unGuide – Fabricated Stories
“By considering the role of stories in delimitation, one can see that the primary function is to authorize the establishment, displacement or transcendence of limits, and as a consequence, to set in opposition, within the closed field of discourse, two movements that intersect (setting and transgressing limits) in such a way as to make the story a sort of “crossword” decoding stencil (a dynamic partitioning of space) whose essential narrative figures seem to be the frontier and the bridge.” (Michel de Certeu: Spatial Stories)
In the months of the unMonastery in Matera, we made very little mark on the city in general. We mostly met people who were quite similar to us – ambitious, educated, (strategically) unemployed. This is partially due to the persisting language problem, and partially to the necessity to barricade ourselves in our palatial building and work on our various projects, so we can demonstrate our usefulness. (We were brought in for a purpose: to help the city win the bid in the European Capital of Culture competition.) Even the newsletter that was supposed to inform interested citizens about us, focused on the activities and services we offered, instead of a more human approach.
unGuide is an attempt to weave the stories of the unMonastery into the city’s history, which is in itself far from clear. There is very little historical research conducted on the various quarters of the city (with the obvious exception of the Sassi) and therefore most of the knowledge with regard to the history of Matera exists currently as “rumour” and “myth”, – the St Lazarus hospital for lepers is as “real” as the unMonastery dormitory for snorers in Piccianello in the early 19th century.
The unMonastery stories of unGuide are not about the statistically measurable achievements and items in our bi-weekly newsletter. They are anecdotes and fabrications, plotted onto the map of the Piccianello neighborhood of Matera. unGuide itself is not a map – it is a walking tour guide. There is a difference between maps and tours: describing a place, maps present an image (the market is opposite to the old mill), while tours organise movement (you leave through the main gate of the market, cross the road, and turn slightly right). The narrative and the invitation to move about activates the place, as it allows the listeners to imagine it in different ways. The tour belongs to the domain of “tactic”, as it is defined by Michel de Certeu. While strategy assumes an environment (competitors, adversaries, “clienteles,” “targets,” or “objects” of research) as distinct from the agent of will and power (a proprietor, an enterprise, a city, a scientific institution), tactic “insinuates itself into the other’s place, fragmentarily, without taking it over in its entirety, without being able to keep it at a distance“. Walking, reading, writing, talking are all tactical in nature – and so is telling stories.