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Exhibition recounts the metamorphosis of the landscape of the Marche devastated by an earthquake
Olivo Barbieri, site specific, MARCHE 17 (earthquake), © Olivo Barbieri.

ROME.- The visions of three great photographers recount a changing landscape: Olivo Barbieri, Paola De Pietri and Petra Noordkamp are the first artists to be involved in the project Terre in movimento (Lands in movement), curated by Pippo Ciorra and Carlo Birrozzi, in collaboration with Cristiana Colli, at MAXXI from May 11 to September 1, 2019. Three auteurs for a photographic commission regarding the Marche landscape devastated by the earthquake of 2016 that is intended to re-establish the image of places, works of art, ruins, fragile, temporary settlements and the people inhabiting them. The project is promoted by the Fine Arts and Landscape Archaeological Superintendency of the Marche, in collaboration with MAXXI, National Museum of XXI Century Arts and the Associazione Demanio Marittimo.Km-278.

Presented to the public for the first time last December at Ancona, in the Church of San Gregorio Illuminatore, the exhibition is now opening at MAXXI, the latest stage in the photographic research project strongly supported by Giovanna Melandri, President of the Fondazione MAXXI.

“With Lands in movement we are continuing along a path that has always integrated the promotion of the photographic idiom and the valorization of the artists with the concept of the museum as a dynamic agent, a protagonist who leaves their ‘home’ to explore and establish an active dialogue with the territory,” says Margherita Guccione, Director of MAXXI Architettura. When the exhibition closes, the works exhibited will be added to the museum’s photography collections.

The “lands in movement” in which the commission is located comprise the areas of the provinces of Macerata, Ascoli Piceno and Fermo that between the August and October of 2016 were struck by a swarm of violent earthquakes. Lands with a unique patrimony of natural, artistic and architectural beauty on which the quake imposed a terrible dual loss: not only did it destroy buildings, homes and monuments but it also compromised the cultural fabric of the communities, that intangible quotidian tie produced by the interaction between the people and places struck by the catastrophe.

The three artists invited by the Superintendency of the Marche and MAXXI to participate in the project immediately went in search of this wounded heritage. Through fixed or moving images, rather than merely attempting to recount the drama of the ruins and the destruction, they have instead focused on the relationships: between the people and the territory, between the damaged and the reconstructed buildings, between the sites from which the works of art were saved and those in which they are currently conserved. Their research has resulted in three auteur projects, characterised by heterogeneity of approaches, temperaments and idioms.

The project by Olivo Barbieri tackles head on the traumas suffered by the territory, oscillating between three different and complementary points of view: from above, portraying the scale and the extent of the disaster; from below, in which it still seems possible to identify with the Renaissance perspective that has marked the landscape of Italian urban culture, and close-up portraits of the works of art, recovered from the ruins and restored to a new life.

Paola De Pietri has investigated the relationship between the lost everyday place, the new intimate spaces to be constructed in the temporary settlements and the people inhabiting them. De Pietri has photographed the houses lacerated by the earthquake, the objects, found, recorded and catalogued in the depots, the sites for the construction of the new temporary homes, imagining them above all as fragmented familiar and intimate spaces yet to be reconstructed.

The gaze of Petra Noordkamp instead works directly on the “trauma,” lingers on the signs of the passage and the sudden interruption of time, on the persistence of memory and the traces it leaves. The artist initially concentrated on the area of Arquata del Tronto and Visso, exploring the private houses that were destroyed but are still full of objects to which she donates attention, recording them and preserving their memory. In a project realised thanks in part to the support of the Netherlands Embassy, Noordkamp then visited the stores at Ancona and San Severino Marche where hundreds of sculptures and paintings recovered from devastated churches have been conserved, portraying them swathed in archive paper and bubble wrap.

“The lens is not pointed at this or that subject, but rather something immaterial, suspended between places, that is even more at risk every day, and that is still waiting to be ‘restored’. Alternatively, which we are all trying to restore”, says Pippo Ciorra. “The merit of the three artists lies in having immediately understood this situation and having immediately worked to capture the wounded spirit of these places.”

Lands in movement is an opportunity for deep reflection on the transformations of the landscape as a result of a legacy of culture and relationships, without which no model of culturally driven development can be conceived or constructed. The work of the three artists involved represents not only compensation for the territory but has the ambition of giving an impulse for broader artistic research with multiple voices into the metamorphoses of the landscape of the Marche.

As Superintendent Carlo Birrozzi explains, “This experience is to all intents and purposes a prototype that focuses on the value of the existing heritage, on artistic projects with diverse media and idioms, on the opportunity to construct a new heritage and public collections open to the local and professional, national and international communities, on the process of cultural programming that has involved artists, publishers, communicators and architects in a project that sees the exhibition as a further multiplier of opportunities for rethinking not only the areas affected by the earthquake.”

The project is described in a richly illustrated catalogue published by Quodlibet, with texts by Giovanna Melandri, Carlo Birrozzi, Stefano Catucci, Pippo Ciorra, Cristiana Colli, Margherita Guccione and Emanuele Marcotullio.

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