinner and laughed really hard. I know it didn’t happen exactly in this order, but that weekend was really beautiful and it doesn’t matter if I make it even nicer in my head.
Your 2023 in five words
VIDA: regenerating, be-longing, landguage, ecotone, undercommons.
ELENA: brave, balanced, organised, slow, concrete
ALJAŽ: bee-longing, border, decolonial, softness, Gaza
LAU: no thanks, risk, New York, colours, New York.
DORA: donkey, kitties, bathroom, lonely, impatient
JANJA: completed kindergarten, japan, beauty, thirty, gratefulness
One thing that I will never do again
VIDA: Not taking time to really rest and not going to the seaside (I was very used to not going to the seaside but after the experience of last year in Ilovik, that seems as the only real way to rest).
ELENA: Forget to do a small visit and say hi to Portugal.
ALJAŽ: I will not let myself not rest.
LAU: Taking work on holidays.
DORA: Forget about taking care of myself, reading and dreaming.
JANJA: Lose my earrings. And I won’t choose a tv show over a walk in the forest. And I won’t be too lazy to write down books, films and music that I like.
A book from 2023
VIDA: Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987, Aunt Lute Books).
ELENA: Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, La metamorfosi delle piante (2008, Guanda).
ALJAŽ: Brian Dillon, Affinities (2023, Fitzcarraldo Editions).
LAU: Marion Jdanoff, Baguenaudes (2023, Super Loto Editions ).
DORA: Natalia Ginzburg, Lessico Famigliare (Family Saying) (1963, EInaudi).
JANJA: Richard Powers, Razvejenje (2022, Beletrina).
Quote or excerpt from the book that moved you
VIDA — “In this sense, it is important to think about the collective as an activity. To approach the notion of collectives not as a pre-existing social structure but as actively becoming in context. So that becoming a collective is an acting toward it, a coming together and dissolving and recomposing.” — Jeanne van Heeswijk, Preparing for the Not-Yet, 2016
ELENA — “La grande e altisonante massima Conosci te stesso! mi è sempre parsa sospetta. […] L’uomo conosce se stesso nella sola misura in cui conosce il mondo, di cui ha coscienza soltanto in sé, come ha coscienza di sé soltanto in esso. Ogni nuovo oggetto, osservato bene, dischiude in noi un nuovo organo.[…] Perciò negli anni maturi, ho sempre attentamente osservato fino a che punto gli altri potessero conoscermi, per venire più in chiaro su me stesso e sulla mia natura, in loro e su di loro, come in altrettanti specchi.Gli avversari li ignoro, perché non possono darmi alcun impulso creativo, mentre è proprio questo che conta nella vita. Dagli amici, invece, mi lascio tanto condizionare quanto spingere all’infinito, mi specchio in loro con sincera fiducia di trarne alimento e profitto.” — Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, La metamorfosi delle piante, 2008
ALJAŽ — “I found myself frequently using the word affinity, and wondered what I meant by it. An attraction, for sure—to certain works of art or literature, to fragments or details, moods or atmospheres inside of them. To a sentence, for instance, or an essay, but just as easily to an impression diffusing in the mind that could not be traced back to source. A fascination with this or that artist, writer, musician, filmmaker, designer. With a body or a body of work. Fascination—already finding words with which affinity has affinities—as something like but unlike critical interest, which has its own excitements but remains too often at the level of knowledge, analysis, conclusions, at worst the total boredom of having opinions. But also: the way things, images and ideas sidled up to each other, seemed to seduce one another, in ways I could not (or did not want to) explain. So that when I wrote affinity in a piece of critical prose, perhaps I was trying to point elsewhere, to a realm of the unthought, unthinkable, something unkillable by attitudes or arguments. Not a question of beauty or quality or taste, other eternal aesthetic values. Something fleeting in fact—affinities don’t all, or always, last. In the end, and for reasons above as well as others to come, something a little bit stupid.” — Brian Dillon, Affinities, 2023
LAU — “Eppure fu proprio in quell’inverno, l’inverno del 1910, che secondo Virginia Woolf ‘il personaggio umano cambiò’. Quella mostra sanciva una svolta epocale: le cose stesse avevano assunto una forma nuova, o meglio, la loro forma. Non realistica né lineare, ma più profonda e più vera. Fu guardando per la prima volta i quadri di quei grandi artisti che Virginia Woolf - lo avrebbe riconosciuto lei stessa, a posteriori - aveva cambiato il suo modo di scrivere.” — Sara de Simone, Nessuna come lei, 2023
DORA — “Una di quelle frasi o parole, ci farebbe riconoscere l’un con l’altro, noi fratelli, nel buio d’una grotta, fra milioni di persone. Quelle frasi sono il nostro latino, il vocabolario dei nostri giorni andati, sono come i geroglifici egiziani o degli assiro-babilonesi, la testimonianza d’un nucleo vitale che ha cessato di esistere, ma che sopravvive nei suoi testi, salvati dalla furia delle acque, dalla corrosione del tempo. Quelle frasi sono il fondamento della nostra unità familiare (...)” — Natalia Ginzburg, Lessico Famigliare, 1963
JANJA — “Renčanje žag in podiralnikov dreves nekje v daljavi. Spreleti ga velika resnica: drevesa padajo s spektakularnim grmenjem. Toda sajenje je tiho in rast nevidna.” — Richard Powers, Razvejenje, 2022
A memory of a moment that lasted in reality very little but you felt lasted a lot
VIDA: A very specific moment at a train station – short, intense and maybe a bit scary.
ELENA: A weekend of pure relaxation on a semi-deserted island in Brazil to enjoy life, without feeling guilty.
ALJAŽ: It seems like it would have to be a cringe moment - so I probably blocked those out of my memory, as I cannot remember a single one!
LAU: The exact moment when, for the first time, I sat down at a Brooklyn diner table and ordered breakfast. I will never forget it.
DORA: A phone call, about new projects.
JANJA: A moment in Gyoen Garden (Shinjuku, Tokyo), when I lay down on the perfectly trimmed grass and looked up in the sky and experienced such an embodied feeling of freedom. Later I tried to understand it, but I could only accept it was everything but rational.
A new place you discovered
VIDA: A place far from me that I was dreaming about a lot and I finally experienced in 2023 is Floating
University in Berlin, with its beautifully changing colours of the water surface and the special critters (human and not) inhabiting it.
A place near me that I discovered the beauty of in 2023, kept close to me during the whole year and visited in different seasons is a small pond in the stream which runs in the valley below Topolò: I went there to write, to cry a bit, to observe its freezing water and even (listen, listen) to swim!
ELENA: Thermal bath on Garda Lake (thank you Martino).
ALJAŽ: During one of the activities of the Summer School of the Academy of Margins, I went on a stroll through all of the possible paths in the village I always knew existed, but I never bothered to give them a try. I did this summer. I remember Joelle being a bit confused about me being in a specific spot close to their house. But she was also very happy with the unsuspected visit.
LAU: The Rain Forest, Oh my god!
DORA: The bathroom that I approximately designed, of which slowly I followed its construction and hesitatingly started to use.
JANJA: I discovered Paris (oh yes, not just Japan) and it felt special, because Paris was avoiding me for so many years - everytime something came in the middle. I also visited Mendrisio, which was on my wishlist for some time - wished to study there but, eh life… And yes, I discovered Japan and it melted me.
The best gift to yourself
VIDA: The travel to Switzerland and the double bass (which should be a present for Aljaž but became a present also for myself!).
ELENA: Taking two months to travel in Brazil. Always being curious and incurious about it. Visiting architecture that I had only 'studied' from books, visiting the Sitio Burle Marx (peace for the eyes), swimming, meeting turtles, trying all possible and imaginable fruits, walking for hours and kilometres in the sun and 40+ degrees, speaking Portuguese, meeting Antonio’s family.
ALJAŽ: That nice pink, deep-burnt-salmon colored jacket in COS. If you know me, you know the one I’m speaking of.
LAU: Fifteen oil pastels and time to play with them.
DORA: Fancy wooden ladder.
JANJA: New earrings by apreski with hanging stars, but sadly just a few days ago the wind was so strong and it blew away one of the stars, I had to convince myself so hard that material things dont matter. Otherwise also facial care treatment on the evening before my 30th birthday felt extremely great.
And a trip to Japan, haha (I know I am boring)
What could be one gesture, even a tiny one, that you think would be nice to commit to every day in the coming year?
VIDA: Write nicely in the agenda (the beautiful one by the blooming girls!), read intensely every day, play a bit on the double bass with Aljaž.
ELENA: Make a list of the GOOD things that happened during the day.
ALJAŽ: Laugh. Committing to it is difficult, though. But I think you can learn it.
LAU: Write at least one line a day and drink more water.
DORA: Organise my life, plan work but also time for travelling and things that I want to do.
JANJA: Say thank you more often. Say thanks every night before sleeping.
A cliché but important question: tell me three things you would like to be able to do or accomplish in 2024.
VIDA: I would like to actually go to work somewhere, just some days a week, to test how the relation to work would change. Then: write more and publish something (and be more gentle and respectful to my writing). And do some small trips with the car!
ELENA: Collaborate in a project with someone I have never collaborated with. Start “serious” works in the barn (→future atelier). Be more proud of myself.
ALJAŽ: I would like to force myself to travel (I am more of a stay-home kinda dude); write daily; get to know more about trees and bees.
LAU: Worry less about external judgment, give myself the confidence and time to experiment, design a majolica.
DORA: Quit my job, write a dissertation, have a vacation (in this order).
JANJA: Buy a house, marry and write a phd ;) it would be nice to start working on the independent projects - together with some nice collaborators - meaning also to pass the professional exam -, knitting a sweater and learning at least 10 dishes from my mum (and possibly some that she learnt from her mother in law).
One place you would like to visit in 2024
VIDA: Arezzo and the Ciclo della Vera Croce by Piero della Francesca together with Urbino and Ca’ Romanino by Giancarlo De Carlo.
ELENA: Alvar Aalto tour.
ALJAŽ: Gråsten, Denmark. To visit my Danish family. Maybe this is the year.
LAU: Guido Scarabottolo’s house 😀
DORA: An island, maybe Eolie (Alicudi).
JANJA: Copenhagen, Göttingen and Bergen to visit friends. Otherwise I would like to travel back to Florence. Ah, I started to think about Japan again.
Risk you will take in 2024
VIDA: I never take risks. I always take risks. – I don’t know really, this word does not enter my vocabulary. I don’t even know what it could mean. Am I always doing this? Or I never did it? Hmmm…
ELENA: Start building my new atelier. Believing in my love for ceramics.
ALJAŽ: Maybe do a cut in my professional career in some way. We’ll see.
LAU: Find a new home in Rome.
DORA: Quit my job.
JANJA: Accept the commissions with open hand. Can you do it? Of course I can.
‘Cap ou pas cap’ - a thing you would challenge your friend with in 2024
VIDA: Ele → make a portfolio of your works <3
ELENA: Dora → have a personal diary
ALJAŽ: Philipp and Suzy → squat a house in Topolò!
LAU: Ele → organise a project with Guido!
DORA: Janja → buy a car
JANJA: Vida → come to the mountains with me (the rocky ones)
Step out of the comfort zone at least once
VIDA: Dancing with people who are not super super close to me? Or swimming with people (don’t hope too much for this one, eh!).
ELENA: Propose to someone to collaborate in something.
ALJAŽ: I will.
LAU: Attend the Crack Festival in Rome and visit Sara Maragotto in Turin.
DORA: Every time I will have the possibility!
JANJA: Go to parties and social events alone.
A person with whom you would like to share more about what you read
VIDA: Nice question. I would actually like a lot to have someone with whom to read things and discuss them or even just someone with whom to share texts. But who? I don’t really know – if there is anyone who is willing to try this with me, let me know <3 I am curious to do this with anyone who wants to dedicate some time to this!
ELENA: Simply with those around me. But maybe I need a systematic way: every evening for half an hour?
ALJAŽ: Generally, everyone I live with (Vida, Elena, Antonio, Dora). I would like that our readings and talking about them would take more of our time. But I would also like to read more in groups, maybe do a philosophical reading group with Antonio. It could be a fun and less lonely activity!
LAU: Marta Olivieri <3
DORA: Someone that I see everyday, to push me to read more.
JANJA: For a long time, I would like to have a small books&knitting club. Maybe I will start it. To knit while discussing the readings.