Un air d'Italie. La présence italienne en Isère (An Air of Italy, The Italian presence in Isère). 2011 — Museums

Exhibition focused on the history of Italian immigration in the Isère region during the first half of the 20th century and the cultural exchanges between this area with Italy and other regions over the centuries.

Institutional sponsor: Dauphinois Museum, General Council of Isère

Location: Grenoble, France

© Photography: Ignasi Cristià SL

The French region of Isère, close to the Italian border, has a long history of migrations from Italy. This exhibition aims to explain the influence of Italian culture on this area and deepen understand of the overwhelming experience of exile, which is unfortunately an experience that endures to this day.

The building that hosted this exhibition was the Dauphinois Museum, a former convent built in the 17th century that served as accommodation for a community of Italian families from the 1920s to the 1950s. The exhibition opens with large photographs from that period showing the building. A panel of printed tulle offers us the translucent vision of a space entirely scenographic in nature; the pieces, hanging from supports, get gradually farther away, ending in a background landscape that shows a group of Italian emigrants. This deconstructed painting is formed by alternating canvases that the visitor must cross, blending into the group of emigrants, delving into the experience of leaving one’s homeland. Subsequently, visitors come across symbolic objects, such as suitcases and other belongings, as well as photographs in which these objects appear, all accompanied by the testimonies of these emigrants, against a background that shows the landscape of the Isère region.

The next area is dedicated to Italian influences on society, culture, food, music and design. Many musicians, like Hector Berlioz, took their inspiration from Italy, as did many painters, writers or photographers. The exhibition closes with a look at the present, through a video that shows the descendants of these Italian immigrants today. An installation made up of three illuminated panels includes an image of North African immigrants on the island of Lampedusa together with a fragment of the picture of the Italian emigrants that visitors crossed at the beginning of the exhibition. The shared gestures of uncertainty and the lost look on the subjects’ faces are the elements that merge this overlapping of images.

Dauphinois Museum Website