Empires need Egyptian obelisks. The Caesars knew it, and littered Rome with them. Even the railway mogul William H. Vanderbilt knew it, and donated 100,000 dollars to the city of New York, so it could have its very own Egyptian Obelisk and become one of the capitals of the world.
What makes obelisks so irresistible to builders of empires? As monoliths, they are very hard to move, raise, and set in place: every time one is relocated, a great amount of ingenuity and machinery is mobilized. The writing carved in their sides has fascinated the West for millennia: before Champollion finally deciphered it, generations of charlatans and scholars pretended to hold the key to the profound mysteries it concealed. The centuries weather them, smoothing their surface, erasing their hieroglyphs and cracking their stone; thus they measure time, casting their shadows on the pavements of foreign squares, like colossal meridians.
Gary Green’s photographs explore the relationship between Rome, its Egyptian obelisks, and the people who move through the city’s piazzas and side streets as part of an ever-changing landscape representing thousands of years of history. The photographs, describe these surfaces in the blazing light and deep shadows of summer.
Gianluca Rizzo’s poems contemplate the forms this ancient symbol has taken across the United States. Invariably, the faces of these stones are engraved with inscriptions that speak to the viewer and address the millennia, like their ancient Egyptians models have been doing from the beginning of time. These poems reflect on those words, the stones that speak them, the stories of the people who erected them, and the events they commemorate.