The Shape of Time at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome


“Knowing the past is as astonishing a performance as knowing the stars”, George Kubler wrote in his 1972 book The Shape of Time, which inspired the title of the exhibition of photographs by Fabio Barile and Domingo Milella that engages in a unique dialogue with the archaeological setting of the Baths of Diocletian from 22 June to 31 July 2022.

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva, the exhibition is a journey through geological, archaeological and present time. Following the first two chapters of the exhibition at the Centro Arti Visive Pescheria and the old Synagogue in Pesaro, The Shapes of Time now seeks a new connection with the Grandi Aule (Great Halls) of the Roman baths.

The exhibition is a development of the conversation between the two artists, this time dedicated to the relationship between landscape archaeology and linguistic archaeology. In fact, the artists and the curator have envisaged the exhibition narrative as a dialogue between pictures and archaeological space, offering an archaic return to reflection and an in-depth inquiry into photography and the very act of looking.

“The works by Fabio Barile and Domingo Milella are photographs that reflect time. Barile’s pictures show constantly evolving shapes, from the most remote times of the world and geology, while Milella’s have their roots in the stone of the archaic period, from the primitive to the present in a single glance,” the exhibition’s curator, Alessandro Dandini de Sylva, explains. “The theme of antiquity is evoked by the dialogue between the images on display, from the Pyramids of Giza and the Tomb of King Midas in Phrygia to the Campo Imperatore plateau and the Gorropu Gorge in Supramonte. The exhibition aims to use the conversation between the two artists to bring together silent geologies and talking stones in the quest for a shared archaeology.”

Alongside the photographs, The Shapes of Time presents a selection of archaeological artefacts, chosen with Stéphane Verger, the director of the National Roman Museum, with the aim of creating unexpected visual and semantic juxtapositions of the photographs, the Grandi Aule, and the fragments of time unearthed in the museum’s storerooms.

Verger explains: “The Shapes of Time is the continuation of the National Roman Museum’s ‘Archaeology and Photography’ project, conceived to promote our archaeological heritage through the universal language of photography. The choice to display works from the museum’s storerooms alongside the photographs taken by Fabio Barile and Domingo Milella, allows us to highlight the importance of the relationship that exists between the museum and its contents and contemporary creativity. Moreover, the exhibition venue is the Baths of Diocletian, the ideal setting for a visual narrative dedicated to the passage of time, which allows it to engage in a ceaseless dialogue with the imposing structures of the halls of the baths and the artefacts.”

As in the previous chapters of the exhibition, the works of the two artists are presented in a layout designed to promote dialogue with the archaeological setting, absorbing its precious vibrations and offering visitors a unique cultural experience.

The Shapes of Time is accompanied by a book published by Fondazione Malaspina featuring a text written by the director of the National Roman Museum Stéphane Verger, and a conversation between the curator Alessandro Dandini de Sylva and the photographers Fabio Barile and Domingo Milella.


The Shapes of Time
Fabio Barile and Domingo Milella
Curate by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva
Museo Nazionale Romano
Terme di Diocleziano
Viale Enrico de Nicola 78, Rome
From June 21 to July 31, 2022