Copyright 2012

Paolo Pennuti and Elisa Ferrari

Paolino, 9'04'', 2012
performer: Dario Vaz





Paolino is a fable written in 1906 by the Italian philosopher, Carlo Michelstaedter.
In 1910, at the age of twenty-three Michaelstaedter committed suicide after an argument with his mother and before defending his University thesis on the philosophical study of persuasion and rhetoric in ancient philosophy.


He was a nihilist and his suicide seems to be a logical consequence of his rational thought. It can also be considered as an example that makes fully explicit the madness implicit in Metaphysics, which refuses our contradictory living conditions: life and death, individual will and social control, spirituality and force of gravity.
Paolino reminds the readers of that special moment in childhood when we deeply understand what we are learning contains contradictions and the education we are receiving can lead us far from our intimate desires. In Persuasion and Rhetoric (1910), Michelstaedter wrote:


The worst violence is exercised on children under the guise of affection and civil education. For with the promise of rewards and the threat of punishments that exploit their weakness, and with the caresses and fears that foster such weakness, far from the free life of the body, they adhere to the forms necessary to a polite family, those which, being hostile to their nature, must be forced on them by violence or corruption. Still more, faith itself, good will itself is exploited to society’s advantage.


We asked a child to read the fable of Paolino that had been previously translated in English. The reading was performed in the boardroom overlooking the Concourse Gallery of the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. The amplified voice of the child could be heard in the exhibition space. We were interested in adopting a fable that criticizes education for educational purposes -- recreating different points of view of the same allegorical subject. Our intent was to question the way in which rigid systems of rules are established within pedagogical and metaphysical models.



Paolo Pennuti and Elisa Ferrari

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