Matera 2019


Immagine progetto:

Mario Cresci
Virgilio Sieni
Navine G. Khan Dossos & James Bridle
Liam Gillick & Pelin Tan


Archive of Archives: A voyage through the collections of Basilicata

“The archive has always been a pledge, and like every pledge a token of the future.” Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever.

I-DEA is a project of Matera European Capital of Culture 2019 that explores the archives and collections of Basilicata from an artistic perspective. I-DEA is an experiment in how archives and collections can be understood as living entities through which the stratified complexity of a region’s history and culture can be interpreted.

Five artists and designers with research-based practices have been invited to guest curate five consecutive and overlapping exhibitions using the archive as a starting point. Drawing on seemingly disparate documents and materials, the artists were invited to delve into the archives and formulate their own readings in the form of temporary exhibitions.

The I-DEA research team began building up the foundations of the project based on an early study by the University of Basilicata mapping archives and collections in the region. Over the course of several months, the team visited dozens of these: from large public archives to small private collections and everything in-between. The aim throughout has been to maintain an inquisitive approach towards the shifting question of what constitutes an archive or collection over time and across space.

The project will adopt and follow a process of accumulation. After the inaugural exhibition, each artist will be invited to add, re-arrange and subtract from the material already installed in the space by the previous curator. In this way, I-DEA will become a collective performance in constant flux. Visitors will watch as new artists come in and re-arrange the space, each introducing their own research and yet allowing for the unexpected and the dynamic to come about during the final steps.

The idea of accumulation is related to the interchangeability of the archives. I-DEA has therefore adopted an open and modular exhibition design system, designed by the Open Design School, in order to introduce a fluid, non-didactic spirit to the curation of archival and collection materials.

The I-DEA project space will evolve throughout 2019 in the form of exhibitions, performances, workshops, publications, and a growing online platform.


The cultural projects contained in the “Ancient Future” section allow for a careful reflection on the millennia-long relationship of humanity with space and the stars. By retracing the steps of Pythagoras, one of the region’s most illustrious residents , it explores the ancient universal beauty of mathematics. At the same time, the infinite possibilities of dialogue between man and nature will be analysed, through concerts and visits to spiritual places - such as rock-hewn churches - or places of cosmological interest - such as the Space Geodesy Centre- . Very old practices and new life models will be put on trial, hypothesizing new development models for the coming decades.

As in many other European cities, Matera’s relationship with modernity is conflicting. Twenty-five years after the inclusion of the “Sassi”, once a “national shame”, in the UNESCO World Heritage list, the city is still trying to come to terms with its physical identity. The section of the program called “Continuity and Disruptions” represents an opportunity to develop a collective therapy and the possibility to face not only the shame of the city itself but also its multiple forms at the European level. These range from increasing social inequalities, to the resurgence of racism, the inability of many European countries to offer a future and hope to their youth and the drama of the exodus of desperate people fleeing the ongoing wars in Africa and Asia. Matera 2019 will be an opportunity to witness the beauty of the city, not only in theatres and museums, but also in the spaces we live in everyday.

The theme “Reflections and Connections” starts from the classic Latin motto, later adopted by Lorenzo de’ Medici, “Festina lente” (make haste slowly). We must rediscover the value of time and slowness, distance ourselves from the hegemony of the immediate present and take a step back from the accelerated pace that marks life in the 21 st Century. The cultural program also intends to prove that art, science and widespread practice of cultural citizenship can represent, throughout Europe, the catalysing elements of a new, revolutionary model of community rooted in the “practice of daily life”. The physical environment of Matera encourages us to rethink things “ab initio” and to consider crucial questions and fundamental values.

Starting from the irrepressible utopian tension in the history of Matera, the theme “Utopias and Dystopias” intends to test new innovative schemes that represent a challenge to preconceptions about the cities of the South including that tourism is the only way to achieve economic stability, technology is the only model of mediation possible for relationships, industrial monoculture is the only opportunity for development and that food and wine are the main identifiers of a territory. There is a need for a profound change of mentality, which goes beyond fatalistic attitudes, amoral familism, and the opacity of information and management of public affairs, which have often hindered the renewal of Southern Italy. Through a series of urban and rural games and sports, Matera will be transformed into a terrain on which we can imagine possible alternatives to the realities that we take for granted.

The “Roots and Routes” section precisely explores the extraordinary possibilities of the mobility culture that unites Europe. The instinct for movement is rooted in the daily life of Matera, ever since the tradition of “transhumance”, which every year sees the herds of cattle move across the Murgia plateau. Mobility is the lifeblood of the region: from Magna Graecia to Rome, or from the age of the Byzantines and Longobards, Arabs, Swabians or Angevins, Basilicata has always been a place of meeting and convergence. Recently, like many other rural regions of Europe, Matera has had to face devastating migratory diasporas, to then see the recent beginning of a return of a generation of young people, attracted by the values rooted in southern Italian culture.