Italian artist Olivo Barbieri is known for creating photographs that destabilize our understanding of humankind’s relationship to both urban and natural environments. Begun in 2004, Barbieri’s expansive series, site specific_, presents us with a unique vision of major cities such as Rome, Las Vegas, Shanghai, and New York. Taken from a helicopter and utilizing a large format camera with a tilt-shift lens, Barbieri’s photographs reduce these vast metropolises to mere models.
Subsequently turning his attention to the spectacle of nature in series such as The Waterfall Project (2006/7), Dolomites (2010), and Alps – Geographies and People (2012), Barbieri continues to play with the idea of scale. Adopting the same method of photographing from a helicopter, he reflects upon the entertainment value we now ascribe to natural phenomena such as waterfalls and mountains; waterfalls exist to be photographed by the masses, and mountains are to be ascended by fearless climbers.
Using additional devices, such as manipulating color, or deleting specific details, Barbieri aims to disrupt visual perception. The feeling produced when looking at his photographs is one of disorientation, akin to the vertigo one may feel when gazing down from a great height. In doing so, Barbieri highlights the ambiguity of all vision, ultimately forcing us to consider the relationship between reality and representation.
Born in Carpi, Italy, in 1954, Barbieri lives and works in Modena, Italy. In addition to his photographic work, Barbieri has directed critically acclaimed films, such as site specific_ROMA 04, site specific_SHANGHAI 04, and site specific_LAS VEGAS 05, which were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Tate Modern, London, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among other venues. His films were featured in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival and the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
Barbieri’s photographs have been exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, and the International Center of Photography, New York. He has participated in the Venice Biennial (1993, 1995, 1997, 2011, 2013), the Prague Biennial (2009), the Seville Biennial (2006), and most recently in the Biennial of Photography Knokke-Heist, Belgium (2016). He was the subject of a major retrospective, Olivo Barbieri Images 1978 – 2014, at the MAXXI in Rome (2015).