China since 1989
Edited by Francesco Zanot
Tosetti Value for Art, together with CAMERA – Italian Centre for Photography, is proud to make an exciting addition to its Prospettive study of the globalized world with a unique, in-depth look at China. The China 1989 – 2014 exhibition offers a selection of sixteen works that are emblematic of photographer Olivo Barbieri’s almost thirty years’ research conducted throughout the East.
Olivo Barbieri made his first journey to China in 1989, the year of revolution in central Eastern Europe and the great demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. He set out in May, a month before the massacre. He avoided Beijing, but stopped in Hong Kong, Macao, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Shanghai. This was the start of a story of great fascination and meticulous in-depth study that would take Barbieri to the People’s Republic of China almost twice a year on journeys to explore every corner of the world’s most densely populated country – from the mountains of Tibet to the Yellow Sea coasts, from rural areas to the immense metropolises
From his very earliest explorations, Barbieri realized the enormity of the cultural, social, urban and economic transformation that would assail China. As soon as he got back from the East he began work on his first book “Appunti di Viaggio in Cina”, (“Notes of Travels in China”) a collection of short notes and images that combine the investigation of a place with that of the means used to depict it. This is a leitmotiv of his work, repeated and expanded on in hundreds of images and dozens of publications (of which at least five are devoted exclusively to China and the Far East). Photography for him was not simply a means of documenting the world, but served to provide his own interpretation among innumerable alternatives. Barbieri redoubled his efforts – the transformation was taking place both in front of and behind the lens. He filled his images with building sites, intricate highway interchanges, individual skyscrapers (first) and forests of skyscrapers (later), but also mirrors, coloured shadows and projective phenomena. Barbieri narrates the fervid tension of the change and its relentless nature.
The transformation strategy was that of the West. Capitalism and Postmodernism. All principles of planning and stylistic unity made way for the combination of different typologies, in a process so all-encompassing as to take on the proportions of veritable post-war reconstruction. Economic and educational models (entire cities) poured forth, similar to the bizarre creatures that form in the intermediate stages of metamorphosis – disharmonious and unstable, but extraordinarily vital. Lengthy exposures, artificial lighting and an evident verticality are just some of the expedients Barbieri used to narrate this inexhaustible energy, so intense as to constitute not an exclusively national issue, but able to determine nothing less than the last radical readjustment of global balances. Almost thirty years of history flow through Olivo Barbieri’s rich images, enough to see an epochal change – from being a kingdom of copies, China has become a model.
Video da Videopiemonte della mostra di Olivo Barbieri per il progetto Prospettive @Tosetti Value
February 2017 / June 2017