15 gennaio 2013
by Giulio Giorello

Do you remember Jules Verne’s Around the Moon (1870)? A sort of
bullet carrying a team of explorers is shot, “in 186...”, from the Earth
to our satellite, which our heroes are able to contemplate closely, from
the portholes in their primitive spaceship, the Projectile. During this
strange Odyssey, two of the men – engineer Barbicane and captain
Nicholl – get into a heated discussion on whether they should follow a
parabolic trajectory or a hyperbolic one. As they cover “bits of paper
with x’s and y’s”, the third character in the story, French adventurer
Michel Ardan, literally feels his “hair stand on end” because of how
little he understands maths. In the meanwhile, the two rivals reconcile
coming to the conclusion that the Projectile must gravitate around the
Moon in an elliptical orbit. Thus the two intellectuals pay homage to
the great minds of modern astronomy – from Copernicus and Galileo
to Kepler and Newton, not to mention the brilliant theoretician of celestial
mechanics, Henri Poincaré – and try to infl uence their trajectory
creating some mild disturbances, to avoid the Projectile turning into a
satellite of the Moon and trapping them forever. It is thanks to the x’s
that horrify pragmatist Ardan that they succeed, and that they make
a safe return to the Earth.
Renzo Bergamo was an artist of great representative power, who strived
in all of his generous activity to give a visible form not to things as they
appear to us daily, nor to his own inner demons, but to the components
of the world explored by contemporary science: elementary particles,
atoms, molecules, as well as planets, stars and galaxies – offering a
particular understanding to all the Michel Ardan’s in the world. Obviously
Bergamo did not aim at explaining the key concepts of mathematical
Quoting another philosopher, Karl Popper, we can say that every good
philosophy is fi rst of all cosmology. Bergamo’s philosophy is not only
expressed in some of his lapidary statements, but also (and most
importantly) in his art, where he spoke through unforgettable webs of
lines and colour contrasts. After all, Bergamo did not search for the
interior life hidden within the artist’s soul, nor for the aesthetic values
that are an end unto themselves, but for the fundamental ideas that can
tie together physical speculation and pictorial representation. “Light
is the Universe’s writing”, he liked to say, perhaps not even realizing
he was recalling the great theme of “everything is light”. A theme that
was dear to the thinkers of the so-called “Dark Ages”, from the Irish
Johannes Scotus Eriugena to Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln.
And also a subject that pressingly arose during the 1900s, from Einstein’s
theories in the fi eld of physics to Ezra Pound’s apparently fragmented
verses in his last Cantos. Some have said that Bergamo pursued the
representation of myth within a new science, that he added tension to
common-sense notions until he could take them beyond the limits of
imagination. But we must remember that in Homer’s Greek the word
myth meant true word, and that Bergamo – who liked to call himself “a
son of the galaxy” but also “a child engendered by matter” – strived
not to own the truth, but to uninterruptedly search for it.