Exhibition of Photographs
Organized by The Italian Academy of Columbia University in collaboration with AIFIC.
1161 Amsterdam Avenue (between 116th and 118th Streets)
New York, NY 10027
This exhibition is part of “Protecting our Heritage,” a focal topic for the Washington cluster of EUNIC (the European Union National Institutes of Culture). EUNIC considers heritage as a source of identity, learning, and inspiration for present and future generations; this program is implemented with the support of UNESCO and in partnership with a number of prominent institutions, including international organizations, universities, museums, and foundations.
Massimiliano Gatti presents a stunning record of work at renowned archaeological sites including Qatna, Syria, and Nineveh, in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, where the photographer joined an interdisciplinary research group led by the University of Udine.
His exhibition features recent images from these ancient cities, and from around the Mesopotamian region, as well as Khorsabad, Tell Gomel, Jerwan, the Tigris, and a wall of inscription-bearing stones from the “Unrivaled Palace” of King Sennacherib.
The show of 25 color giclée inkjet prints of landscapes and artifacts embraces work from four projects: “Rovine” (“Ruins,” 2009–current), “In superficie (“On the surface,” 2014), “Limes” (in Latin, “Boundary/border,” 2011), and “Questo è il giorno in cui la memoria si è dissolta” (“This is the day that memory dissolved,” 2016).
Gatti’s work has been lauded by Professor Jonathan Green (emeritus, University of California at Riverside) as “poems of enlightenment to direct us into a richer human and historical experience.” In these desert pictures, “the object has not only been removed from any context, but also is bleached by a blinding light; transformed from a fully articulated object into a ghost-like presence. It is vaporizing before our eyes.”
This is the American debut for most of the photographs, and the collection is presented together for the first time, assembled in its intended interpretative stratification.
The problem of identity obsesses our everyday life.
Who are we? Are we what we eat, how we move, what we do, who we are with, our sexual tendency –or what?
If this question is posed at a general level, it assumes a particular relevance since identity borders the construction of places that “create” identity, where Architecture (with a capital A) must reawaken the human conscience.
“Architecture,” indeed, is based etymologically on “arcai,” the essential principles that govern the cosmos.
We feel at home with the arcai, as they have a soul, the soul of the place; and the architect is the servant of the soul of that place.
We might say that in these constructions, these materializations of the soul, the arcai adhere to matter, not being able to be separately defined from matter’s physical component, from its materialization.
And the place becomes memory.
The relationship between the construction of the temples and their location in particular places in Greece, Mesopotamia, or Asia is particularly heart-rending today, as all these identities are destroyed for political and religious reasons.
The wound unfolds towards the inside and the outside; the scar is visible, palpable: the place that has lost its soul, has lost the sense of belonging.
“Le cadre est un cache,” Andre’ Bazin wrote: the frame surrounding a picture is a window that opens onto the visible and –at the same time– the invisible. When there is visible/invisible in modern photography, this is about photography of ruins, which belong to the past but may no longer belong to the future.
Traces, ruins, remains of the ancients have an allure that goes beyond time and space.
“All men have a secret attraction to ruins,” wrote Chateaubriand in the early 1800s; today, this very romantic vision has a totally different and less romantic connotation: it speaks of the destruction and elimination of an iconography.
The gift of the image consists in providing us a place from which to observe our soul, as in the images by Massimiliano Gatti.”
Artist’s Statement by Massimiliano Gatti:
When Nietzsche identifies the transformation of past history into current history as the key that makes mankind what it is, that’s because history exercises a critical function with respect to gaps in memory.
The ruins, totally empty of human presence, are paradoxically invaded by human presence: everything that is now a ruin has been created and destroyed by mankind, and the state of ruin itself is tied to the abandonment by civilization, because of either an environmental change or a change in the balance of power.
Photography, memory’s tool, assumes the task of freezing the allure of the uncorrupted past and restoring its charm so that this charm can flourish again.
Biography of the Artist
Massimiliano Gatti, photographer and archaeological activist, worked with the archaeological mission of the University of Udine in Qatna, Syria, from 2008 to 2011. From 2012 to 2015 he served as a photographer with PARTeN (Progetto Archeologico Regionale Terra di Ninive), an interdisciplinary research unit conducting archaeological activities in the Kurdistan region’s Land of Nineveh in Iraq, home to some of the most important archaeological sites in the world.
Gatti’s interest in the exploration of ancient ruins and traces of the past has also led him to work with photographic projects in Scotland, Syria, Iraq and Italy.
Gatti has shown widely in group and solo exhibitions in Edinburgh, Paris, Los Angeles (at the University of California at Riverside), and throughout Italy. His work is featured in important public and private collections including the Galleria Civica di Modena, Fondazione Fotografia, BNL Paribas, and the Collezioni Comune di Monza. He is represented in Europe by RB Contemporary Gallery.