Pirelli Annual Report 2018 - The Editorial Project

Back to homepage

The editorial project

An icon that is still relevant

Of the many images that have captured the spirit of Pirelli over the years, perhaps one of the most extraordinary is that of American sprinter Carl Lewis in the typical starting position wearing a pair of red stiletto heels. Already a world record holder and having won his eighth Olympic gold medal, Carl Lewis and those heels perfectly embodied the message that Pirelli wanted to convey: power is nothing without control. Twenty-five years on, those words are more relevant than ever before.

The 2018 Annual Report celebrates this with a short film, a photo essay and the reflections of three authors who each offer their personal insight into the famous slogan, presented from their own unique point of view.

Writer Lisa Halliday, author of the novel Asymmetry and 2017 winner of the Whiting Award presented to emerging writers, plays on the contrast between the narrative of the story and its digressions. She highlights that the story must be fast-paced and pressing, bringing the captivating storyline to life, while the digressions break up the narrative. The middle ground between these two elements delivers a sort of compromise between power and control, leading to a piece that unfolds rapidly yet slowly.

The eternal conflict between power and control, a struggle written into the DNA of every human being, is expressed perfectly by Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer in his short storytelling masterpiece about the ups and downs of a New York Mets baseball pitcher. This piece can be read in one sitting, much like Andre Agassi’s biography which was ghost written by Moehringer.

Adam Greenfield, guru of the digital world and author of the non-fiction book Radical Technologies, explores power and control in today’s world, where the most daring state-of-the-art technologies provide us with ever-increasing power, even if, in reality, we have not yet learnt to control them.

Go to the next content Reflections

01 Reflection of J.R. Moehringer

J.R. Moehringer was born in New York in 1964 and was a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. For one of the stories published there, Crossing Over, he won the Pulitzer Prize. His first book, the critically acclaimed The Tender Bar: A Memoir, topped the US best seller lists for many weeks and was subsequently published in many countries to great success. It was nominated book of the year by the New York Times, Esquire, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today and New York Magazine. After reading it, Andre Agassi contacted Moehringer to ask him to work on the drafting of his memoir. Agassi’s Open climbed to the top of the New York Times best seller list and of many Italian ones, and was enthusiastically received by both the public and critics. He also published Sutton and his story Resurrecting the Champ was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

The Control
of the Power

by J.R. Moehringer

A bright sunny day in the 1970s. My Uncle Charlie, a drinker, a gambler, a ne’er-do-well, but a god in my eyes, took me to a baseball game. We went to see the New York Mets, who were dreadful, the worst team in baseball, but also gods in my eyes. I was seven, I think. The memory is hazy, so I can’t vouch for its accuracy. But maybe that’s a good thing, maybe that’s the best thing, since inaccuracy is a central point of the story. The pitcher for the Mets that day was a baby-faced cowboy with a right arm kissed by God. He threw smoke. He threw fastballs nearly 100 miles an hour, close to the fastest speed ever recorded, and I noted with glee the tight eyes and pursed lips of every batter who stepped into the box against him. But it wasn’t the cowboy’s awesome power that terrorized the batters. It was his complete lack of control. More often than not he had no idea where that baseball was going. There’s always the chance that a baseball will slip from a pitcher’s grasp, that it will take an errant turn, hit the batter in the face or head. The chance is slim, but that underlying fear is a key part of the game’s fundamental confrontation. With the cowboy, however, the slim chance was a likelihood. A question of when, not if. Our seats were good, right off first base. It felt as though we could reach out and touch that lurid streak of white-violet light arcing from the cowboy’s hand to the catcher’s mitt. I recall the leathery bang of each pitch slamming into the mitt, a deeply satisfying sound, like a paper bag filled with air being smashed. Pow pow pow.

In fact everyone has special powers. The ones who succeed are the ones who find ways of achieving durable, consistent control over their powers.

Even more satisfying was the fact that every pitch was a strike. By some miracle the cowboy had it that day, power and control. For five or six innings he held the other team to no runs and struck out eight or nine batters along the way. His face was pure joy. As mine must have been. Then, just like that, he lost it. The ball started drifting. Left, right, up, down. It started sailing, bouncing in the dirt. Uncle Charlie sighed. Here it comes, he said. Ball four. The cowboy walked a batter. Ball four. He walked another batter. Along with his control, the cowboy lost his composure. He started to sweat like the guilty man in a police lineup. I looked at Uncle Charlie, frantic. Do something. Uncle Charlie looked at me with the placid frown of an ancient Stoic. What are you gonna do? Another walk. The crowd stirred. Groans and boos rained down from the nosebleeds. What’s going to happen? I asked Uncle Charlie. He lit a Marlboro and slowly held up four fingers. Sure enough, one two three four, the cowboy threw four straight balls, issuing another walk and forcing in a run.At last the manager came out to lasso the cowboy. By then, however, it was too late. The other team had seized the lead, and the momentum, and the Mets did what they always do. They lost.On the drive home Uncle Charlie went from Stoic to philosophe as he discussed the case of this pitcher. To have such a gift, he said, and to waste it like that---how sad. To me, it was more than sad. It was tragic. Years later I still think of that pitcher, still use him as motivation. He’s an object lesson for anyone struggling with this question of control, which is to say: everyone. We all make the mistake now and then of thinking the great athletes, actors, painters, doctors, entrepreneurs, et al., are gifted with special powers. In fact everyone has special powers. The ones who succeed are the ones who find ways of achieving durable, consistent control over their powers. Glenn Gould, the fearsome pianist, obsessed about his beat-up old Steinway CD 318, and his special wooden stool with the legs sawed off, because both gave him maximum touch, feel, connection with the instrument. “This is the secret of doing Bach on the piano,” he said. “You must have that immediacy of response, that control over fine definitions of things. ”Georgia O’Keefe, one of America’s most important artists, a towering figure of Modernism, soul, mystery, passion. But in a famous letter to her dear friend she singled out the importance of keeping cool. “Self-control is a wonderful thing [...] I think we must even keep ourselves from feeling too much [...] often [...] if we are going to keep sane and see with a clear unprejudiced vision. ”This war between power and control is woven into our DNA, because it’s woven into the DNA of the universe. It was there at the start, moments after the Big Bang, physicists tell us: Energy versus Entropy, locked in a knife fight. The fight rages to this day. All energy, unless constrained, veers toward entropy, or chaos. Energy equals power; constraint is control. It’s so simple, we forget. Performance experts say the best method of cultivating control is to form good work habits, develop simple and repeatable mechanics, then practice, practice fiendishly. But this is only one path to control. There are many. Of course, too much control creates its own problems. If power without control is nothing, control without power is death. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out... ball four. The struggle begins again. Actually it never ends, a realization that can be hugely discouraging. On such days I think back to a wild cowboy, and a beloved philosophe, and with a sigh I ask myself: What are you gonna do?

02 Reflection of Lisa Halliday

Lisa Halliday grew up in Medfield, Massachusetts, and attended Harvard University before working as a literary agent in New York. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review and she received a Whiting Award for Fiction in 2017. Her first novel, Asymmetry, was named one of the Top Ten Books of 2018 by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, and many other publications. She currently lives in Milan, Italy, with her husband and daughter.

Hurrying Slowly

by Lisa Halliday

Life moves fast, or at any rate inexorably. While we continue to process one moment, the next is here. Creativity, especially when undertaken in solitude, can feel like an artificial pause, a temporary withdrawal from the world in order to take stock and articulate your impressions. This is one kind of artistic control: the discipline of subtracting yourself from the action and getting down to work. Another kind of control is that which an artist exerts on her material, appropriating information and observations and recasting them into something new. By articulating the unarticulated, imposing order and form on what was disorderly and amorphous, an artist apprehends her subject and comes to possess it by expressing it in her terms. Then there is technical control: the micromanaging of words (or chords, or brushstrokes, or échappés), until a truce between ambition and achievability is reached. The seeming infinitude of artistic choices makes this a maddening endeavor, a compulsive striving toward perfection even while acknowledging that perfection doesn’t exist. And indeed this is something else that must be controlled: the compulsion to control. For one hundred years, the slim writing manual The Elements of Style has exhorted American students to “make every word tell.” Lean, lucid sentences, all needless words omitted: these, we are taught, are the virtues of a clear and compelling text.

The power that propels such a journey is nothing without control because control is what harnesses artistic potential and directs it.

But are they also the virtues of literature? In Six Memos for the Next Millennium, written in 1985, Italo Calvino proposes five qualities that writers working in the 21st century might aspire to attain in their work: Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, and Multiplicity. Presumably Calvino would find little to argue with in The Elements of Style, for the elemental style it champions facilitates the very qualities he prescribes. Yet in his memo on Quickness (in the original Rapidità), Calvino also makes a counterintuitive case: for lingering, for diversions, for narratives that give an impression of nonlinear or dilated time. There is value, Calvino believes, even in stories that seem never to arrive at their destination. “The digression,” he writes, “is a strategy for putting off the ending, a multiplying of time within the work, a perpetual evasion or flight.” He also quotes Carlo Levi’s introduction to Tristam Shandy (a novel, according to Calvino, “completely composed of digressions”):If a straight line is the shortest distance between two fated and inevitable points, digressions will lengthen it; and if these digressions become so complex, so tangled and tortuous, so rapid as to hide their own tracks, who knows—perhaps death may not find us, perhaps time will lose its way, and perhaps we ourselves can remain concealed in our shifting hiding places. Immortality through perpetual digression. The idea is consistent with what Calvino, who died before he could write his sixth memo, calls his personal motto: Festina lente. Hurry slowly. The Elements of Style teaches us that our writing should be rigorously streamlined. Not incompatibly, Calvino advises that even frictionless prose can seem to tarry and meander, backtrack and lose its way. In fact, such controlled discursions are often what turn merely elegant sentences into something transcendent. Not only do the deviations seem to defy death and time, they also resonate with the unstraightfor-wardness of life itself. If an artist can simultaneously evoke two seemingly opposite impressions—lightness and weight, quickness and slowness, exactitude and uncertainty, visibility and opacity—he in turn evokes the multiplicity of human experience. Frequently the more pleasing quality prevails as a style while its foil serves as the subject. For example, a story’s theme might be life’s detours and delays, but these are communicated in a sleek, aerodynamic style that speeds the narrative up or slows it down according to the author’s intuitions as to what is beautiful and apt. Art is a journey, a distance traveled by the consciousness. This is true for both artist and viewer, performer and audience, writer and reader. The power that propels such a journey is nothing without control because control is what harnesses artistic potential and directs it. (Control imposed by someone other than the artist, such as censorship or state control, does something else: it can be an obstacle but also an impetus, spurring art in the form of protest or radical experiments devised to circumvent it.) A propulsive narrative is propulsive because authorial control minimizes pointless deviations. It also admits meaningful ones and keeps their proportions in check. Generally, we like to feel agile, efficient, unimpeded. At the same time we appreciate art that conjures a world that is realistically chaotic and ensnaring. We want, through art, to feel that even if we cannot avoid the inexorable we are approaching it with cognizance and grace. A good writer takes the reader on a ride the reader wishes won’t end; an artist sets in motion a journey that continues long after the last word is read.

03 Reflection of Adam Greenfield

Adam Greenfield is a London-based writer and urbanist. His most recent book was Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life(Verso, 2017), and his next, Power at Human Scale, will be forthcoming from the same publisher in 2020.” High-resolution headshot enclosed.

Standing in the Way of Control

by Adam Greenfield

For a quarter-century now, Pirelli has offered its wares to the world under the slogan “power is nothing without control.” This, it has to be said, is highly unusual among commercial catchphrases: in the first place because it is true, but also in that it happens to encapsulate a valuable life lesson.It is above all true in its original domain of application. The lover of driving immediately thinks of, say, Kimi Räikkönen, his low-slung Ferrari tenaciously gripping the wet Spa-Francorchamps asphalt as he pushes it through a 300 kph turn. Or, reaching further back into automotive history, the sheer brio of an open-topped Fiat 514 clinging to the rooftop curves of the Lingotto test track, the banked concrete warm in the Turinese sun. These are situations in which brute motive power alone, in whatever amount it might be gathered and yoked by the ambitious, will not and cannot guarantee that one achieves one’s objective; if anything, its heedless application can easily spell disaster. What is asked of the driver at such moments is to exert the most precise direction overthe massed energies at their command, a precision that can only be achieved when one is both furnished with the right equipment and has some degree of insight into the nature of its interface with the world. So far, so good. But perhaps the sentiment has more to teach us if we pursue its implications beyond the realm of the merely literal.

The distinction between power and control ranks among the central challenges of our time. Our Promethean technologies offer us more and more power by the day, but the plain fact is that we haven’t yet learned how to control them.

It will be true of any situation in which there’s some gap, some slippage between one’s capacity to exert raw force upon the world and their ability to direct that force with any particular finesse. And this is why it has never rung truer than it does at this very moment in history, for the distinction between power and control ranks among the central challenges of our time. Our Promethean technologies offer us more and more power by the day, but the plain fact is that we haven’t yet learned how to control them. Equipped with an array of shiny new tools, we clumsily intervene in systems of the greatest complexity — systems like the climate, the genome or the sum of interactions we think of as h man society, whose cross-connections, interdependencies and feedback loops produce emergent order in ways far subtler than we currently understand. These are situations and contexts that confound our ordinary, everyday sense of causality. They break the push-harder-to-go-faster logic of the simple Newtonian mechanics we learned in earliest childhood — a logic most of us long ago internalized, and still unconsciously rely upon even in circumstances where it simply does not apply. In short: systems like these don’t respond to our desires in straightforward, linear ways. If we ever hope to operate effectively in such domains, we must give up our simpleminded insistence onlinear force, and learn how to apply the power of our tools with all the suppleness, tact, insight and discretion the situation calls for. And make no mistake, that power is all but unprecedented. In no previous moment of our history as a species, excepting only perhaps that in which we first acquired the mastery of fire, have we found ourselves equipped with such transformative capabilities. The entire globe is girded with networks that reach into every household on the planet, and touch just about every life. The sensing devices connected in this way span from the surface (or even the interior depths) of the individual human body straight up to the constellation of platforms glittering in their geostationary orbits. Taken together, they register our doings, comings and goings even if we ourselves believe we’ve opted out, along with the state of every other system we interact with. As a result, it is now given to us to perceive patterns of rise, fall and flow that (whether because they transpired beneath or beyond the threshold of sensibility, in either their temporal or spatial extent) have eluded us since time out of mind. Increasingly we aim to rearrange the very bonds of life. Truly the reach of our ambitions is unlimited. But again, we lack control in any of these dimensions. And that is why, before departing entirely from the realm of the literal, we should note that the interface between engine and road has one final lesson to teach us. Where driving is concerned, control requires traction, and traction upon a road surface in its turn depends on friction — that is to say, on difference, even resistance. Control, in other words, is an emergent property: a dynamic negotiation of the interface between differences as it is expressed in any given moment. Even US military doctrine recognizes this, defining “command” as “the exercise of authority,” and “control,” by contrast, as “feedback about the effects of the action taken. ”It is, to be sure, an open question whether there can be any progress in human affairs but that which is strictly technical. But in 2019, with the evidence of ourfailures of control piling up all around us, perhaps we’re finally learning respect for the complexity of the circumstances in which we’re embedded — for nothing teaches respect quite as effectively as having once been burned. Power in this sense is an adolescent thing. But it is not completely ridiculous to think that at least where our capacity to wield and control powerful tools is concerned, we may at last be nearing childhood’s end. As never before, there is quite literally a world to win. The hard work — and with any luck, the earned satisfaction and pride in a difficult job well done — begins now. I can’t wait to see what we do together.

Go to the next content Photo essay


in Images

Go to the next content Photo gallery


Power is a gesture, a word, a smile. It’s an attitude, an image, a small detail.
Power is a kiss, a color, an idea. A sign, a note, a thumb.
Power is a dream, it’s something that pushes us beyond our limits.
Power is what moves us forward.
Control is what gets us there.