Battle axed

GIORGIO BARRERA at the Consulate General of Italy (136 Beverley), to July 17. 416-977-1566. See listing. Rating: NNNN

Wander through the consulate garden without reading the text and you’d never guess that Milan-based photographer Giorgio Barrera’s apparently placid landscapes represent sites of conflict.

Battlefields 1848-1867 revisits the Italian wars of independence, a struggle most of us don’t know much about, fought by a confusing array of small kingdoms, the nationalist forces of Garibaldi, the papacy and the Austrian empire, among others. The installation’s location testifies to the nationalist victory.

The 16 big (about 5-by-7-foot) unpopulated photos show farms, country roads, old stone walls, wooded hillsides and riverbanks, junk-strewn seaports. Barrera avoids the memorials that must be lurking somewhere outside the frame, instead choosing places healed over by nature or where daily life continues – fields under cultivation, walls getting rebuilt, suburban buildings encroaching.

Text describes what happened there then, but Barrera lets the images tell you what’s going on now. It’s a quiet meditation on time and history.

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