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View from the Other Side

An exhibition of photographs shows the cracks in the picturesque vistas of Italy

Written by Surbhi Gupta |
Updated: November 15, 2018 12:05:19 am
Italian photo exhibition, Italian photographer, photojournalist, Silvia Camporesi, Letizia Battaglia, Extraordinary Visions, Delhi’s Italian Institute of Culture Image by Franco Fontana.

Palaces, prisons, factories and abandoned villages become places of memory and emotive paths for Italian photographer Silvia Camporesi in the series, Atlas Italiae. She does not intend to document; her process is to personalise and appropriate the visited places. The result is that her works are not merely photographs. She uses a technique that involves printing the images in black and white and then colouring them by hand in soft pastels.

Another photographer, Letizia Battaglia scours through Palermo’s east coast and captures places which show signs of decay — a concrete-lined river bed, illegal bathing establishments on the beach, illegal occupation and buildings that were once used by the mafia. The acclaimed photojournalist’s work bears witness to Italy’s social and political situation, particularly involving the mafia.

These works, with those of 18 other master photographers of Italy, comprise the exhibition, “Extraordinary Visions. Italy” at Delhi’s Italian Institute of Culture till January 13. It will travel to Mumbai in March.

From the metaphysical visions created by Luigi Ghirri and the crowded beaches captured by Massimo Vitali, to the saturated colours of the landscapes of Franco Fontana, and elegant and essential architectural visions of Gabriele Basilico, the works are drawn from Rome’s MAXXI Museum’s permanent collection. MAXXI is a national museum of contemporary art and architecture in the country. Curated by Margherita Guccione and Simona Antonacci, the photographs were part of a larger exhibition that took place in June 2016 at the museum to mark 70 years of the country. It has travelled to India to mark 70 years of diplomatic relations between Italy and India.

“It is the Italy portrayed in images by master photographers… that show the country free from gloss and touch-ups, far removed from the stereotypes of mass tourism and closer to the idea of itself, poised between history and post-modernity,” says Lorenzo Angeloni, Ambassador of Italy to India. “The aim is to use captivating images to take the Indian public on a journey to the heart of Italy today — an honest, real and magical journey that offers an all-round view, from creative wonders to neglect, featuring visions shared by all of humanity involved in globalisation,” he adds.

The exhibition, which has more than 100 original photographs, opens with conceptual artist Alighiero e Boetti’s famous work, Mappa, which was conceived after he travelled to Afghanistan in 1971 and became fascinated by their local embroidery. The work, embroidered on canvas by Afghan women, is a world map in which each state is represented with the colours and motifs of its flag.

The first section of the exhibition looks at the landscape. Luigi Ghirri, who is known to blur reality with fiction in his work, focuses on the “landscape three kilometres away from home” while Mario Cresci travels the Jonica main road, visiting common places and more unusual settings, and Giovanni Chiaramonte depicts the historic stratification of sites in Calabria and Sicily. “Ghirri looks at the ordinary — just a common beach in Italy where nothing is happening but he is searching for infinity and the idea of magical. If you look at the works of Franco Fontana, he turns landscape into an abstract painting and is far from the documentation,” says Antonacci.

In the section dedicated to public spaces, Spanish photographer Jordi Bernadò investigates the iconic sites of religious, political and cultural power — the Pantheon, home to the Roman gods, and the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, particularly the cabinet housing the portrait of Pope Innocent X painted by Diego Velàsquez in 1650, among others. While Olivo Barbieri presents the disturbing but alluring image of the progressive urbanisation of the Adriatic coastline, Gianni Berengo Gardin documents the relationship between infrastructure and work in the city of Genoa.

The exhibition begins and ends with the same photograph — an aerial vision of the MAXXI — as captured by the Dutch photographer Iwan Baan that transmits the building’s relationship with the surrounding quarter and the Tiber River. “The museum, which houses contemporary art and architecture, seems different from the older buildings, but at the same time, it dialogues with the older city, which is on the other side. And it seems like it talks to it through the Tiber,” says Antonacci.

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