The exhibition by Formafantasma at the Cava Paradiso explores what lies underneath Matera

The journey into the archives of the Basilicata region continues with the exhibition curated by Simone Farresin and Andrea Trimarchi. In an abandoned tuff cave, five large-scale projections and 10 screens offer an analysis of the relationship between man and the environment.

Visione Unica

We are on the edge of town, in Matera, in the Parco Archeologico Storico Naturale delle Chiese Rupestri. More precisely, in the so-called Cava Paradiso, from the name of the artist Antonio Paradiso who in 2007 reclaimed an abandoned tuff cave to create a park for his sculptures or – as he himself calls it – “a place of anthropological art”. It is in this incredible setting, not well-known to occasional visitors to Matera, that Joseph Grima has chosen to stage the “I-DEA” programme, curated in collaboration with Chiara Siravo for Matera Capital of Culture 2019. The event aims to narrate the profound and multifaceted culture of Basilicata, which normally does not emerge in all its complexity, through the artistic exploration of dozens of public archives and private collections found across the region.  

Starting with the photographer Mario Cresci who curated the first event, the project invites artists and designers to plunge into the archives mapped for the occasion, to offer their own interpretation of this rich collection of seemingly unrelated material. Each exhibition links onto the previous one, to compose a single comprehensive story, developed over time from the perspective of the various guest curators and the unifying nature of the installation conceived by the architects at the Open Design School. Each show leaves a trace of itself, carried over into the following event, because each artist is invited to select and embrace a section “built upon” the previous one.

The landscape portrayed by Cresci enters the new scenario imagined by Studio Formafantasma (Simone Farresin and Andrea Trimarchi) for the exhibition “Visione Unica. Cultures of Environmental Manipulation”, through the carved wooden creations of Giuseppe and Giovanni Di Trani made between 1967 and 1984, according to an original rereading of local traditions. A symbolic world of exotic animals, objects and human figures that, as Formafantasma explains, “are incredible because they’re not made with any specific purpose, if not to express the free creativity of father and son.” The freedom of the project, admirably conveyed by these objects, is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects the designer duo has been able to nurture for their exhibition.  

Visione Unica
Visione Unica exhibition by Formafantasma in Matera. Photo Laterza

Andrea and Simone normally use historical archives as a starting point for their projects, a material that must be re-elaborated each time towards functional elements. “The process that led us to this event,” they state, “was rather liberating. We had the chance to go back to our initial interests as regards local folklore and culture, interpreted here without restrictions from demanding patrons. What you see on display, through five large-scale projections and 10 screens, is the outcome of a free association of documentaries, period photos and readings of essential texts that recreate our personal idea of an archive.

All the material selected, with the goal of analysing the relationship between man and his surrounding environment, is made uniform through the use of film as the sole medium of representation, with a few exceptions like the sculptures by Di Trani or the large papier- mâché statue Nusazit, made each year in the semblance of the devil at San Costantino Albanese”.

Of all the material displayed in the cave’s hangar, through this video system, a place of honour is given to the interview with Enzo Viti, a scholar who personally conducted an in-depth investigation of what lies below Matera, exploring and shedding light on the underground city made up of cisterns, rock churches, places of living and work and the complex system of rain water collection, later replaced by the Acquedotto Pugliese.

Visione Unica
Visione Unica exhibition by Formafantasma in Matera. Photo Laterza

As Andrea and Simone explain: “That abandoned water system was the city’s strength. We started from here to come up with an exhibition focused on the interaction between man and his surrounding land, pairing forms of thinking and hi-tech and contemporary research with materials and perspectives belonging to popular and animist culture that blends with Catholic and Christian culture. What we call ‘Visione Unica’ aims to relate magic to science, both powerfully present in Basilicata, in the hopes they may dialogue freely here”.

When the show curated by Studio Formafantasma ends, on 15 September, the installation will change once again and make room for the perspectives of the next curators, from Virgilio Sieni to Navin G. Khan-Dossos & James Bridle up to Pelin Tan & Liliam Gillick.

Opening picture: Exterior of Cava Paradiso in Matera

Visione Unica: Cultures of Environmental Manipulation
Set Design:
Elisa Giuliano, Martha Schwindling and Antonio Elettrico with Open Design School
Curated by:
Studio Formafantasma
Cava Paradiso – Contrada La Palomba

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