Il giardino con le piazze


di Pierangelo Caramia

This journal has been named “Egg” because its goal is to become a vital place of welcome — a piazza — the stem-cell nucleus for a variety of developments and possible futures. The Egg Journal aims at containing and nurturing utopia and the possibility of new visions and new directions. 

We have decided to respect the differences in the mother tongues of our contributors in order to avoid the shortcuts and harmful simplifications that come about when the contents of one language are transferred to another. We feel the wisdom of allowing writers to express themselves as deeply and feelingly as possible in their own language, so as to contribute to creating an encounter that is also linguistic. In this way we hope to foster a dynamic, evolving creolization of the different cultures to be found on our territory, as has often happened in the course of its history. However, to facilitate understanding during the first reading of the texts, it will be possible to consult an online Italian translation by photographing the QR code found at the beginning of every article. 

And so here we are: “The Egg Journal” is born as a piazza, an agorà, a meeting-place where citizens who live or are involved with the poleis that dot the Valle d’Itria as well as those who live in the chora, can come together – the countryside/ garden that unites them. 

The whole of this territory, with a population widely spread over towns and country, for various geo-historical reasons shares many features with the Garden City theorized by the English town-planner Ebenezer Howard at the end of the 19th century. This was a proposal meant to alleviate the urban over-crowding and depopulation of the countryside caused by the industrial revolution. 

Most of this territory is situated on the so-called “Messapic Threshold”, a karstic depression that runs along Puglia from Taranto to the Adriatic Sea on the coast of Carovigno. Here the River Ausonius, mentioned by Pliny the Elder, has its course, and it can be considered the natural borderline between the upper Salento and the Murgia. In the past, this threshold divided the Messapian populace from the Peucitians, along with their respective languages, and so those who live here have long experience of inhabiting physical and cultural thresholds of every kind in their DNA. 

A threshold is a margin that creates sequences between two distinct environments, between the inside and the outside. But it also takes on the symbolic meaning of an element of passage between one situation, one culture, and another. 

The Roman god of the threshold was bifacial Janus, the god of beginnings, of passages, of bridges and of thresholds. With his two faces he saw both the future and the past, and he remained at the door to watch over the entrance and the exit. 

Janus and the threshold represent the tension between past and future – namely, the present. The future can be imagined and planned, the past can be remembered and also reviewed or viewed (photos, videos, drawings, painting, sculptures), but the present can only be experienced, nothing more (hic et nunc). And when one is on the threshold it is not possible to stay put very long, for a decision must be made – whether to enter, discover and experience new spaces and new perceptions, overcoming the fear of the unknown, or else to turn back and remain in the old space. 

In this land, the Itria Valley and its surroundings, there is an extraordinary blossoming of anthropic places, the product of a dialogue and a pact that man has always had to carry on with such a powerful and often hostile natural setting. Here, indeed, nature is often not very “coiffured”. Rather, it appears as an archaic, primordial scene. And this is the nature that man had to and has to negotiate and come to terms with in order to earn the right to live here coherently and fully. 

This system of urban centres, scattered rural buildings and countryside is not merely a totality of sites. Rather, we can call it a totality of places. It is a “holistic” system, inhabited since ancient times, and it has a genius loci that generates a precise identity and is at the same time generated by it, in a mutual exchange that has never been interrupted and never will be. 

We are in the presence of an authentic “personality” of places, resulting from an age-old, complex, wise and tested composition of man, nature, architecture, culture and various languages. The consequence is that today we find ourselves immersed in a mix of material and immaterial elements that creates a kaleidoscopic whole whose rare and potent beauty moves us deeply. 

This historical phenomenon of the different peoples who have found themselves in this region, sharing harmonies, disharmonies and peculiarities, has produced an uninterrupted cross-pollination that has led to continual movement and hybridization, along with the permanent evolution of society and the anthropic environment it has created. The phenomenon of hybridization and co-existence in the same territory also exists in our day, thanks to the growing presence of people from various countries who come here to live, immersing themselves for as long as they need to and with the necessary calm. This they do because they hope to reinterpret and redesign their lives here, in the light of the history and classical heritage of the Mediterranean, the place where, among other things, the three western monotheistic religions were born. 

At times living in this region allows us to perceive a “circular” movement of time, where the archaic and the contemporary walk side by side on the same ground. The reassuring presence of the archaic that we see in the landscapes, the myths and the Mediterranean light can encourage us to consider the contemporary as a horizontal plane, lacking a grammar but enriched and sustained by its contact with the sources, where it is possible to invent a new culture and a new humanism. 

Having been is a condition for being” wrote Fernand Braudel: all of us have already “been” in various places and among various cultures. Now the time has come for us renew our way of being. We need to find a way that allows the experiences of each one of us to evolve, a way that generates synergies, new humanism and a new culture intimately connected to the demands of the contemporary world. 

For roughly twenty years Michelangelo Pistoletto has been working on the idea of the «third paradise », which represents a third phase after the “first” and the “second” paradises. The first paradise is that of nature: Eden. The second is the artificial paradise of the science and technology created by man which, apart from its undeniable advantages, today is often an element increasingly harmful for nature. The third paradise is the third, decisive phase of humanity that will be achieved if many of us in many different places can find the right balance between artifice and nature. 

The exclusively « bucolic » existence, the sort of permanent vacation that some people enjoy in this territory (for longer or shorter periods in places like this that are attractive as « resorts »), is not very interesting in my opinion, since it does not create a society or new meaning for anyone. Over time it becomes a way of life harmful both for those who practice it and for others, with features of infantile and antisocial regression.

The word « tourism » — ­which personally I’ve tried to ban from my vocabulary for some time, along with the practice the word represents — leads to obsolete behaviour that has no meaning in light of the contemporary culture and sensibility a growing number of people are acquiring around the world. I believe that basing this land and its presumed future on this vague concept of « tourism » is a serious mistake, for it automatically produces « fake » and exclusively « tourist-oriented » environments built on clay. Over time it leads to a life that is a « non-life », with an uncertain and unpredictable future. After all, the word “tourism” is closely tied to the word “consumption”, which by nature tends to be an inconstant, ephemeral human practice that « enjoys » only some brief episodes here and there, following the fashions and opportunities of the moment. 

We cannot and should not transform a territory, this or any other, into an enormous hotel-restaurant. Of course, places affording hospitality are fine – as long as they are not embarrassing fakes or empty boxes imposed on a landscape. But a territory has also and above all the right and the duty to evolve as a whole in the context of its history and its potential: the creation of culture, society, resources and economy is absolutely necessary for the lives of all who live there. 

The dialogue that new inhabitants and informed travellers are carrying on here with the native population has made their presence into a resource that can and must produce a new culture and new social and economic activities that are relevant and closely tied to the contemporary world. In this way, an evolution and a future will be created for everyone. After all, diversity is a form of wealth contrary to the monoculture that leads to deadlock by inhibiting healthy development. 

Alongside the personal, autobiographical and sentimental « text » that each one of us «writes» in his or her daily life, I feel that it is vital for all, or at least many, of us to make a parallel contribution to the con-text, the text shared with others. Besides the private space that must, of course, be cultivated and tended, it is interesting and enriching for us to develop parallelly a new mix of cultures and sensibilities that will become a new public space, and to find a way to share it: “the garden with piazzas”, in fact.

It would be too limited to adopt an approach consisting exclusively of immersing oneself “in apnea” in a territory as powerful and archaic as ours. This would amount to an attempt to turn one’s back on “realty”, an escape from society motivated by weariness of living in the complexity of the contemporary world (see Freud’s “Civilization and its Discontents”).

There would be no sense or use in merely creating with some “accomplices” an artificial, lateral, irresponsible Eden surrounded by fences and walls, living a life parallel to the everyday, and so in the end declining into regression and ignorance of things and of men. Rather, it is more and more to be hoped that in this land the new inhabitants and the natives do not take refuge in the irrational and the infantile, here in this Mediterranean light and in the shade of olive trees. This is a “partial” attitude belonging to the realm of personal and collective psychology, which the planet cannot afford today. On the contrary, it is increasingly urgent for us to accompany on a daily basis this intimist, sentimental attitude, which may be legitimate but is not sufficient, with approaches and practices pertinent to the cultural, social, productive and political spheres. Only in this way will more and more people be fully entitled to become protagonists and citizens, each according to his or her potential and role, of the planet’s local and global polis.

It is urgent and “nourishing” for us to grasp the many chances to participate in this and other societies that are offered by contemporary technology, taking advantage of the economic and logistic availability of travelling and relocation that is now the norm (for physical mobility will certainly recover its former rhythm in the post-pandemic period). It is urgent and necessary that each of us contributes to development and knowledge in his/her field and in adjacent ones, in order to provide an example and a foundation for the new generations and to encourage them to take up the banner after us. 

If in the future this angle of Puglia has the misfortune to be inhabited only by demotivated natives and “metropolis-weary survivors” (obviously, these two examples represent a simplification of the many different types of inhabitants of a place), the only option left will be to send someone mounted on the hippogriff to recover our lost wits on the moon. 

The chief goal to be reached and almost physically apprehended is the cultivation of utopia in our daily lives. We need to create a dialogue between diversities and an encounter in a new, “third” place, one brimming with potentiality and unexpected developments. This will allow us to take part in the concert of beauty by striking at the heart of ignorance: “Act in such a way that you do not live like beasts, but following virtue and knowledge.

To follow a common path of knowledge and understanding allows us to make the utopia on the horizon our goal and destination. The Egg Journal represents a site of exchanges and suggestions for the ongoing creation of new horizons, new realities and new emotions. Nowadays, daily activity that consists only in looking for and living according to reassuring codes and situations in order to feel safe and comfortable (the bucolic way of life as an end in itself: for example, Virgil’s «Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi…») must and cannot be the main way of orienting ourselves. The full life is composed of a just harmony between « otium et negotium », as the Latins well knew! 

It is vital and necessary for there to be moments – and thanks to its historical and intrinsic features this land can favour them – when we feel the need to be nourished, to follow deeper and more revolutionary directions that can renew our vision and our lives from their roots. We need only think of the Renaissance, where the real thrust forward was given by the project of knowledge that regenerated art and the way everyday life was lived for all of society.

Today we are immersed in the mare magnum of the contemporary, where languages and contents overlap and are withineveryone’s easy reach. By now there are very few clear measures of value, of right and wrong, to refer to or orient ourselves by with certainty. 

The moment has arrived for experimentation and total research. But precisely because this space is so vast and so new it is increasingly necessary to create groups of persons from different backgrounds who recognize themselves as “pieces” in a common utopia. The Egg Journal hopes to become one of the places where we can go forward together to create a life and an environment worthy of those able to safeguard and produce significance and beauty. 

Pierangelo Caramia 

Architect and designer, he lives and works in Paris. Out-of-class chair and coordinator of the Design department at the Ecole Européenne Supérieure d’Art de Bretagne – Rennes site, France. Founding member of the architecture and design movement “Bolidismo”. He has carried out architecture and design projects in Italy, France, Belgium, the USA, Japan, Russia, Ivory Coast and Cameroun. Publications: Ècrits d’Alessandro Mendini (with Catherine Geel) – editions “Les presses du réel” Dijon, France. Articles on architecture, design and other topics were published in magazines, books and websites in Italy and France. Lectures, directing workshops, chairing and participating in committees for architecture and design competitions and degrees in several universities, design and architecture schools, museums and cultural institutions in Europe and the USA. His projects and design products have been exhibited, among others: at the Venice Biennale, the Milan Triennale. Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Fondation Cartier, Artcurial Gallery, Grand Palais in Paris. At the Gwangju Biennial – Korea. At the Groningen Museum – Groningen, Holland. At the Pesh Gallery – Cologne, Germany. At the Furniture for Twentieth Century Gallery – New York. At Kantor Gallery – Los Angeles. At the Seibu Art Forum – Tokyo. His products are part of the permanent collection of Groninger Museum, Groningen, Holland – Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich, Switzerland – Brooklyn Museum, NY, USA – Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris – The British Museum, London.

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