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The architecture of silence

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An extraordinary historical and anthropological study through striking and fascinating photographs


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Steven Seidenberg

24 x 28 cm

160 pages

108 color photographs



Between 1952 and 1972, the Italian government implemented a land reform policy in a few key agrarian centers of the countryside, known as the Riforma Fondiaria. Funded by the Marshall Plan, the program placed land in the possession of impoverished families, but did so without the infrastructure necessary to make the small holdings sustainable. This failure brought about a mass migration into the developing industrial North, leaving dozens upon dozens of post-war, often cast-concrete structures abandoned in the now machine cultivated fields. In 2017, photographer Steven Seidenberg began exploring the landscapes, material culture, and remaining structures of this failed program in the vast agricultural areas of Basilicata and Puglia. The resultant series of images, collected for the first time in this volume, is not simply documentary, but presents the imperiled remnants of these absent lives in the form of hauntingly beautiful, painterly compositions. Again and again, these photographs reveal a poetic fragility that compels a primordial empathy in the viewer, drawing our attention to the lives destroyed through the Riforma, and thereby evoking the elemental complexity of loss and its aftermath the world over.
The accompanying volume—DISTANT VOICES: On Steven Seidenberg’s Architecture of Silence — brings together essays by art historians, critics, curators, architects, philosophers, anthropologists, and archaeologists contextualizing the images and exploring the power and reach of the photographs.             

Steven Seidenberg is an artist and writer whose collections of photos include Pipevalve: Berlin (Lodima Press, 2017), and the forthcoming ­ e Architecture of Silence: Abandoned Lives of the Italian South. His works of prose, verse, and aphorism include Situ (Black Sun Lit, 2018), Null Set (Spooky Action Books, 2015), Itch (RAW ArT Press, 2014) and two forthcoming works — plain sight (Roof Books, 2020) and Anon, pt. 1 (Omnidawn, 2021). His work has been shown in various venues in Italy, Japan, Germany, Mexico, and the United States. Carolyn L. White is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she holds the Mamie Kleberg Chair in Historic Preservation. Her research focuses on cultural heritage, the materiality of daily life, the intersection of and collaboration between art and archaeology, the built environment, and archaeology of the present. She has studied numerous archaeological sites in the mainland US, Hawaii, England, Japan, Italy, and Germany and pioneered the theory and practice of active site archaeology. Her newest book, ­ e Archaeology of Burning Man:­ e Rise and Fall of Black Rock City, is forthcoming from University of New Mexico Press (2020).