- 1 ✐Preface
- 2 ✐Introduction
- 3 1
- 4 2
- 5 Conclusions
- 6 Guidelines
Let's imagine finding a place where we can sit around a perpetual fire, welcomed by hay sofas, only with a sky above our head. Or imagine a place where it is possible to lie down on a lawn enriched with sculptures, where you can simply listen to the rustle of the stream. And again, let's imagine a garden where books are hidden among the flowers, accompanied by a slightly diffused music. A radio that bridges this isolated but real landscape with the rest of the world. Streams of images reflected on windows yellowed by time. Colorful posters dancing on the stone walls of the villages. But also Signora Maria preparing tortellinis, surrounded by exotic curious faces. A group of adventurous people who discover stones and plants of the place. A small shelter of branches in the middle of the wood. A river warehouse transformed into a museum. An old theater animated by projections and dancing figures. I am almost certain that Romagna toscana could resemble this not too strange fantasy.
Winter on the plains has always been particularly boring, sometimes difficult. Blankets of fog all around, and visibility reduced to a minimum. I attended high school Faenza - my hometown - a city of 60,000 inhabitants in the Po Valley, that is the area that represents the highest concentration of inhabitants and economic activities in Italy, what some call "the great agricultural nothing". I still remember that the alarm clock always rang too early, at 6.50 am, because I lived in the countryside and it always took me a little longer than the others. But there was a classmate of mine, Beniamino, who woke up every morning at 5 o'clock, because he lived further away than everyone else, even outside the town from which he used to take the bus every day: Tredozio. In the winter, when he couldn't take the bus, his car often arrived with a thick layer of snow, when all around us the fog reigned supreme. This is the first memory I have of Tredozio, even before I went there for the first time. Almost 10 years later, after being living first in Turin and then Rotterdam, I find myself talking and discussing the same village, with its surroundings and neighboring villages, which seemed so far away to me, but with a new gaze and sensitivity, matured after years spent far away, in cities as large and stimulating as they are frenetic and compulsive.
When I was first approached by Lorenzo, in late December 2020, I couldn't have even imagined how that meeting would change my life. Lorenzo, while being the guy kindly helping clumsy elders at his phone shop, never breaking down the smile upon his face, he's been involved as vice-major for Tredozio from 2019. Tredozio is a village on the edges of Appennines between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany (Italy) - away from industrial flatlands and congested urban agglomerations, where the hills and the cultivated fields start to leave space in favour of (still) not urbanised lands and resilient eco-systems. I had the feeling that he must learn a lot in the shop, how to listen to any people complain or doubt while trying to help, concretely. Because 5G must work everywhere, and anywhere, and possibly without paying too much. That kind of approach that you would find in some other almost-paper figures making important decisions, for us, citizens of the "Bella Italia", but also citizens of the world (even if what's around borders don't bother us too much). He told me about Tredozio, and the lack of new things happening. The purpose of our meeting was to brainstorm ideas and possibilities for a cultural-rooted programme to start there, certainly not with the explicit claim to change the birth rate, but at least to think new forms for temporary living; where the idea of living "isolated" can turn into an important opportunity for the future.
From that moment, I've been constantly busy thinking about a small-scale approach for publishing, which emerges from the local specificity trying to resonate with the actual ultra-local potential. I'll bring some questions which are still resonating in my mind, and that I want to unfold in order to find potential answers and concrete strategies.
How the publishing ↺ process could create new, cultural roots for social and micro-territorial developments? What kind of infrastructures a residency and collective workshop would need in order to facilitate the sharing of processes and knowledge? And how they could be used to re-think the future we live in, now affected by ecological and social crisis? Could a constellation of smaller eco-systems be the way to decentralize political and monetary power, recalibrating our lives based on urgent and real needs? What could we learn from smaller realities such as rural villages in order to build new, modern and almost self-reliant communities? How the circulation of knowledge, processes and results achieved during the residency could be turned into concrete actions which could help both the local community and the artists' development? How the set of traditions and local heritage could be used as a set of tools for better understanding the present? Then, on a practical layer: How to amplify territorial-based narrations? How to approach local archives? And how to create new, vernacular imaginaries?
↺ questioning, reflecting, analyzing, interpreting, creating, enjoying, doubting, criticizing, writing, annotating, breaking, pondering, opposing, failing, absorbing, influencing, providing, speaking, talking, debating, arguing, disagreeing, intriguing, risking, trading, studying, repeating, wandering, selling, exploring, growing, evolving, becoming, transforming, listening, responding, reacting.
✐ 1.1 – Mapping the Present, Understanding the local conditions
"The only true response to the ecological crisis is on a global scale, provided that it brings about an authentic political, social and cultural revolution, reshaping the objectives of the production of both material and immaterial assets. Therefore this revolution must not be exclusively concerned with visible relations of force on a grand scale, but will also take into account molecular domains of sensibility, intelligence and desire."
Felix Guattari, The Three Ecologies
Habitat’s structure roots in the local complexification of social and cultural contexts, while reflecting on current, global issues. I consider as the molecular domain the local dimension, provided by remote and forgotten places conditions where Habitat, like many other cultural programmes and artistic residency raising nowaday around the globe, decided to begin. Being conscious that we “occupy a critical juncture” as living creatures, we’re facing global-scale issues that can not be challenged as a standing alone community, and neither as individuals. Nevertheless, I could imagine a constellation of small, detatched and low-impact communities - that could simbioticaly construct procedures to engage our current conditions - shining behind the shadows of a wider crisis, that we want to counteract trought local practices and their ultra-territorial implicancies. With that image in mind, I see each of this dots shining within the bounds of their defined glow, while the formed constellation - which is enabled by our generative infrastructure - would resemble the possibility for a cooperated action towards the recalibration of our existence: emphasizing participation, spanning disciplines grounded into proximity-based models, provoking modifications of the space of everyday life, giving rise to new forms of relations.
“It is within this radical context that we must question the role of art and humanities and their contingent cultural institutions of pedagogy, production, display, and distribution. A more functional relationship between art and the everyday is urgently needed, through which artists can act as interlocutors across this polarized territory, intervening in the debate itself and mediating new forms of acting and living.”
Living as a Form, DEMOCRATIZING URBANIZATION AND THE SEARCH FOR A NEW CIVIC IMAGINATION, TEDDY CRUZ, p.58
In order to do that, we need to close up from the “global” abstraction, and start to engage with the politics inscribed within the local geographies of resilience, which now become our resistance’s bulwark. Examples of artists’ support in the exchange and production can be found since the Roman times, when Augustus’ counsellor Mecenate started to provide financial support to the artists coming to his court - giving the raise to the Mecenatism, as a private transaction between the supporter and the artist – which eventually evolves into value production, through art-making. Even if this model still applies in modern times, the residency format has been evolving throughout human history developing the capacity to adapt and operate within current, specific socio-political and economic subdomains. The individual-building approach that was characterising the residency models and prizes for artists till the 20th century (The first to be considered in history is the Prix de Rome, promoted in 1663 by Luigi XIV King of France), left the room to collective-based model of living and co-operation in the late ‘800 - with a common tendency to the step out the urban jungle for natural landscapes. Inheriting the previous assumptions, it’s only from the ’60s that art communities enriched their visions with critical approaches to contemporaneity, when the mistrust for global mercification and cultural flattening started to arise. It is the time when also some collectives and groups began to discharge art-making and creative thinking from institutions, considered unable to question their ways of thinking and to address radical change. Education, ecology, industry, survivalism, marginality, communication, body, failure, community, theory, construction, technology, handcraft and ideas around archeologies of the future were the major issues raised by Global Tools, that emerged in Italy in the early 70s as “a counter-school devoted to the idea of emancipating the individual through new instruments of learning and developing.” Moving nowadays, hundreds of residencies could be found around the globe - each of them uniquely different in nature, purpose and contextualisation. Whether academic, artist-run or nomad, and no matter exactly where, these environments have surely become space for experimentation, knowledge sharing and self-challenging.
(Bringing here some examples of residencies: Cove Park, Lios Labs, Cripta747...)
Act within a closed valley - our molecular domain, presupposes the process - which I will later discover to be continuous - of digging in its roots, understanding its morphology, delving in its stories and local myths - whether they are narrated or written (although the word at bars are always worth more) and breathe in the smells, be they of the forest or of a house. Living in a village means re-establishing direct and personal connections with its inhabitants, especially as a 'foreigner' who enters its walls with a car with a license plate from Turin, or a Dutch one. Everything that enters the town, passing through the small bridge that introduces Via Roma, does not escape the watchful eyes of hunters or woodcutters who occasionally drink a coffee, or the "grappino" (a local liquor) in the middle of a working day. "We are even lucky here!" exclaims Lorenzo, referring to the jobs in the small town of 1000 inhabitants. The main local job opportunities are offered by two companies, one that processes metal pipes and Alpi Wood, the international leader in decorative wood surfaces - based in the neighboring town, Modigliana. The other workers, a minority compared to the rest and most of the population beyond the retirement threshold, go down to the valley every day by car, or by bus (probably the same as Beniamo). The others still remaining, surviving heroes of a mass and voracious market, probably continue to open the shutter of their shop in the main street of the town, Via Roma. Every day from 08:00 to 12:30 and from 16:30 to 19:00. All with the exact same times. All aligned with the micro-economy of the village.
"We are even lucky here!" Lorenzo would exclaim again, referring to the number of shops and boutiques still present in the village and mainly perched on the main street. Despite the numerous lowered shutters, it is true that Tredozio still has a fair number of family-run businesses:
- 2 Bakeries
- 2 Bar
- Newspaper Shop
- Clothing Shop
- Fruit & Vegetable Shop
- 2 Groceries
- Postal Service
- Tabac Shop (Which is the cultural and logistic epicenter as well, since it's always open except for the christmas evening)
Apparently, more than the people leaving the village for better job opportunities, what really impacts is the newborn rate. In fact, walking around Tredozio, it is easier to come across groups of over-sixty-year-olds intent on playing Briscola than boys playing in the street. Tredozio, together with Rocca S. Casciano and Portico and San Benedetto - who subsequently joined in our adventure, are defined as "mountain municipalities" and fall within the new parameters of the Ministry in Internal Areas, as territories with a distance by public transport more than 30 minutes from a hospital or railway, or from secondary schools. The Internal Areas in Italy include over 4,000 municipalities, with 13 million inhabitants, at risk of depopulation (especially for young people), and where the quality of the educational offer is often compromised. Their surface covers 60% of the Italian territory and hosts over 20% of the population.
Add a paragraph about recent history: rural areas in general + habitat area.
Observing the micro-economy of a village, with its rhythms and difficulties, allowed me to recognize those models "of a global market that destroys specific value systems and puts on the same plane of equivalence: material assets, cultural assets, wildlife areas, etc. "
Felix Guattari, The Three Ecologies
that with their induced change, both on a social and urbanistic layer, have re-defined our way of living and living in cities, especially in recent decades. Supermarkets replace green areas, spaces of urban de-compression and social stimulation; the countryside close to the industrial areas is suffocated, while the large shopping malls overbuild uncultivated lands, barely escaping the "urgencies" of urban planning. However, the context of the Italian village, be it Tredozio, Rocca S. Casciano, Portico and San Benedetto, or some other in the deep south, has managed to escape global cannibalism with its concrete soul - hinting at other hopes and possibilities for development, faraway from the urban context.
We, as Habitat, do not claim to implement jobs, or at least not in the short term. Fortunately, we do not even have to fight against yet another construction of a supermarket. Inevitably, however, I wonder what it would be like to see the crowded street again, walking from one shop to another, without the fear that sooner or later some of them may close due to the lack of generational change. But if on the one hand Habitat does not aim to directly benefit the local economy, on the other hand it is possible to evaluate the impact of our most simple habits, which are indirectly influenced and diverted by the context in which we live; such as deciding to buy bread from a shop rather than from the supermarket; distributing the related benefits directly to the beneficiaries; which often guarantee control and quality of raw materials out of the market standards. The idea is to promote choices on the basis of individual awareness, rather than on the "globalised thought" - in which we delegate our (consumption) decisions to someone else.
>>> to unfold: how daily life is involved and part of the creative process and how creative process could influence daily life?
✐ 1.2 – The potential relevance of Habitat in that specific context
Habitat is a word that comes from ancient times: in Latin it means "to live" - literally "he lives". In the current connotations, Habitat means:
- In biology, the set of environmental conditions in which a specific species of animal or plant lives, or even a single stage of the biological cycle of a species; in botany, the area in which a plant finds favorable environmental conditions for its development.
- In ecology, environment, general conditions of an urban settlement, and the complex of structures, natural and artificial, that characterize it.
By extension, the Habitat to which I refer is the result of the stratification of numerous and specific social, economic, cultural and natural factors that have defined a precise, personal identity and therefore always different and not repeatable in the case of villages and their community. These territories, authentic and imbued with local values, constitute a rare and fragile primary resource for polycentric, coordinated and sustainable development. The habitat of Italian villages is often severely tested by their marginality and disadvantaged in terms of accessibility to services and infrastructures. In this variegated and heterogeneous landscape, an immense heritage with a strong resilience capacity has developed over time, which requires far-sighted interventions and actions in order to be promoted, enhanced and extended, in order to trace new paths and cultural horizons - without affect their balance.
My first response was to start laying the foundations for a project that I didn't know when it would happen, let alone how. At that time I was reading Global Tools, about the rural experience of a group of radical architects who revolutionized the idea of architecture and design in the midst of the economic boom, in contrast with their commercial and consumerist trends. Lorenzo and this reading came together, and a year later, returning from Milan on the occasion of SPRINT - Independent Publishers and Artists' Books Salon, where we set up a space with the first editorial materialisations of Habitat, I think how much water has already passed under our bridges, despite the extreme natural and cultural drought that this area has recently suffered.
Habitat was a format conceived in late January 2021 to respond to the theme of the re-vitalization of Italian villages, their territory and cultural heritage; which, using and at the same time intertwining with the specific pre-existing context, helps to define and imagine new horizons. A place-based strategy that recognizes the importance of places and the need for careful knowledge built from below, as an essential basis for the activation of oriented interventions which, using the territory as a place of inspiration and action, are able to collect and reworking its precious micro-territorial heritage. The aim of the project is in fact to initiate a dialogue between the cultural, architectural and naturalistic heritage of the place with contemporary research and production, proposing actions and projects that aim at the re-activation of spaces and the promotion of participatory practices in relation to the context.
"The premise of Global Tools was a counter-school devoted to the idea of emancipating the individual through new instruments of learning and developing a new relationship between the mind and hands. The program consisted of five working groups: Body, Communication, Construction, Survival and Theory. Global Tools set out to divulge a different purpose of creativity itself, namely that of achieving a “non-productive” outcome, “evaluated as a hypothesis of the abolition of labor.”
Due to a necessary re-contextualization of Habitat in today's landscape - within a complex, globalized present and therefore stressed by comfort, hyper-connectivity and digital use; we establish a dependence between the mind-hands dichotomy of Global Tools, and the specific geographical context (the space that gives inspiration, resources, than birth to objects) is therefore needed to mind and hands, which in itself contains its specific temporality and derived needs. The context in which Global Tools was born is that of the years of lead and the energetic crisis of the early 70s, years in which terror in Italy has been experiences on the streets, fomented by extremist factions both on the right and on the left winds. The students uprisings, with their failure and the consequent return to order within Italian universities, denote in the Global Tools a tendency in researching and experimenting "with extra-institutional spaces of learning". Ultimately arriving "at the creative strategy of producing liminal spaces, breaking away from established and regulated environments associated with the acquisition of knowledge." A liminal space is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and often not knowing. Considering the period as a particular span of time, we can refer to what cultural anthropologist Victor Turner refer as Liminal Period to contextualise Habitat's proposals within contemporary social-frames: "[...] destructive as well as constructive, meaning that the formative experiences during liminality will prepare the base to occupy a new social role or status. One may see such a communitas as the product of 'antistructure' that emerges when entire societies are going through a crisis or a 'collapse of order.' "So what is the liminal space of Habitat, spanning from a progress-based present and a possible future rooted in proximity-based resources and local values?
Turner himself, in the essay Betwixt and between: the liminal period in Rites de passage, denotes how the rites of passage "are found in all societies but tend to reach their maximal expression in small-scale, relatively stable and cyclical societies, where change is bound up with biological and metereological rythms and recurrences rather than technological innovations ". Habitat could therefore act as a rite of passage between a voracious contemporaneity and a gentle near future, in harmony with a re-dimensioned and calibrated context to cut out what is not strictly necessary. It is for the same reason that, if on the one hand Global Tools claims the design method in order to create non-useful objects as a critique of voracious consumerism, Habitat draws attention to what is necessary for survival as a field of investigation and storytelling.
✐ 1.3 – The first contact with the community
With the privilege of being able to study and move from one city to another, I had the opportunity to live different types of cities, spaces of use and aggregation. While considering the different cultural and social natures of all urban agglomerations, there are many constants shared by the places where human beings tend to (densely) inhabit. Among these, the proximity to waterways, which favored the trade and exchange of raw materials, including food. But what now makes the city attractive are the infrastructures and services offered to the citizen, including education - one of the aspects that have the greatest impact on the mobility index. However, education and the dissemination of knowledge have now found multiple ways of application, no longer relegated to academic contexts.
Learning has become a condition of life itself, and for this reason it cannot only concern the formation of individuals with respect to specific social statuses, how much more it must embrace the condition of fragility of our existence, bringing our eyes back to almost primitive dynamics of life and sociality - which could only be facilitated by resilient local dimensions as the internal areas.
> The city as a school, the people as nodes for knowledge sharing > Affordance as a target. The aesthetic's not as a purpose.
✐ 2.1 – Mapping the first edition' outcomes
The pilot edition already offered a wide range of opportunities to live, understand, create and publish within the small-scale reality. The process moves forward by collecting, analyzing, and then re-elaborating all the material that's been initiated during the first month of residency (August 2021). Several podcasts have been recorded and broadcasted, hundreds of pictures realized, while just a few video cameras have been documenting, some wood-cut sculptures yet inhabited our small village. The seeds for a long-term action have been planted, but the processes need to be narrated.
✐ 2.2 – Possibilities for a partecipative action
What was missing in the first edition, due to an often recurrent lack of time, was the active participation of the local community in the making. Apart from the workshops, in which the local community had the opportunity to take part as participants, most of the projects, prototypes and actions sprung spontaneously from the building up of relations between the residents and the accessibility-proximity of local resources. The local community has taken part of the publishing process only as a "spectator", creating a possible distance between the artists and themself. How the local community could be actively involved in the process of collecting, shaping and publishing knowledge, while aiming to restore a communal collective space of social, shared engagement? How to encourage horizontal, local circulations of knowledge (and why not, essential goods), while building bridges with the world?
✐ 2.3 – Tooling the local bubble: Local circulation and ultra-territorial bridges
This chapter is dedicated to the prototypes developed together with Federico Poni, which will serve the residency with a collective set of tools and infrastructures for a social, shared engagement.
✐ A local implicancy or a bootstrappable model?
Could the impact of different ultra-territorial publishing practices-departing from remote, small-scaled areas- become a bootstrappable model? A model that could be applied outside that specific local bubble; in order to create new, resilient forms of living that activate communities and advance awareness on urgent, global needs.
Introduction- overview [500 words];
Chapter 1 [2000 words];
Chapter 2 [2000 words];
Chapter 3 [2000 words];
Conclusion [500 words]
= 7000 + Bibliography + Annotated bibliography (five texts max).
Synopsis of 5 texts that will be central to the thesis.