The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Roberto Bocci’s art turns Metro into a form of time travel

(Ben Claassen III/For Express)
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Time takes on funny qualities inside a subway station. If a train is arriving when you’re still behind the faregates, everything seems to speed up as you rush to catch it. But if you miss that train and find yourself facing a 10-minute wait, clocks kick back. Every second feels like an eternity.

For artist Roberto Bocci, who’s obsessed with time, this phenomenon makes transportation systems the ideal muse. He’s been capturing images of subways around the world for more than 20 years. And with his new show, Bocci turns his lens on D.C.’s Metro.

“It’s the most beautiful subway system in the world,” gushes the associate professor of digital media and photography at Georgetown University. “It looks like the Roman Pantheon.” (This is especially high praise coming from an Italian.)

He debuted his “Roberto Bocci: Metrorail” installation this week at Rosslyn’s Artisphere. It’s four videos made with a GoPro camera, a device unobtrusive enough that he was able to shoot countless hours of material without attracting attention. So it’s a tad ironic that his favorite piece in the series is titled “Selfie.” He aimed the camera at his face and set it to take a picture every three seconds. His compilation of 8,000 of these images allows viewers to tag along with him as he rides the rails all day and night — with a break at Dupont to visit that other kind of Subway, so he can get a bite to eat.

On Wednesday, Bocci will unveil a second part of the “Metrorail” exhibit at the Heurich Gallery. At the opening reception and artist talk that evening, he’ll discuss the six panoramic photos and one additional video on view.

The sweeping perspective of the photos draws attention to the sheer size of the stations, and allows him to collapse time in another way. One panorama, Bocci explains, provides a view of a single platform at several moments simultaneously: “The train is coming in, so you see the headlights. Then it slows, and becomes still in the middle of the image. Toward the end, it moves again.”

In other words, it’s a way to experience Metro like you never have before.


“Roberto Bocci: Metrorail” is on view at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington) through Nov. 30. The artist debuts more work Wednesday at the Heurich Gallery (505 Ninth St. NW). The opening reception is 5:30-7 p.m.

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