With Mariana Mañón and Manolo Larrosa through Manifesta Biennale 2018

“qanat” = underground water canals found in many parts of the Middle East

For this project, we understood qanats as enormous cracks that represent portals to the material history and character of the city of Palermo. Here, cracks are understood as a source of information about the city’s layers, hydrological conditions, urban planning and flora’s adaptation features. This acted as a departing point for drifting through Palermo’s open sources of information and holes through which to peek into.

Looking for cracks that talked about the presence or absence of water, asking if it’s attitude was menacing or positive (torwards modern civilization), wondering about what the materials felt of being traversed by plants, dirt, trash, human waste or water flows, gave way to another mode of sensing the city; a phenomenological perspective which abounds from the falling down of the unity of stuff, that is, their resistance to the passing of time: weather, human activity, plants struggle for space, society’s abandonment, among other conditions favourable to cracks appearance.

Crackology was conceived as an anti-anthropocentric guerrilla action. Mapping down some of the geological depressions, architectural faults, plant’s appropriations, water filtrations, among other decaying aspects (for human perspective) of the city, so that any pedestrian would pay attention to the presence of non-human forces which are giving shape to the city, as an homage to cities liveliness, to nature’s dynamics and opportunism. Pasting signs with the perceived characteristics and causes of different kind of cracks in the landscape of Palermo, inviting people to look at their quotidian space through another gaze, as an oblique strategy to provoke anyone’s curiosity and to inspire them to keep on researching until they get to the main crack that once opened the space of possibility for the whole city: qanats.

Thus, we came to understand the qanat as a crack in Palermo’s geology. If qanats are purposefully designed cracks to channel water through ground, can the Danisinni neighborhood be understood as a crack in the city of Palermo? Furthermore, what is the relationship between the geological cracks and the fabricated ones? Our investigation of the qanats and Danisinni neighborhood was a broader exploration of infrastructures as mediators between “nature” and “culture”. Understanding the crack as a wide concept existing at multiple scales was the trigger to explore the Danisinni neighborhood through a new lens: Crackology.

The strategy was to step out of size dimensions as the main criteria for judging the importance of a crack and to replace them with five archetypes to focus attention on less obvious features to read the city’s decaying body. The moon, devil, hermit, emperess, and magician archetypes allow us to understand cracks as carriers of a variety of processes: opening, unifying, destroying, transforming, nurturing, etc. Crakology team made a diagram with four concentric categories to serve as a hydraulic thermometer that could be applied through urban environments. The thermometer measures physical attributes (materiality, location, and presence/ absence of water), as well as social and poetic ones. The center is an image of the related archetype,  whose voice can be read at the bottom. After this reading tool was finished, the team spread through the streets of Danisinni neighborhood to label the different cracks found on the way with the diagram, thus creating an extended plane of all kinds of cracks and enhancing the city dweller’s experience of spatial dynamics in a broader sense. They completed each diagram by hand on carbon paper, so that each diagram on the street had an exact copy, that was then presented inside the mortuary chamber of the Danisinni crypt as part of the Manifesta 12 biennale.

Text by Manolo Larrosa, edited by Felix de ROsen