The exhibition Peripheral Visions: Italian Photography in Context, 1950s-Present is inspired by the recent attention dedicated to the representation of increasingly global urban peripheries. In the course of 2011, Professor Maria Antonella Pelizzari led a class of graduate students who researched how such sites became visualized and narrated in literature, film, and photography. From the other side of the Atlantic, the students sought to understand the Italian context and weave a thread that would connect different interpretations of peripheral subjects through successive generations, starting from the crucial post-war years and reaching our present. While some photographers gathered under this project had already participated in collective exhibitions and commissions, many others had yet to be brought into dialogue with one another.
The works in this exhibition explore the effects of the economic miracle, of building speculation and industrialization, and of the subsequent globalization upon the spaces wherein Italians live out their everyday lives. In the north, the photographers show the dramatic impact of urban and industrial development on previously rural landscapes, while in the south they give a voice to the life that has continued on beside the newly built grids. The common equation of photography and tourism, so frequently associated with the description of the Italian landscape, is completely upended – instead of privileging the picturesque or monumental, these works seek to authenticate the places left behind and they visualize the experience of finding oneself in the ever-expanding margins.
The impossibility of pinning down the periphery has led these photographers into unexplored sites and has prompted them to new experimental and conceptual venues. Many of the works contain multiple components; the gaps in between the center and the margin point to the difficulty in defining, in a single image, an omnipresent situation of growing importance. Despite their diversity, these photographs poetically offer a counter-narrative to assumed visions of Italy, showing the often-overlooked yet quintessential spaces of our time.