INDIA. New Delhi: The Italian Cultural Centre unveiled its first post-lockdown exhibition titled ‘Absent-Present’. The exhibition began earlier this month on Nov. 3 and will continue until Dec. 10. Displayed in the open space of the porch of the Culture Centre building, it is open to the general public from Monday to Friday, 10am to 12 noon and 3pm to 5pm. Public access, which is granted on request, is restricted to no more than two visitors at a time or up to four visitors from the same household.
The show presents the work of nine leading Italian photographers alongside that of Delhi-born and based photographer Parul Sharma. The original Italian project titled ‘Piazze [In]visibili‘ (Invisible Piazzas) included 21 photographs of 21 Italian piazzas during the lockdown that was imposed in Italy earlier this year, accompanied by short essays written by famous Italian writers. These images and texts capture the beauty of the country through its main squares that lay empty during the national emergency. For the exhibition at the Italian Culture Centre in New Delhi, nine out of the twenty-one photographs have been put on display. ‘Piazze [In]visibili’ is an initiative promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, conceived and curated by the photographer Marco Delogu, former director of the Italian Culture Centre in London.
The Indian-American Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri has written the essay accompanying one of the photographs, taken by Flavio Scollo of the Piazza Santa Maria located in Rome’s famous Trastevere neighborhood. Lahiri, who moved to Rome in 2011 and started writing exclusively in Italian, has already published two books in her new adopted language: ‘In altre parole’ and ‘Dove mi trovo’. Another photograph, taken by Margherita Nuti of the Piazza delle Carceri in Prato, is displayed next to an essay by Sandro Veronesi, two-time winner of the prestigious Italian literary prize Premio Strega.
The exhibition also displays Parul Sharma’s haunting tableau of black-and-white images of the Delhi’s timeless architecture, photographed a week after lockdown was imposed in Delhi in late March 2020. These images of desolate imperial boulevards, deserted markets, dystopian vistas and abandoned regal roads are part of her book Dialects of Silence published by Roli Books.
Andrea Baldi, the director of the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, said, “We all went through this unbelievable experience called lockdown. It was a frightening and unpleasant experience for most of us, devoid of any human contact or sensory experience. But some, like me, had the privilege, sometimes the courage, to make their way through desolate cities. Among them are photographers who shot for us the magic and dreamlike allure of these architectural edifices in their full glory.”
Parul Sharma said, “It is a great honour that my black-and-white photographs of Delhi during lockdown are displayed alongside the work of some of Italy’s leading photographers. Both our countries share a deep common architectural heritage linked to our great pasts.”