A landscape turns into image when it peels off the ground. By changing perspective and moving away from noise and lights, the language of cities becomes comprehensible. To study a landscape from the air means tearing away the uniqueness it holds for man, making it live as an autonomous subject. There is no individual standpoint, only the objective perfection of a map in transformation.
Le Courbusier said that «flight has given us the sight of birds, the precious ability to observe our world all at once, and the mess we are making of it». Perhaps it was from this very statement that Olivo Barbieri took off. He strips disasters of their rhetoric, removes their human dimension: imposing structures, wrecks of buildings, collapsed churches and gutted houses all become vital marks of passage, both natural and urban.
Thus an earthquake or a hurricane come to look like an economic crisis, or a war, or an illegal building. For the history of cities is, after all, one of shocks, rifts, demolitions, and, above all else, reconstructions.
Since 2003 Barbieri has been flying over our heads as he surveys countless tortured territories: the ruins of Emilia and L’Aquila, the abandoned cities of the American Rust Belt, the demolitions and building speculations of Catania and Naples. And present throughout this quiet, aesthetic, architectural reflection is the unmistakable perspective of the author in which reality becomes a model.
Italian quakes and other diseases is an integral part of site Specific_: disasters and catastrophes are a starting point for a universal analysis of territory and landscape; they stimulate reflection on how urban space can be rethought, redesigned, rebuilt, as well as which energies trigger this incessant movement of death and rebirth.
It is not by chance that this project began in Gibellina: a place of urban and social experimentation, a city transformed by an earthquake and a contradictory reconstruction process into an immense, “open air” art museum.
Olivo Barbieri (Carpi-MO, 1954).
He held is first exhibition in 1978 “Flippers 1977 – 78” a series on the discovery of an abandoned warehouse full of disassembled pinball machines. In 1984 he took part in Viaggio in Italia (Bari 1984).
In the early nineteen eighties he began the series on the artificial lights of European and Oriental cities.
Since 1989 he has traveled in the East, especially in China.
The first retrospective of his work was held at the Folkwang Museum in Essen curated by Ute Eskildesen in 1996.
Starting in the mid-nineties he has adopted a photographic technique that enables him to keep only certain areas of the image in focus, a method he continued to use for about ten years. In 2002 the Galleria del Gottardo Lugano present his second retrospective “Virtual Truths” a statement about the globalization.
In 2003 he began the site specific_ project involving more than 40 cities all over the world. In 2013 Aperture New York published “Site Specific 03_13” with an essay by Christopher Phillips.
The series site specific_ (2003–2013), Parks (2003–2014), Real Words (2008–2013), Images (1978–2007), Virtual Truths (1996–2002), and Artificial Illuminations (1980–2014) share reflections on the quantity of reality found in our system of life, and on how our perception is capable of understanding it.
In 2015, for the Festival Fotografia Europea Reggio Emilia, he realized “ERSATZ LIGHTS case study #1 east west” – a book published by Hatje Cantz and an exhibition -.
In 2015 The Museum MAXXI Roma, held is third retrospective: “Images 1978-2014” curated by Francesca Fabiani.
Exhibitions and Film Festivals selected: the Walker Art Centre Minneapolis 2007, Tate Modern London 2006 e 2007, MoMA San Francisco 2008 e 2011, Centre Pompidou Paris 1994, 2010 e 2013, The Art Institute of Chicago 2005, Venice Biennial (1993, 1995, 1997, 2011 and 2013), the first ICP Triennial of photography and video 2003, MoMA New York 2007, the second Seville Biennial (2006 curated by Okwui Enwezhor), Museo MaRT, Rovereto, 2011, the Locarno Film Festival, the Medien und Architektur Biennial Graz 2005-2007, the Sundance Film Festival 2006 e 2008, the San Francisco International Film Festival 2006 e 2007.
More then 50 monographs and artist books has been published on his work.