The Course of History: The Mediterranean TheatreJanuary 10 - February 16, 2008
Bart Michiels’ series of photographs The Mediterranean Theatre are haunting images of historic battlefields that surround the Mediterranean Sea. Part of a larger body of work entitled The Course of History, these new offerings continue his study of wounded and un-peopled landscapes.
Up until now, Michiels’ The Course of History has captured once decimated areas of conflict in a state of renewal. Where there was once the imprint of trenches or tanks there are now the treads of cattle runs and tractors. The land seems to have healed itself through the passage of time. In opposition to that, he presents a new palette of the Mediterranean war zone. The melodramas of these ruins become the most tragic of stage sets. These dark lands where water seems like blood and fog acts as a shroud, give way to abandoned spaces, empty and hollow.
In Lepanto, Mare Sanguinoso, the sea is a dark red. The title derives from the historian Gianpietro Contarini, who described the waters around Lepanto as "a bloody sea" after this pivotal 1571 sea battle. On Monte Lungo, Mattina, a fog envelopes the mountain that is reminiscent of the story of Italian soldiers losing sense of direction in the fog on the mountain during the 1943 battle. The pattern found on the steps to the monument on the crest of Monte Cassino, mimics the bomb punctured land seen in aerial war photographs (Monte Cassino, Hill 593), while the strewn rocks found in Thermopylae resemble the fallen dead (Thermopylae, The Death of Leonidas).
Gone are the sweeping pastoral landscapes and in their place are barren mountains, blackened seas and mist-covered rivers.
Bart Michiels lives and works in New York City. Michiels studied at the Hoger Instituut in Brussels. His work is in the collections of the Fotomuseum, Antwerp, Le Musee de la Photographie, Charleroi, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.