FE 2015

Un progetto del Comune di Reggio nell'Emilia
Comune di Reggio Emilia – Città delle persone

  •  Alberobello Bari, 1986 © Olivo Barbieri
    Alberobello Bari, 1986 © Olivo Barbieri
  •  Noto Siracusa, 1989 © Olivo Barbieri
    Noto Siracusa, 1989 © Olivo Barbieri
  • Roma 1995 © Olivo Barbieri
    Roma 1995 © Olivo Barbieri
  • Pellestrina Venezia, 1988 © Olivo Barbieri
    Pellestrina Venezia, 1988 © Olivo Barbieri

Olivo Barbieri, Ersatz Lights. Case study #1 east west



scientific coordination by Laura Gasparini. In collaboration with Regione Emilia RomagnaRegione Friuli Venezia Giulia and Villa Manin (Passariano)


By “ERSATZ LIGHTS” we mean everything we have invented as a substitute for natural light – as a surrogate of sunlight. Light, moreover, is an essential element in the ‘syntax’ of photography and of the artist’s poetic expression. In a visual language that is constantly challenged by the photographer himself, in this project the key of interpretation of reality is artificial lighting – from Eastern megalopolises, like those in China and India, to the sprawling suburban areas of European cities, including the Italian landscape so powerfully and culturally defined by Olivo Barbieri (1954) through his strong emphasis on focus-setting and balance of colours – showing some aspects of reality and of his approach that are truly unique and previously unseen.

The exhibit brings together images shot over a working period spanning thirty years. The photographs have been chosen by the artist himself searching through his extensive archive. The selection consists of around 200 images in which the spatial expressions of the East and of the West are approached through a single common element: artificial lighting. Europe, Japan, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Cairo, the United States, and many other countries are chronicled and portrayed through a sequence of images that connect subjects and forms, sometimes also shown in the daylight.


Carpi (Modena), 1954

From 1971 he developed a growing interest in photography and created Flippers 1977-1978 (Pinball machines), a series based on an abandoned warehouse that was once the assembly site of pinball machines. In his depictions the pinball machines appear as the repositories of the culture and imagery of an entire era. In 1984 he participated in the Viaggio in Italia project in Bari. In the early 80s he started his project on artificial lighting in European and Eastern cities.

Since 1989 he has been travelling regularly in the East, particularly China, working on an ongoing project which addresses the issues raised by the epochal change that has taken place in China, in both cities and rural areas.

In 1996 the Folkwang Museum in Essen held the first retrospective of his work. From the mid-90s he adopted a new photographic technique that enables him to focus selectively only on certain parts of the image: the landscapes he portrays, often from the height of a helicopter, thus look like scale models, delivering unexpected and preternatural visions. Olivo Barbieri seems to be constantly asking himself how much reality actually exists in our mode of life, or indeed to what extent our perception is capable of understanding the world around us.

In 2003 he began his site specific_ project involving 40 cities around the world.


Selected exhibitions

2006 site specific_, Bloomberg Space, London; Bund 18, Shanghai, curated by BizArt and Christopher Phillips; participated in the Second International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Seville and made the film SEVILLA → (∞) 06, curated by Okwuy Enwezor; Spectacular City, NAI Rotterdam, curated by Emiliano Gandolfi and Aaron Betsky

2008 TWIY, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples; site specific_LAS VEGAS 05 (Film), at “Double Down: Two Visions of Vegas”, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Shanghai Kaleidoscope Royal Ontario Museum Toronto curated by Christopher Phillips

2009 site specific_MODENA 08, City Art Gallery, Modena; site specific_MILANO 09, Milan Triennale

2010 site specific_CATANIA 09, Casa della Cultura, Catania; site specific_FIRENZE 09, Palazzo di Parte Guelfa, Florence; site specific_GENOVA 09 Ducal Palace, Genoa; site specific_NAPOLI 09, Museo MADRE, Naples; Dreamlands curated by Quentin Bajac and Didier Ottinger, Centre Pompidou, Paris

2011 DOLOMITES PROJECT 2010, MaRT, Rovereto; The Altered Landscape, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno (NV)

In 2006, 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013 he exhibited at the Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York

In 2012 he exhibited at the Galleria Massimo Minini, Brescia and Ronchini Gallery, London

2014 Eyes on the street, Cincinnati Museum, Cincinnati (OH)

In 1993, 1995, 1997, 2011 and 2013 he participated in the Venice Biennale exhibitions



2008 SEVILLA → (∞) 06, Nashville Film Festival

2006 site specific_LAS VEGAS 05, Golden Gate Award, San Francisco Film Festival

2006 site specific_ROMA 04, Medien und Architektur Biennale Graz, Austria

1992 Higashikawa-cho Award, Japan

1990 Friuli Venezia Giulia Photography Award, Italy


Saturday, May 16_3pm_Chiostri di San Pietro

Exhibition ERSATZ LIGHTS. Case Study #1 East West guided tour with the artist Olivo Barbieri and the coordinator Laura Gasparini


Sunday, May 17_4pm_ Teatro Cavallerizza


Ersazt Lights. Case study #1 east west: Olivo Barbieri with Renata Ferri, Laura Gasparini, Antonio Giusa and Francesco Zanot. Book signing to follow

exhibition venue

Chiostri di San Pietro
via Emilia San Pietro, 44/c
42121 Reggio Emilia


opening hours

• during the inaugural days
05/15 › 7pm - midnight
05/16 › 10am - midnight
05/17 › 10am - midnight
• from May 22 to July 26 the exhibits are open from friday to sunday
Friday › 4pm-11pm
Saturday › 10am-11pm
Sunday and holidays › 10am-8pm


Chiostri di San Pietro