unGuide – unArcheology
“If there is such a thing as a sense of reality, then there must also be something that one can call a sense of possibility. (…) [T]he sense of possibility could be defined outright as the ability to conceive of everything there might be just as well, and to attach no more importance to what is than to what is not.” (Robert Musil: The Man Without Qualities)
Archeology is the study of human activity in the past, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artefacts, architecture and cultural landscapes. By the same measure, unArcheology is the study of a possible past, and as such, its analyses need to be based on material evidence as well as stories. Arguably, the difference between a merely possible past and a possible future is not at all clear. unArcheology, we can say is the recovery and analysis of human activity in the possible past, which, by this explication, becomes a possible future.
unGuide weaves the unHistory of the unMonastery in Matera and the history of the town together, in the hope that by mixing reality with fiction, new futures will become visible for both parties. unMonastery arrived in Matera in February 2014, and was given a 4 month pilot period (later extended into 6 months). During this time, since most of us spoke no Italian, we managed to make ourselves very little known , partially because unMonastery itself was an experiment, and we did not ourselves know who we were as unMonasterians. The stories constructed by unarcheological research give an account of life and work in the unMonastery, and their interaction with Matera and its citizens. The reason why this brief period is stretched out into 200 years is to give a sense of weight to the experience, both for the city and the newcomers. If unMonastery continues its work in Matera, new challenges and possibly even victories can be added to these archives.
unArcheological findings of unMonastery in Matera
unMonasterian Body 2.
Unused real estate and unused bodies were two obsessions of the early unMonasterians, who came to Matera to find a solution to unemployment, and the increasing number of empty spaces in the recession-stricken parts of Europe. They had numerous tactics to draw attention to places that were not in use. Ideologically opposed to the idea of taking land for disposal of their bodies (so called cemeteries), unMonasterian bodies were preserved and placed into public property as a sign of waste and unuse – warning sign for Materans to use that piece of land in a more strategic way.
unMonasterian Body 1.
Always feverishly working on several projects, the unMonasterians tattooed their deadlines onto the bodies in order to keep track of them. The calendared skin became an honoured tradition of the unMonasterian order. Proud of their beautifully decorated bodies, they were carefully embalmed and displayed in empty lots as a warning that the place was almost as useless as a cemetery or a museum.
unMonastery Ruin 1.
These picturesque ruins exemplify the difficulty to separate models, prototypes, and lasting structures in unMonastery culture. Whether these rocks were made as a model for future construction, a prototype for solutions for how to develop infrastructure in a tufa stone quarry, or a ruin of an actualised unMonastery, remains to be decided. What we can identify is the obvious effort to build within the Permaculture ethos, a 21st century concept which assumed there is such a thing as building without consideration to one’s environment. Looking back at this era in time, the historian is obliged to wonder how environmental concerns could ever disappear from public view. The question arises, whether the unMonasterians were hysterical conflict-mongerers.
Fractions of assumed architectural plans of first housing of unMonastery Matera. No trace of original building remains. Legend says the first unMonasterians had such a large dark aura around them that the building was especially designed with curved walls, large interior spaces and reinforced back walls, in order to avoid multiplication of dark forces that would affect the mood of the whole town. Scholars debate the ancestral home of the global unMonastery movement. Some say indications point to the Matera area as a possible hub. However merely pointing to obscure floorplans provides little validity to this theory.
unArcheological excavation site
Most of the artefacts presented here were found accidentally, without anyone in the vicinity being aware of the function and value of these objects.
The ”Mapping The Commons” model
A curious fragment. It is presumed to be a hand-made model for one of the grander projects of unMonasterians. What exactly “mapping the commons” was remains unclear. Speculations are far-reaching, according to some of the wilder versions of the myth, the unMonasterians planned to take over the universe by thorough mapping of all resources in each solar system. More modest evaluation of this finding states that this is a model for finding food and other necessary resources in the neighbourhood. We know for certain that after a short period of their stay the unMonasterians faced serious shortages, and tales tell of unMonks diving in garbage bins collecting rotting food to survive.
Graffiti (prototype) 1.
The drawings in this section were all found among graffiti in the city. Their function is unclear – according to legend, the unMonasterians had a difficult time making their presence known in Matera, and whenever they had a new idea, they put it into public spaces. These appear to be plans, but the sketches lack any indication of scale, and it is hard to decide whether they are depicting furniture or architecture. This drawing is agreed to depict a design for kitchen table – stories confirm that the unMonasterians had some trouble finding the perfect kitchen outfit.
Graffiti (prototype) 1.
unMonasterians made prototypes as part of their tradition. The city of Matera has become their drawing board to sketch out ideas grand and small, still visible in the city’s urban landscape.
Graffiti (prototype) 2.
The unMonasterians were ardent prototype producers. Normally they started with drawings and sketches, which they then developed into 3-d models. Prototype drawings appear mixed into the city’s graffiti, making it difficult to identify their original concept. Matera is full of ruins, and the unMonasterians tended to use the scale of urban development to sketch out their various, good or bad ideas, in public sight.
Graffiti (prototype) 2.
This drawing is assumed to be an architectural plan for a planned but never executed fortification of the unMonastery building. In time, unMonasterians became quite unpopular among the Materani, and feared for their lives. If this drawing in fact is such a plan, even the thinest defence wall would have been planned to measure 5 meters in thickness. That is quite an extravagant plan – even with Sassi cave-city standards. Critics of this theory maintain that this, like the previous graffiti, is simply a drawing of a kitchen table design.
unMonasterian Planning Board
The early unMonasterians are held to be zealous planners. From recovered written materials we can calculate that they spent 80-85% percent of their time making notes of foreseeable outcomes of events and actions that never materialised. From an archiver’s point of view, these findings provide an exceptional insight into the minds of 21st century humans, trying to control and prepare for every possibility. Historical chronicles prove the futility of such efforts.
View of snowy mountaintops reflected in the windows of the unused Barilla Mill. As it has been historically difficult to see the outside world in Matera, unMonasterians developed the strategy to use windows of high buildings to display a vision of their utopian ideas for the city’s future.
Obtaining perspective (detail)
An example of the kind of mountain images used by unMonasterians to shift the perception of space in Matera.
The euphoric post-it note
The obsessive control impulses of the primal un-Monasterians manifested themselves in a paradoxically wasteful use of the colourful post-it note. Hiding a lack of ideas and inspiration behind these euphoric squares of neon colours, they foolishly sought to inspire Matera’s dramatic transformation during their meteoric stay. Historical documents prove the resilience of the city to such theatrical faux-solutions. Matera developed its own success story gradually, with careful planning, not throwing around eye-catching bits of paper with nonsensical slogans scribbled onto them.
This statue was commissioned by the unMonasterians, to immortalise their beloved post-it notes. It is also known as “the world flattest sculpture”.
Fragmented texts, just like drawings, remain visible signs of unMonastery presence in Matera. They are occasionally arrogant, sometimes apologetic, and often defensive. We know that even after generations of unMonastery Matera, by which time all language problems came to a close, communication between the city’s inhabitants and the unMonasterians was difficult. The Materani watched the strange aliens throw around grand ideas and playful actions, never to achieve anything that (in their eyes) would have given substance to their stay in the city. The unMonasterians firmly believed that they were going to be the saviours of the future of Matera, and fervently produced plan upon plan to prove their usefulness. Even after a century, it never occurred to them to ask the Materani what they wanted of them.
This is a particularly offensive message, but we don’t know whether it is addressing the city or the unMonasterians simply wrote out one of their unRules. The people of Matera learned to ignore the messages that appeared regularly in their streets, in broken Italian.
Stairway to unHeaven
Stairway to unHeaven. We know that the first group of unMonasterians were especially selected for the task of developing a prototype for communal living and working on challenges for Matera. As a result, some of them were shockingly literal in their approach to everything in life. When they talked about their dreams for the future, or their aspiration for innovation, they meant the development of such obvious processes as waste disposal systems, energy monitoring and energy production solutions, or task management and quality control. Taking a firmly down-to-earth approach to all questions, they attempted to build prototypes for humanity to reach goals that were outside of the natural domain of their project-driven minds. This small-scale staircase model was built as a response to one of the requests from Matera to the unMonasterians: in exchange for their keep, they were asked to bring heaven to earth in Basilicata.
unMonastery Ruin 2.
This ruined structure, isolated from the rest of the town, is generally held to be the ancient living quarters of unMonasterians who snored loudly. Philosophically opposed to the Benedictine custom of monks sleeping in individual cells, unMonasteries around the world had to face the consequences of sleep deprivation (exhaustion, irritability, loss of ability to focus, etc) among their members due to noisy sleepers. Some of the early building plans suggest that this short-sighted approach is due to the fact that early dwellings of unMonasterians were carved into rocks, each room opening from the previous, which made it easy to block the sound travelling between them. According to urban legend, however, some of the unMons were such loud sleepers that they were banned from falling asleep within city limits.
unArcheologists maintain that the early unMonasterians were six. According to legend, they were 6 Europeans, only one of the spoke Italian, they spent a lot of time sitting around in circles, and they often were short of food. These fragments preserve six olive picks pointing to the center, presumably where an olive was placed. It is uncear, whether this was to be an entertainment or real fight for anything edible.
Grand visions have a bad reputation in the South of Italy. Presenting (often toxic) waste as development had made its appearance in innumerable ways in the region. Most notably, the Cava del Sole concert hall development in Matera made its way into history books by the enormous lack of planning and insight into the future. Certain sources suggest that unMonasterians ushered along this mismanagement of public funds to occur by their relentless insistence on utilising all unused spaces around the city. The council voted in favour of the ill-considered development out of sheer desperation to prove that they have ideas for developing the layabout land in town.
Cava del Sole – entrance
Real estate ownership is a complex matter in this region, as assets are often held by numerous stakeholders, which makes development difficult. This beautiful tufa quarry was developed to become an outdoor concert hall, only to find out after the first concert that in fact it is not owned by the municipality in its entirety, and permission for use was denied. Now it stands as an enormous waste land, covered in revolting green plastic, which shows up even on the satellite pictures of the town.
Wall of a Tufa Quarry
An closer picture of the magnificent walls of (another) quarry.
Early Disaster Warning System
Historically, there has been no early disaster warning systems in place in Matera despite of the obvious exposure to dangers of flash floods, wild fires and severe winds.
The unMonasterians tried to initiate the development of an urban warning sign system for Matera, without success. Infuriated, they started to develop a new ritual – they painted a peculiar pattern in alarming neon colours onto public noticeboards, almost as a reminder, that instead of useless advertising, this should be a place for important public messages.
Like many of the unMonastery projects, this one never got off the ground. How do we know that these were to be disaster warnings? It is pure speculation. The design however has been successfully traced – in the North of Europe, this particular triangle design was used in the 20th century on large expanse of glass, as a warning for birds not t fly into them.