The following project, proposed as part of the Matera candidature for European City of Culture 2019, is the result of a collaboration between artist Alfredo Pirri and Dr. Salvatore Rainò.

The idea involves making a piece of work whose origin lies in the – identical – roots of art and of science, and of making such a piece through a unique, innovative practice. The piece will take ancient cisterns for the gathering of water as its main material, in the knowledge that the cistern system at Sassi in Matera gathered and stored water when man knew, by direct experience, just how precious water is.3

As well as being moved by the desire to accomplish a synthesis between the values of different ideas and practices, the project also owes its existence to the owners of the Corte San Pietro Hotel, which lies above a system of communicating cisterns – their intent is to maintain and expand the cistern system in order for it to become well and truly a ‘machine’, to be put at the service of creativity and of the well-being of the soul.


            Untitled-1 2013-10-06 18.40.54

Part One: The Engine

The first part of the machine is called ‘The Engine’. This consists of a sculpture by Alfredo Pirri which is placed in the cistern underlying the hotel’s dining room. It will be made of metal, crystal, water and electronic pumping systems custom-made for the sculpture by Dr. Salvatore Rainò. Its shape will be that of an octagonal column, approx. 3.80 m tall, containing treated water which takes on the shape of a vortex. The sculpture and its vortex will be visible both from above, that is from inside the hotel, and from below, via a door which from the dining room leads down into the cistern system.

When water – the engine of life – is left free to take on its own shape, it tends to the absolute geometric perfection of the vortex. Thanks to a sophisticated mechanism derived from the most advanced scientific solutions, this living sculpture allows water to give back to the Earth the most ancient energy it can give, that which guarantees life. And in effect, especially in particularly clear days and at certain times of the day, visitors will feel an extraordinary sense of well-being and of harmony when in the proximity of this work.

This will become a place where the Universe will wrap itself into the hourglass of Time; where mankind will be able to apologise to life and attempt to remedy its actions. The hole in the floor will become a window through which to peer to observe the mystery of evolution of man through the making of ‘works ever less imperfect’.

Alfredo Pirri, Salvatore Rainò
Roma, Altamura – Ottobre 2013

preparatory drawings


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