Olivo Barbieri

°1954 Italy
Lives and works in Italy

In the series Site Specific, begun in 2003 and still in progress, Olivo Barbieri photographed more than forty world's cities from a low-flying helicopter. “From the outset, Barbieri felt that his aim in Site Specific was not to produce an objective, document of the world’s cities but to somehow push photography’s language into new territory. Captivated by a vision of the twenty-first-century city as a kind of site-specific installation— temporary, malleable, and constantly in flux—he sought a photographic corollary for the radical mutations of urban form that he saw taking place.”[1] His bird’s-eye views of cities, often taken using the “selective focus” technique (which highlights only some elements, deliberately leaving the rest of the scene blurred), resulted in a new way of perceiving the city, that looks more like a scale model than a real location. In his photographs of Mexico City we see architectural landmarks such the Torres de Satélitte, the UNAM Central Library and modern road networks. The series also includes pairs of images showing the Torre Latinoamericana - worlds first skycraper built on highly active seismic land-   from succesive vantage points; the effect is that of a sequence of still frames from a film. “In fact, although these scenes induce a sense of enchanted wonder in the viewer, there is a critical question underpinning this insistent gaze. Despite their air of playfulness and their flourishes of visual wit, Barbieri’s Site Specific photographs contain hints of a gloomier subtext, signaling his awareness of the impersonal, sometimes coercive forces that increasingly touch the lives of city dwellers.”[2] In any case, what Barbieri’s photographs present us is a surprising vision that on the one hand brings out aspects of urban space which would otherwise be difficult to perceive and on the other underlines the instability of the boundary between real object, perception and representation.

[1] Christophe Philips

[2] Christophe Philips

© Olivo Barbieri