The National Museum of Popular Art and Tradition in Rome presents 1740 photographs illustrating old Salento and its subsequent development. These photos are the work of Giuseppe Palumbo – the “photographer on a bike” – who took them between 1907 and 1959, and which have now resurfaced after having been lost for sixty years.
Through a site specific layout, based on the spaces in the Capitoline Museum, Visioni del Sud (Visions of the South) “puts on display” Salento from 1907 to 1959, transforming the grand Hall of Regions into a large square, festively decorated with an intriguing light installation which represents the heart of the exhibition. It is an exhibition spread over a large area because Palumbo’s images form an itinerary through the Museum rooms, interacting with the themes of folk art and traditions.
Farmers, craftsmen, storytellers, weavers and young shepherds with their flocks – Palumbo has always been in touch with the people living in his area, inspiring evocative accounts of rural life. These accounts re-establish spaces where man always enjoyed a relationship of knowing respect with both the natural environment – source of life – and his own identity. This photographic enquiry sharpened Palumbo’s natural awareness of the conservation of Salento’s natural heritage, leading him to become actively engaged in the preservation of centuries-old woods that, at the time, covered much of the Salento peninsula.
This care and attention was not only directed at the natural landscape. Palumbo also documented locations, people, traditions and prehistoric monuments to denounce the neglect and destruction as new buildings and roads occupied the space. This is a story that is repeating itself and which makes the themes and reflections highlighted by the exhibition extremely relevant today.
The aim of Visioni del Sud is to develop and enhance this great heritage, encouraging a new perspective on an “open” archive and make it available for public use, as the photographer himself wanted. This is a modern exhibition, taking shape in a museum of folk arts and traditions – a sign of the need to connect the past and present to go forth into the future.
The exhibition, therefore, ranges from the colouring of images and the use of lightboxes to a new interpretation of traditional ‘lamps’. The lights are wrapped in tissue paper and used on 21 June to celebrate the Summer Solstice in Calimera, the photographer’s village of origin. For the exhibition these lamps will be wrapped in transparent paper reproducing images from the archive and recreating an interesting corner of festivity.
This is an exhibition-travelling laboratory exploring “living” material which was collected with the contribution of the Palumbo Family Archive, the Chiriatti Fund maintained by the Zollino Town Hall, the Archive of Renato Colaci and the Archive of Cinema del reale. For this reason, the exhibition includes, in addition to a section of documents and faithful photographic reproductions, adaptations and re-readings of the archive by artists, designers, writers, film-makers and musicians.
Among the exhibits, there are docu-films made by director Paolo Pisanelli, like the video Memorie di Anna (Anna’s Memories) which records the emotional testimony of the photographer’s daughter, Anna Palumbo, and the audio-doc focusing on the photographer’s work, presented by the art scholar and critic Ilderosa Laudisa.
There are also two installations: Archivi di luce (Archives of Light) by Maurizio Buttazzo, made with objects consisting of different materials, including recycled ones, which are grafted onto the photos of the Palumbo Archive; and Sedici scatti luminosi (Sixteen Bright Shots), the outcome of detailed research leading to the photos chosen among the impressive body of images taken by Palumbo, presented with a playful and informal approach that engages and re-evaluates historical archives. This is an encounter between mechanical and chemical practice of past photography and the chromatic digital elaboration of today.
The exhibition was created as an exhibition-travelling laboratory promoted by the Institute of Mediterranean Cultures (ICM), Cinema del reale, OfficinaVisioni and Big Sur, curated by Paolo Pisanelli and Francesco Maggiore. It is being hosted in Rome thanks to the work of the Central Institute for Demo-ethno-anthropology and the Museum of Civilizations with the aim of introducing and promoting the photographic archive by Giuseppe Palumbo to the public. Palumbo was an important intellectual and scholar of the early twentieth century: the author of a collection containing over 1700 images; an environmentalist ahead of his time; an explorer; and an enthusiastic chronicler of the prehistoric heritage of Salento. (from the Italian press release)
Visioni del Sud [Visions of the South], curated by Paolo Pisanelli and Francesco Maggiore
Museo delle Civiltà / Museo Nazionale delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari, Rome, 07.12.2017 – 07.02.2018
images: (cover 1-4) Visioni del sud. Credits: Archivio Fotografico Giuseppe Palumbo (5) Il modesto pasto del mezzogiorno. 1907-1908 (6) Libro Terra Salentina @Archivio Famiglia Palumbo (7) L’Arte popolare della tessitura nel Salento @Archivio Famiglia Palumbo (8)