Giorgio Barrera’s Battlefields 1848-1867 (2007) traces the chronology of three great Italian wars. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, this site-specific installation transposes a field of battle within the garden of the Consulate General of Italy.
Barrera, an Italian artist based in Milan, brings a contemporary sensibility to these large-format photographs that creates an immersive and poetic journey for the viewer to embark upon. His images reveal different perspectives of war: a soldier in the front lines, a general strategizing his next move from atop a hill, and then moments when the viewer is left stranded in a dense fog–where ghosts from the past seem to emerge. Within these evocative images, Barrera sometimes obstructs the viewer’s perceptual field, revealing how the landscape itself can act as both adversary and accomplice during times of battle. The tombstone-like positioning of these highly romantic and sometimes mundane images alludes to the horrors of war, reminding the viewer that there is a cost to battles that shape the identity of a nation.
This photographic pilgrimage retains a nation’s collective memories and deep-rooted histories by ascribing new meanings to public space. Inspired by maps from the period were used to plot out this journey and the style of Renaissance painting, Barrera’s images show “what is, after what has been.” He excavates sedimented historical moments that are typically kept hidden by everyday life, enticing the viewer to reflect upon the landscape as a present-day site for remembrance.
Presented in partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute – Consulate General of Italy, Toronto