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Le Piazze [In]visibili – Invisible Squares

Le Piazze [In]visibili – Invisible Squares

Curated by Marco Delogu

Supported by ICI London

Studio 3 Gallery, Jarman Building, University of Kent

6 – 17 December 2021 and 17 January – 18 February, 10am – 5pm. Free entrance.

Private View: Friday 10th December 5-7pm.

When the first lockdown hit Italy in the Spring of 2020 the country’s famous piazze, the bustling squares at the heart of its civilisation, fell eerily silent. Empty of the usual crowds, the piazzas became – ‘perhaps for the first time in our lives’, writes curator Marco Delogu in the exhibition catalogue – ‘imaginary places “seen” like this previously only by the great artists and the minds who designed, planned, built and adorned them’. Delogu reacted to this extraordinary situation by coordinating a team of forty photographers and writers to document and respond to the nation’s temporarily unreal squares. The project involved a complex challenge as during lockdown the photographers could only go outside alone and ‘subject to explaining the reason to the relevant authorities’ while ‘for many writers it was difficult to achieve the necessary concentration’. The writers and photographers – ‘piazza partners’ – worked both in dialogue and independently of each other yet for each piazza ‘the results coincided surprisingly’.

The title of the exhibition Le Piazze [In]visibili (Invisible Squares) alludes to Italo Calvino’s famous novel Le città invisibili (Invisible Cities). While he was Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in London, Delogu had met the architectural historian Joseph Rykwert, visiting him in his house in Hampstead where he was shown a first edition of Calvino’s Invisible Cities (1972) with a dedication acknowledging the inspiration of Rykwert’s The Idea of a Town (1963). Rykwert has contributed an essay to the exhibition catalogue pointing out that while lockdown impoverished Italy’s piazzas it also provided a rare opportunity to ‘see their complex geometries, their bare bones, and therefore their very structure’.

The exhibition comprises images taken in 2020 by Luca Campigotto, Francesca Pompei, Claudia Gori, Flavio Scollo, Eva Frapiccini, Paolo Ventura, Alice Grassi, Daniele Molajoli, George Tatge, Giovanni Cocco, Luca Spano, Luca Nostri, Olivo Barbieri, Alessandro Dandini, Margherita Nuti, Jacopo Benassi, Raffaella Mariniello, Michele Cera, accompanied by texts written especially by Francesco M. Cataluccio, Valerio Magrelli, Giorgio van Straten, Jhumpa Lahiri, Benedetta Cibrario, Margherita Loy, Salvatore Silvano Nigro, Carlo Carabba, Giovanni Grasso, Caterina Serra, Marcello Fois, Elisabetta Rasy, Liliana Cavani, Francesco Zanot, Clio Pizzingrilli, Sandro Veronesi, Maurizio Maggiani, Eduardo Savarese, Nicola Lagioia and Helena Janeczek. Plus, Olivo Barbieri famous image of Piazza del Popolo taken in 2004 is accompanied by a text by Edoardo Albinati, and Matteo Lafranconi writes about the vanished Piazza Scossacavalli in Rome.

The exhibition is an initiative of Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and is shown at the University of Kent thanks to the generosity of the Italian Cultural Institute in London. Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s Minster of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, writes of the subject of the exhibition that ‘we are aware that we are facing great challenges, but nonetheless believe that we have the ability to rise to them and draw the impetus needed to overcome them from our sights firmly set on the future’.

Students taking Kent’s MA Curating have worked to adapt the exhibition for installation in Studio 3 Gallery.