A photographic exhibition entitled “A Tale of Two Cities” by Maltese photographer David Pisani brings together in the singular vision of the photographer, two different cities Nicosia and Malta’s capital Valletta, and two different histories which are both a portrait of architectural poetry and a metaphor for the human condition.
The exhibition is intended as a cross cultural dialogue between two Mediterranean Island states whose recent histories have been diverse in a political sense but similar in their narrative of social displacement.
The exhibition forms part of the European Capital of Culture Pafos 2017 and is running until March 20th at the Palia Ilektriki on Vladimerou Herakleous Street in Paphos.
In 1982, photographer David Pisani embarked on a personal project to document the city of Valletta and the surrounding harbour area. What started as a photo essay of the derelict buildings in the city evolved into an epic documentation of Valletta spanning 29 years. From 2009 to 2012, David Pisani also produced a photographic essay on the city of Nicosia and the surrounding areas as well as the conflict areas in the north of Cyprus.
“Buildings are commonly perceived as being very permanent, not only because of their structural integrity, but because they give us a sense of belonging (houses, shops, schools etc.) or they connect us with our history and social origins (churches, historical monuments). For this reason we are fascinated and disturbed in equal measure when buildings are destroyed, sometimes by natural disasters such as earthquakes, or by man-made consequences such as wars,” said Pisani.
“Whenever such disasters occur it is the political will and economic conditions that usually determine the rate at which reconstruction takes place. In general the desire to rebuild after a war or cataclysm is quite strong and possibly reflects humanity’s desire for progress and development. The nuclear disaster of Fukushima is one such case of rapid reconstruction, and may be interpreted also as a bid to forget, and to move on. The social and economic consequences of war are very different from those of natural or industrial disasters and the case of Cyprus is compelling because the war of 1974 has until today not been politically resolved. For this reason, the war of 1974 has held the country in a kind of emotional stalemate for forty years,” said the Maltese photographer.
Pisani is a professional photographer specialising in Architecture and urban reportage. He is the author of an extensive personal photographic essay on Valletta entitled ‘Vanishing Valletta’ which in the year 2000 was included in the permanent collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
‘Vanishing Valletta’ was also published as a monograph in 2007. Pisani has also produced a photographic essay on the city of Dubai entitled “Future City” which was commissioned by Emirates Airlines for their corporate art collection. His most recent work includes two photographic essays on Cyprus and the city of Kyoto in Japan. He is a fanatical darkroom printer with more than 25 years experience in commercial and fine art printing.
In his photographic essay on Cyprus, Pisani has endeavoured to document this state of emotional stalemate through the lingering remnants of military activity and abandoned vernacular architecture. Uninhabited or partially demolished, these structures serve as uncomfortable monuments of Cyprus’s recent history. Unlike the monuments that are erected to commemorate the victims of wars or great battles fought, these monuments seem to commemorate silently and painfully the thousands of broken dreams of a peaceful island.
In his essay entitled ‘Temporary Ruins,’ meanwhile, Japanese photographer Ryuji Miyamoto speaks of a “…time tunnel that releases individual structures from their original purpose, and thus brings the buildings into existence.” In Cyprus, homes that were the nests of families have mutated into a new existence as testaments of social displacement. Disused military installations become monuments of conflict and battlefields where hundreds of soldiers fell are transformed into wastelands of an elusive peace.