Bridging Horizons in Ascona

Day 1

Tue, 19.03.24

What a strange trip to get. It's as if we met spring before anyone else. Anyone that lives under our latitudes, I mean. Crossing the alps on train means a lot of beautiful sceneries but almost the same quantity of tunnels. Some slept. Some thought on what it is to be a human. It's up to you to choose a side. Or both. Or not. But still we all arrived in Ticino and met spring on the shore of the lake.

It was a peaceful day. Learning to know the rooms that will be ours for a week and the people we will have to interact with. It's a beautiful place. Full of trees and birds. And the afternoon was all about silence. The hotel is up on the hill in the middle of a beautiful garden. It’s quite empty, actually. No one’s here besides us. Us. A bunch of scientists and artists not knowing what they will do together for the next days. But does it matter? It might be the same as the way we work. Trying to get somewhere without really knowing the way. Trying, experiencing. We don’t even have the program for tomorrow. But it will come on time.

No. It’s not silence. If you pay attention, you can get the sound of the wind and the chirpings and of the birds. Someone told us you need to make 500 steps to get from Ascona to Monte Verita. Maybe we will try it at some point. The keyword is to let the time do its job right? Right. Silence.

Suddenly. Twelve people are around the table at the osteria sharing a meal and wine (even on some sweater I’ve heard) languages are mixing and swirling around. Everyone is trying to figure out where the others come from, what their dreams are, what quickens their heart. For some of us it is numbers and molecules. For the others a word, a sentence, a point, a comma maybe? But at the end of the day we all share a common interest in figuring out something. So let’s bet on that. The rest of the stay will be about what we’ll figure out.

Frannie with AoM Bridging Horizons Team

Day 2

Wed, 20.03.24

Éric Berne’s "What do you say after you say hello?" could have been the crude title of today’s program, as much as a method to capture the initial moments of exchange within our young community – a rare experience of bringing together artistic and scientific creators.

As our morning guide led us through the heights of Ascona, he reassured us: the tectonic boundary that runs through the region lies dormant. Yet, it is on a shifting ground that we advanced through the day, navigating with pauses, questions, fleeting or absorbed glances. After all, is there a definite way to walk on a footbridge that we discover as much as we build?

Amidst the chaos of rocks and trees where we stand, suddenly someone voices it: moments ago, overlooking the lake, we were swept away by the Gothic euphoria of sweet magnolia and heady mimosa; like one of those Romanesque abbeys, the Valley of Silence which we have entered seems to suggest that we now continue the journey within ourselves. Before we are engulfed by the place’s unusual attraction, the guide invites us to henceforth heed the locations that resonate with us: Ascona, Provence, qu’importe, pourvu qu’on ait l’ivresse.

In the meeting room, though vast, the air seems sweltering, reminiscent of long summer afternoons. Festival workers are bustling around us, and as we take it in turns to speak, it feels as if we stand on the Raft of the Medusa with its stillness in motion. There is a fascination in witnessing shared intelligence unfold.

At Monte Verità, any lapse of attention seems laden with consequences: you are having a tranquil lakeside dinner in a charming Mediterranean atmosphere, and here you are already transported into the tragedy of Banel and Adama. It is the film director and screenwriter Ramata-Toulaye Sy who invites us in from the seats of the “Otello” cinema. To the rhythm of Banel’s repetitive script, the filmmaker weaves a story drawing from fairy tales for universality and from myths for intensity. Perhaps still under the spell of Jeff Walls’ exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler, we are captivated by the living paintings that take us to the intersection of cinema and painting.

Last night, a writer shared their anxiety not about confronting the blank page, but about finding the right ending. This morning, as if synchronicity wished to take advantage of the location to make itself palpable, a filmmaker discussed their penchant for multiple endings. By now, we hope that the reader has paused their reading to ponder one of the thoughts that came to mind along the way, aiding us in crafting a text without end.

Quentin with AoM Bridging Horizons Team

Day 3

Thu, 21.03.24

Monte Verita... the place where we slow down for a moment from the rush of our lives and allow our thoughts to take root. I say taking root because all the inductive or deductive thought forms we create in this place, where art and science are intertwined, leave their seeds into the depth so that they can take root and more thoughts can branch out in the future.

Here we observe many things, nature, people -each with their own journey- and of course, ourselves. What we sense and what we perceive might be completely different. Giorgio Vallortigara also touches on this when talking about ethics and exemplifies that it is not possible to make comparisons between all living things. Definitions are found in books, but still, unless science is intertwined with art, it should be difficult to define or re-define and express the contents of science without structural concerns. Then, Merlin Sheldrake helps us some more and gives examples. ‘Fungi’... It has become such a piece of art that he puts it in writing and then documents it, talking about the inseparability of art and science without creating a classification, smoothly diffusing into each other's space, without requiring a definable transition. He is so sincere when he says that art was already born within science, and science exists together with art.

I should underline the words that stuck in my mind the most and made me think more. Those words allow me to establish a contextual awareness in a better way to understand. Sensation (heart) and perception (heart and brain)... Apart from their own internal context, they transcend the boundaries of the ordinary and cause a transformation in a unique way that surprises us. It may seem like a bit of a story, but we will build a bridge at the end of this adventure by collecting the words on the road. In analogy, all the letters composing DNA make it turn into a single strand with its complementarity and DNA cannot be transcribed without its complementary DNA. Similarly, art is the complementary strand of science and science can acquire the meaning with art.

Esra with AoM Bridging Horizons Team

Day 4

Fri, 22.03.24

Where does the performance start?

Today, we began to pass a membrane, divining what might lie on the other side, separating the tense air of introductions, testing the waters of interests, and the air, like freshly brewed tea, held the scent of ideas blooming below the magnolia flowers we sat upon in the tea garden. Individual passions intertwined, forming a tapestry of collective thoughts.
For the past few days, we've found ourselves encapsulated within this surreal experience. Doors to a magical place have been opened for us and now we are stumbling and tumbling to learn how to move in this peculiar space.

Gradually, our focus shifted from conversation to deep listening, from familiarizing ourselves with this surreal world we were planted in for 6 days to fully inhabiting the Dadaist movement – onstage and off – until the boundary between reality and imagination began to dissolve. Perhaps somewhere between grappling with life's origins alongside Raoul Schrott and a neuroscientist pondering ant consciousness, the ordinary slipped away – all while we sipped vibrant mango-passionfruit gelee from chocolate alien brains (or were they blue tomatoes in playful disguise?).

Or maybe it happened between Kety Fusco's harp morphing into electronic melodies and Michael Lentz deconstructing observations into sentences to words to sounds to sentences to new words to sounds and sounds, new words to sentences to a performance with the voice and mouth alone, building a performance from pure vocal rebellion, as if language itself sought freedom from the constraints of the mind.

The concept of language, one capable of expressing its own unique essence, surfaced repeatedly in our discussions. It sparked a question: how can we deconstruct the structures of science, those concepts held within the confines of words, and build something new – a language to explore the unknown? The idea is the seed - repetition the soil.
Maybe our tiny experiments will blossom into something unexpected. Perhaps something as delightfully disorienting as blue tomatoes.

Michelle with AoM Bridging Horizons Team

Day 5

Sat, 23.03.2024

Someone said today that being at Monte Verità feels as if they were on board of a spaceship flying over the valley of Ascona. Indeed, it does feel as if we were floating over reality. The strict laws that seem to govern our world are distorted in this place. Nothing is planned. There seems to be no clear purpose. We are free to write our day, what we do, with whom and what we talk about. In the morning body and mind dissociate, we have been awake for several hours, but the internal machinery of thought that promotes creativity starts in slow motion. Some spend their morning walking in the company of their inner dialogue while others stimulate it in solidarity in the zen garden. Little by little we bring the mind back to the irreal world.

We gather after lunch to share how we feel. Time passes slowly and words come out in dribs and drabs. Some kind of emotional hangover takes control of us. What are we here for? We have reflected a lot. We have talked and thought until we have exhausted our sugar reserves, which are barely recovered by the vegetarian menu of this place. Little by little, our thoughts come together in harmony, like two jazz musicians meeting during an improvisation. We slowly begin to speak the same language, trying to draw a common project between science and literature that has not yet taken shape.

But we are not worried. Writers and scientists know that projects take time and creativity needs space to dream. At night, the limits of reality completely fall appart and the garden of Monte Verità becomes a new meeting point for surrealistic questions. How would a cell dance to the rhythm of Hermanos Gutierrez? Perhaps connecting science and literature needs to break free from the rules we know and resort to the absurd to invent a new reality.

Marcos with AoM Bridging Horizons Team

Day 6

Sun, 24.03.24

9 people.
The last night was long, the conversations enriching, 5 intense days lie behind us - the mood on the next and last day reflects the journey so far.
This morning there is a sense of departure.
It is the first day that the group will no longer be complete; the farewell to this gathering is approaching.
A last breakfast and a group photo later, the farewell arrives. When it leaves a bittersweet feeling, you know it was special.
Gratitude is in the air, towards Ralf and Stefano who made our gathering and coming to this event possible, and towards each individual person in the group who made the stay a special exchange.

5 people.
After the first goodbye, a few of us did a last walk through the woods surrounding the location to calm our minds.
People are arriving, packing, leaving, doing a tour in the little museum - a flurry of activity fills the mountain of truth.
You can sit down quietly and count the sounds you perceive to soothe a restless spirit. Birds, wind, people bustling about - 10 sounds.
Our last stop was the island of Brissago, where we enjoyed our final moments of spring before heading back to the north.
The island carried a gentle tranquility, weaving our connections even tighter. It was a perfect last trip.
After a swim, we sat on the shore to listen and count the sounds once again - 5 sounds.

3 people.
The day ended with a bang - Jojo Mayer playing the drums supported by artificial intelligence, creating a symphony of sounds from various genres, followed by a beautifully assembled dinner by Pietro Leemann.
This week is over, but its effects will linger. When we are back in more familiar surroundings and can let all the impressions settle within us, its impact will become clearer. Gatherings of this kind have a transformative power. It is difficult to put into words what happens there, precisely because it is so unique, unlike anything else that anyone of us has experienced.
From my room, I admired the mountain in the north, its glacier bathed in sunset hues like a scene from a dream. Its beauty was entirely real, yet it felt absolutely surreal. Each day, gazing upon it, I reminded myself that this was not a dream – perhaps it was even more extraordinary.
I lock my room and leave Monte Verita. Some found a truth here, some learned what is possible, and we are all excited to see where this journey takes us. We will meet again in a new dream and share our stories, very soon.

0 people.

Michelle with AoM Bridging Horizons Team