Lab’O is a recently formed cultural association in Pistoia that came to life in 2014. There are nine founding members, all with various backgrounds including among them art history, architecture, design and business. In this interview Veronica Messina and Maria Egizia Gargini, two dynamic women and the association’s driving forces, sit down and talk about how the association came about, its philosophy, the importance of Pistoia as a backdrop for them and their own personal inspirations.
What was the moment of inspiration that made you decide to create Lab’O? Can you describe the scene and the mood of that moment?
EG & VM: There really wasn’t one precise moment when we decided to create Lab’O. The association was born out of the desire to share the passions of a group of friends with others: the various curiosities and pleasures of life, and those beautiful and tasteful things that surround us.
Lab’O is an invented word. What does it mean?
EG & VM: Lab’O is an imaginative word that we came up with on a whim while joking around on WhatsApp while we were discussing ideas and reflections about the activities that would promote our association. Lab’O is a play on words and is the contraction of “LABOZIOSO,” a whimsical invented word in our minds meaning one who “works leisurely for the diffusion of idleness.” [It is a blending of two opposing ideas: “Laborioso” = laborious + “Ozio” = idleness]. In that moment our aim was exactly that. We need to work to bring Idleness back today and create special occasions where we can share pleasurable moments with our friends whether old ones or new.
The word “bellezza” is one that has many uses in Italian for expressing “beauty” and is the key to Lab’O’s philosophy. Can you say something about how this word is important for you?
VM: It is precisely our mutual feeling about the meaning of the word bellezza that Lab’O came about and gradually took shape. For us beauty is nothing more than the quality of things where we can fulfill our spirit through the five senses, where pleasurable objects are for simple contemplation as much as actual enjoyment.
EG: Beauty is the best and most peculiar essence that every form of life is able to express in its own way. We find it in the variations of a flower’s colors, in a melody’s perfect harmony, or in the refined harmony of a wine. Lab’O seeks to communicate this: the luxury in “beautiful” things is not tied to a price, but in knowing how to recognize the beauty in any aspect of life.
Do you think of yourselves as representing a kind of Italianità and in what way? Are you also inspired by various international influences?
VM: Each of us represents a piece of our beautiful Italy, but we also represent a human landscape that contains various provenances and experiences. As a whole we contribute to the association with our local backgrounds but also strive to be a bridge between our city and the many places in Europe and in the world were we’ve traveled.
EG: Just as Veronica says, we are a very diverse group, and each one of us represents a different piece of Italy. Personally, I am 100% Tuscan, and if I weren’t a human being I’d be a Sangiovese grapevine. I am definitely a citizen of the world, and I’ve travelled a lot, but I express every fruit and treasure the land of my roots offers.
What makes Lab’O unique and stand out as a cultural association?
VM: What makes us truly unique is that we can call our philosophy a mixité: the pleasure of mixing experiences, ideas and different cultures in one singular and large “Lab’Oratory” of beauty.
EG: We are different because we provide the opportunity to live unique experiences, and to taste unknown delicacies, à-porter, without this meaning closure within a clan of the priveledged. We are generous and this pleasure of “giving” and of “sharing” is what makes us stand out.
In a word, how would you describe your style?
You use a small jewel of Pistoia’s architectural history, the small 18th century theater, Teatrino Gatteschi, as a space for events. What are your events planned for the near future?
EG & VM: The Teatrino Gatteschi is a special place. Having Lab’O come to life while having access to this small 18th century theater as our headquarters was a dream come true. A theater is ultimately a space dedicated to the Mise-en-scène of enjoyment, and therefore a place for us where we can celebrate those idle moments we cherish. As for future events right now we can’t say with any certainty dates that have been decided, but we can say that we’ve had many requests from people to organize different kinds of events of various types, from theatrical to artistic performances, and from presentations of new collections of emerging designers to photographic exhibitions. As soon as our contributors confirm the dates we will post the various upcoming events on our Facebook page and by email to our members.
What do you think makes Pistoia unique as a city? What can it offer that reflects your associations idea of “bellezza”?
EG & VM: Pistoia is a small city known for its art, but its beauty is discrete and not a screaming or “over the top” kind of beauty. For us this is the perfect frame inside which to carry our vision forward: the pleasure of sharing with our associates the beauty and abundance of our discoveries, to taste what is “beautiful” and “good” that we’ve already had the fortune to know in our international experiences and that, at the same time, we never tire of seeking out. It is about sensations, emotions, and experiences to conserve in our hearts and throughout time. We believe Pistoia offers so much in this sense.
“Lab’O is an association in Pistoia that makes you feel like you’re not in Pistoia…” was an observation by one of our guests during a concert that we organized with the American musician, Anna Su, and it made us smile. It makes us happy to know that we succeeded in creating an atmosphere that offered just the right touch for those who participated, where one loses that feeling of being in a small provincial town.
If a musical lyric or a passage from a book could describe your personal motto what would it be and by whom?
VM: I would probably say two verses from the “Canzone di Bacco” the most famous of the Renaissance Canti Carnascialeschi written by Lorenzo de’ Medici:
“Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
di doman non c’è certezza”
[“Who’d be happy, let him be so:
Nothing’s sure about tomorrow.” – English translation, A.S. Kline]
This is a phrase that I repeat to myself every time I have the feeling of losing myself in thoughts that might block or prevent an action or putting off doing something, or just simply for making any important decision.
EG: By La Scuola degli Dei, Stefano E. D’Anna:
“L’improviso ha bisogno di una lunga preparazione”
[“Improvisation requires a long preparation”]
This is one of the phrases that captures my philosophy of life in that nothing happens without our permission or without us carefully preparing for it. Think about all of the marvelous adventures we can recreate in our lives, and all of the incredible surprises!
What work of art might best describe you?
VM: The Fountain of the Four Rivers by Gian Lorenzo Bernini! This is a complex sculptural composition, a fantastic invention and very scenographic, overflowing in detail, with allegorical and significant references, with shadows and water tricks, but also a sense of irony. It is a work that captivates not only with a simple frontal gaze, but, to be understood, requires contemplation for a long time and under infinite perspectives.
EG: I’m not as much of an art expert as Veronica is, but I would say that in this moment in my life if I were to choose a work to describe me it would be the Nike by Samothrace. I, too, would be a sculpture: the winged goddess that represents triumphant victory. We are definitely women with a Baroque spirit!!!
“Under the window lies a man who knows
Next to the letters that say anything goes
So hide me in your cupboard
And lie between your nose
You caught me in the night
You caught me in the night”