Cultural Stratigraphy is a project we develop during a two months residency promoted by ETAC and hosted by La Panacée.

During our staying in Montpellier we worked on the topic of "Cultural Tourism: understanding the city and its urban, human, economic and cultural development" searching for the specificities of the city. We noticed that the city does not show immediately recognizable traits, such as local dishes or handicraft productions. Montpellier is deeply defined by fluxes of students, researchers, migrants, public officials, retired and tourists: its richness is molded by multiple identities. For this reason and for the clear presence of wine as a declared regional traditional production - easily extendable to the whole France - we focused our attention on the concept of "terroir", a word which is often used for marketing strategies.
With Cultural Stratigraphy, we aimed to compare the complexity of the urban terroir - that is its social composition, with the one of the soil. Through an analogy between these two elements, we want to show the urban soil from a different perspective.

As a starting point, we compared the past, the present and the future of Montpellier, mapping the changes in the urban layout from old postcards, pictures of the actual configuration and drawings of 5 Cautionary Tales About Mediterranean Citiesfuture scenarios which interpret and forecast the evolution of the metropolitan agglomeration.

Urban soil is an extraordinary unexplored subject which Geology started to consider as a matter of study only in the middle '90s. The unpredictable content of soil fascinated us, thus to extract core samples we designed and produced a tool, the Soil Sampler. We collected soils from five emblematic sites in Montpellier to analyse their composition through microbiological cultures in Petri Dishes. We reproduced scientific soil analysis to show the presence of bacteria, fungi and yeasts in the soil of different urban areas. Through an empirical approach, we want to represent the invisible layer underneath the screening stratum of the ground with the tool of soil analysis.

We looked at soil as living matter. To symbolize its organic activity we designed a narrative object, the Soil Breath: it works as a bridge between soil and a chemical agent which reacts with the CO2 produced by the microfauna, creating a layer that represents the breath of the soil.

The results of our project have been shown in a temporary exhibition at La Panacée | Centre de Culture Contemporaine.
Cultural Stratigraphy is presented through the content of our research: a process of understanding features of specific urban environments which finds a visual and tangible translation as soil analysis, scenarios, narrative artifact and installation.



This gallery resumes the research material collected during the residency and the results of our work.