Italian Photographer’s Exhibition at CMP/ARTSblock Explores Middle East Conflict, Displacement

Massimiliano Gatti’s first American exhibition opens May 30

Photograph from the project "Lampedusa o dell’esteso deserto"

Photograph from the project “Lampedusa o dell’esteso deserto”

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The cycle of history behind the continuing violence, conflict, and displacement in the Middle East is the subject of Italian photographer Massimiliano Gatti’s first American exhibition, which opens at CMP/ARTSblock on Saturday, May 30, and continues through Sept. 5.

In “Passages: Five Projects from Lampedusa, Syria, and Iraq,” Gatti explores the history of the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and immigration from North Africa coasts to Europe. His photographs depict shards, fragments, chips, pieces and particles, the remnants and remains of both necessary and unwanted objects that attest to human industry, creativity, persistence, thoughtlessness, suffering, and tragedy, said Jonathan Green ARTSblock executive director. “Their eloquent simplicity interrogates past and present civilizations and references the movements of peoples, armies, immigrants, and refugees across time and across what Gatti calls the ‘extended desert,’” he said.

An opening reception begins at 6 p.m. May 30 and will include a free screening of “Saving Mes Aynak” at 7:30, followed by a discussion with Massimiliano Gatti; Fariba Zarinebaf, chair of the Middle East and Islamic Studies Program at UCR; and Green. The discussion will focus on Gatti’s work in relationship to politics and photography and the ongoing destruction and erasure of cultural heritage artifacts in the Middle East.

scene of headless statue

Scene from “Saving Mes Aynak”

“Saving Mes Aynak,” directed by Brent E. Huffman, follows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races against time to save a 5,000-year-old archaeological site from demolition. A Chinese mining company is closing in on the site, eager to harvest copper worth billions of dollars that is buried directly beneath the archaeological ruins. The film also will screen on Friday, May 29, at 7 p.m., and on May 30 at 3 p.m. Ticket prices are $9.99 for evening screenings, $8 for the Saturday Matinee, and $5 for students anytime.

UCR ARTSblock is located in downtown Riverside at 3824 Main St. Exhibition hours are Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m., and First Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. ARTSblock admission is $3 general, and free to adults 60 and older, students with I.D., and children under 12. Admission is free on First Thursdays.

Gatti is an archeological activist who worked with the archaeological mission of the University of Udine in Qatna, Syria, from 2008 to 2011. From 2012 to 2015 he served as a photographer with PARTeN,an interdisciplinary research unit conducting archaeological activities in the Kurdistan region’s Land of Nineveh in Iraq, the home to some of the most important archaeological sites in the world. His interest in the exploration of ancient ruins and past traces has led him to work as well with photographic projects in Scotland.

Massimiliano Gatti

Massimiliano Gatti

Rather than typical documentary footage, “Passages” explores single objects found in the harsh, bright white of the desert sun: all objects, both the archeological finds and the personal effects that migrants have lost during their crossing of the Mediterranean, are desaturated and faded, flooded by a dazzling light.

In the exhibition, these photographs are further augmented by a set of portraits of current Syrian refuges peering out from darkness; a set of photographs of tightly closed metal, grated windows of Syrian houses; and quiet, imperceptibly moving videos that explore the concept of time by looking at the sites of ancient Iraqi Tell Gomel and Jerwan, the first the site of the Battle of Gaugamela, where in 331 BC Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Darius III, the second the site of a monumental aqueduct which Assyria built during the reign of Sennacherib in the 7th century BC.

The five projects are titled: “In superficie (On the Surface),” “Lampedusa o dell’esteso deserto (Lampedusa or the Extended Desert),” “L’invisibile dentro (The Invisible Interior),” Exodus,” and “Jewan and Tell Gomel.”

Gatti has exhibited extensively in many group and solo exhibitions in Italy and in such European cities as Edinburg and Paris. His exhibition at CMP is his first American show. He lives and works between Italy and the Middle East.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Jonathan Green
Tel: (951) 827-5191
E-mail: jonathan.green@ucr.edu

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