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Art, History & Politics, Literature, Photography

The Mutation: Walking with Manzoni

Photographs by Mike Slack Exhibition Opening

Tuesday, October 11, 2022
7:30 pm


In accordance with NYU Covid Safety Precautions, in order to attend in person, all audience members MUST:
– be 12+ years of age
– show a valid government-issued photo ID
– show proof of being fully vaccinated and boosted (if eligible)
– wear a well-fitted mask at all times


On the occasion of the publication of The Betrothed
A new translation by Michael F. Moore of Alessandro Manzoni’s I promessi sposi

Exhibition Opening
Following the 6pm The Betrothed book presentation

The Mutation
Walking with Manzoni

Photographs by
Mike Slack

Curated by
Gaia Giani
In collaboration with Micamera Milan

On view through
December 15, 2022
Mon-Fri 10-6

He walked and walked, coming to farms and villages, continuing on without stopping to ask their names.

Anyone who spotted a weed in a neglected field—a nice wild sorrel, say—and wanted to know whether it had come from a seed that had sprouted in the field, was blown in by the wind, or had been dropped there by a bird, would never, no matter how long they pondered it, reach a conclusion.

When he’d tell the story in great detail in his later years, and at great length (everything leads me to believe that our anonymous author heard the story from Renzo himself more than once), he would say that as far as he could remember, the whole night might as well have been a dream.

These texts, from Alessandro Manzoni’s masterpiece I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), suggest three possible starting points for American photographer Mike Slack’s year-long exploration of Northern Italy. Using Manzoni’s narrative as a kind of psychic travel guide, Slack loosely followed the itinerary of Manzoni’s restless protagonist across changing seasons during the constrained circumstances of late 2020-2021, picking up hints of the novel’s themes and sub-themes in the present-day landscape of Milan and its environs: contagion, biological mutation, ecology, geology, and botany; but also political and religious power, larger cycles of death and renewal, and the romantic momentum of life and love. 

The resulting images—poetic, intimate, and abstract—are neither descriptive of Manzoni’s work nor a literal document of current events. Juxtaposed with fragments of Manzoni’s text (in the new English translation by Michael F. Moore), the pictures suggest new readings and continuities between the events and moods of the past and present, and constant transformations—of language, lifeforms, and culture—unfolding in time. 

Selected by Gaia Giani, and presented for the first time at Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò at New York University, this sequence of images is from a larger body of work Slack is currently editing as a photobook.


Mike Slack, born in 1970, is a photographer and publisher. Based in Tucson, AZ, he is a co-founder of The Ice Plant, and the author of several photobooks including OK OK OKShrubs of Death, and The Transverse Path.

Gaia Giani, born in 1971, is a filmmaker, producer and curator based in Milan, Italy. She is currently working on a project about landscape, memory, and deep ecology.

Micamera Milan is the first Italian bookstore devoted to photography. Active for 20 years, it collaborates with some of the most important and recognized photographers of the contemporary scene.

There are currently no on view at Casa Italiana