Arti kuratorial si polifoni. Një ide kuratoriale. (Romeo Kodra) English Below.

Ç’ka vijon më poshtë është një metodologji titulluar “Arti kuratorial si polifoni”, nxjerrë nga eksperienca personale mbi procesin kuratorial si proces artistik. Si nëntitull i saj qëndron: “Një ide kuratoriale”. Kjo, në rradhë të parë, do të thotë që autori i këtyre rreshtave nuk e nënkupton kurimin si shërbim ndaj artit apo artistëve, publikut apo institucioneve, por ndaj vetes. Së dyti, nuk e nënkupton as si marrdhënie, por si hulumtim dhe racionalizim i hapësirës midis marrjes dhe dhënies. Për më tepër, ajo që kërkohet të vihet gjithashtu në dukje (nëntitulli) është ideja metodologjike e krijimit të një dispozitivi të prodhimit të kuptimeve nëpërmjet organizimit të hapësirave ekspozitive artistike. Në thelb pra, kjo do të thotë që vetëm një ide mbi artin kuratorial mund të gjenerojë ide artistike kuratoriale. Pra idetë artistike të çliruara prej një vepre arti brenda kuadrit të një ekspozite jo detyrimisht mund të quhen se kanë gjeneruar procesin kuratorial dhe janë vepër e një kuratori. Shumëkush mund të varë apo organizojë objekte brenda një hapësire të caktuar njësoj si në IKEA; po ashtu shumëkush mund të mbledhë miq artistë dhe t’u japë lirinë e organizimit të një hapësire apo duke i intervistuar duke thënë që po e bën në kuadër të një koncepti kuratorial njësoj si Hans Ulrich Obrist; por jo detyrmisht mund t’i quajmë kuratorë.

2017-11-27 11.14.46

Një kurator (pra, jo Interior Designer apo PR personnel) gjendet shpesh përpara një dileme mbi emërtimin e procesit kuratorial; pra, procesi kuratorial është kulturë? Është art më vete? Është të dyja bashkë? Përgjigjija ime – pra nuk duhet marrë si e vërtetë universale – është se ky proces artistik është kulturë dhe art. Por ç’do të thotë kjo, praktikisht?

Përsa i përket konceptit të metodologjisë, pra asaj ç’ka paraprin dhe themelon idenë e saj, duhet thënë se mënyra dhe mjetet e të prodhuarit janë krejtësisht kulturorë, ndërsa produkti përfundimtar – kuptimi/et që çliron hapësira ekspozitive – është artistik. Pra, arti kuratorial si polifoni është kulturë dhe art: jo njëkohësisht, por gradualisht, në mënyrë të njëpasnjëshme; në fillim kulturë e më pas art, ose arti si pasojë kulturore. Në pak fjalë, arti kuratorial si polifoni është një proces kulturor që prodhon rezultate artistike. Vetëm falë prodhimit të rezultateve ai mund të quhet art (kuratorial), jo vetëm si Τέχνη, pra art si në kuptimin greko-klasik të fjalës, por edhe në kuptimin bashkëkohor të saj (artin e nënkuptoj si akt resistence, siç është përcaktuar prej Gilles Deleuze-it; ndërsa kulturën, prej Jacques Derrida-së, si diçka të dyshimtë midis kultivimit dhe kolonizimit prej së cilës duhet patur gjithnjë kujdes). Por, kjo tingëllon si kontradiktore me çfarë u tha më lart. Pra, pse them që është art kur në fillim qenka kulturë dhe vetëm më pas art? E them këtë sepse, në vetvete, një qasje e tillë përbën një ide artistike mbi kurimin.

Pra arti kuratorial si polifoni është një postulat artistik që kërkon të modulojë procesin kulturor ku jam dhe që më ka lindur – prindërit, familja, shoqëria -, duke evidentuar të gjitha urat lidhëse apo kordonet kërthizore (ura në vetvete është edhe ndërprerje, e rrjedhës së ujit p.sh.) me kulturën e këtyre të fundit. Ky postulat, arti kuratorial si polifoni, paraprin procesin kulturor apo thënë ndryshe organizimin e hapësirës ekspozitive e cila bëhet nëpërmjet bashkëvendosjes së objekteve dhe subjekteve në të njëjtën hapësirë. Dhe, në fund, procesi kulturor paraprin dhe prodhon rezultate artistike.

Që prej herës së parë, kur vendosa të organizoj hapësirën ekspozitive për të përshfaqur “The Gut” – që ishte një produkt artistik edhe i imi (https://vimeo.com/110004456, ndërsa Studio 203 ka një version të vetin) – mendova se do të ishte e nevojshme jo të kuroja veprën e artit apo artistin/tët, që janë a priori të vetëmjaftueshme nga pikëpamja est+etiko-kuptimore, por të kuroja veten (jo si autor i videos me kamera i zhytur në Lumin e fëlliqur të Tiranës, por si autor i eventit) e më pas publikun me atë ç’ka ajo vepër kishte të pakomunikueshme, të ndërprerë, të dështuar, jo vetëm si qëllim i autorëve, por edhe si shkak i rastësisë (Videoja u prodhua në kuadër të eventit 100 KM ART, mbi të ashtuquajturën audostrada Tiranë-Shkodër, dhe u xhirua mbi dhe brenda Lumit të Tiranës dhe tre urave që e ndërprisnin atë).

Kështu, kuptohet që, së pari, arti kuratorial si polifoni nuk ka për qëllim kurimin e veprës së artit, por kurimin e kuratorit/ve e më pas publikut nëpërmjet aspekteve dhe efekteve të saj. Për rrjedhojë edhe interesi im si kurator nuk mund të ishte, nuk ka qenë ndonjëherë e nuk mund të jetë shitshmëria e veprave të artit të artistit/ve. Së dyti, arti kuratorial si polifoni nuk ka për synim kuptimin/et e veprës/ve s/të artit, por nivelin e tyre të kuptueshmërisë/për+shenjueshmërisë. Për rrjedhojë interesi im si kurator është të qarkoj horizontin e eventeve të kuptueshmërisë së veprave të artit në hapësirën kuratoriale, të qarkoj ato skaje ku gjenerohen apo shuhen kuptimet e veprave të artit, ku gjenerohet apo asgjesohet artisti-kurator si subjektivitet. Në këtë mënyrë, mendoj se evidentohet mësëmiri edhe qenia ime si kurator-autor në rravgim kërkimor, pre e rrjedhës së eventeve social-kulturore; si auctor por pa auctoritas, si sub+jectum (i nënshtruar) dhe ob+jectum (i nxjerrë përpara, ekspozuar) në mes të rrjedhës së pakomunikueshmërisë, ndërprerjes apo dështimit etiko-estetik të veprës së artit “The Gut”, induktuar prej rastësive por e amplifikuar edhe prej vetëqëllimshmërisë së auctorit.

Nga njëra në, kështu të montuara, materialet e videos “The Gut”, ishin thuajse të pakompozuara, me qëllim për të evidentuar materialin filmik brut, të papërpunuar – dmth të kuruar, por jo deri në fund -, për t’i dhënë rëndësi dështimeve, ndërprerjeve dhe pakomunikueshmërisë së falimentimeve kuptimore të synuara. Nga ana tjetër, edhe mjedisi i përshfaqjes së videos, nën urën e Kamzës, mbante të njëjtin tonalitet est+etiko-kuptimor, i cili nuk merrte veprën e artit si model por, nga pikëpamja est+etiko-kuptimore, e modulonte atë (në fakt video mbyllet nën urën e Kamzës, në vendin e përshfaqjes, ekspozitës) duke synuar dhe duke u sintonizuar me nivelin dhe kufijtë e saj të kuptueshmërisë (kuptimet që çlironte në marrje dhe dhënie me atë hapësirë specifike, ku rrjedha natyrore e Lumit dhe autostrada “kulturore” – si pjesë e kulturës urbanistike por edhe e eventit artistik 100 KM ART –  ndërpresin lidhjet dhe ndahen me njëra-tjetrën).

The Gut x 100 km Art

The Gut (presentation Tirana Art Lab – 100km Art – Kamza Bridge).

Kështu, duke konsideruar që hapësira ekspozitive (nën)Ura e Kamzës, ishte një mjedis jo tërësisht i kompozuar, ajo krijoi një sinfoni me zhurmat e videos si një rezistencë dhe denoncim i pamundësisë së kompletimit të saj. Në këtë mënyrë, mbetej në rravgim apo pre e rrjedhës së eventeve të pakontrollueshme të fatit (dispozitivëve social-kulturorë) të autorit dhe vullnetit të tij. E lënë kështu në tension hapësira ekspozitive nuk alienohej tërësisht prej Lumit të Tiranës, kontekst i veprës së artit. Ajo synonte, edhe nëpërmjet veprës së artit (si produkt që supozohet të pasurojë kontekstin e vet kulturor), kuptueshmërinë nëpërmjet nuhatjes, dëgjimit, shikimit të pakontrolluar por të stimuluar prej hapësirës në fjalë.

Kjo procedurë ishte një lloj sintonizimi me të gjitha tonalitetet e mundshme të veprës së artit (videon). Kjo e fundit nuk merrte kuptim tjetër pëveç amplifikimit të fshirjes, heqjes, mungesës, dështimit dhe falimentimit të çdo kuptimi (video u instalua nën urë paralelisht me rrjedhën e Lumit dhe spektatori i gjendur përballë kishte parasysh trarët pingul të nënurës që alienojnë botën e poshtme të Lumit prej sipërfaqes mbi urë). Në këtë mënyrë, mund të thuhet se duke u pozicionuar në një hapësirë limbike arti kuratorial si polifoni nuk është një dialog apo dialektikë me dhe nëpërmjet veprës së artit – për t’i dhënë një apo më shumë kuptime publikut – por një fugë purgatoriale pas sintonizimit est+etiko-kuptimor me tonalitetet e kuptueshmërisë së veprës/ave të artit.

The Art of Curating as Polyphony. An Idea on Curating.

What follows is a methodological concept entitled “The Art of Curating as Polyphony”, drawn from my personal experience. Its subtitle is: “An Idea on Curating.” This, in the first place, means that the author of these lines does not intend curating as a service to art or artists, the public or institutions, but to himself. Secondly, does not intend either a relationship (literally in Albanian “takegiving”), but as an exploration and rationalization of the space between taking and giving. Moreover, what is intended to be also evidenced (subtitle), is the methodological idea of ​​creating a device for the production of meanings through the organization of art exhibition spaces. Basically, this means that only an idea on curating can generate art curating ideas. So the artistic ideas coming out from an artwork, within the framework of an exhibition, cannot necessarily be the fruit of the curating and the work of a curator. Many can hang or organize objects within a certain space just like in IKEA; also many can gather artist friends and give them the freedom to organize a space or by interviewing them saying they are doing it within a curatorial concept just like Hans Ulrich Obrist; but not necessarily we call them curators.

A curator (i.e., not Interior Designer or PR personnel) is often faced with a dilemma over naming the curating process; so the curating process is culture? Is it art in itself? Is it both together? My answer – so it should not be taken as universal truth – is that this artistic process is culture and art. But, in practice, what does this mean?

As for the concept of methodology, that is, what precedes and establishes its idea, it must be said that the way and means of production are entirely cultural. While the final product – the meaning/s that liberates the exhibition space – is artistic. So The Art of Curating as Polyphony is culture and art: not simultaneously, but gradually, sequentially; first culture and then art, or art as a cultural consequence. In short, the art of curating as polyphony is a cultural process that produces artistic results. Only thanks to the production of results can it be called art (of curating), not only as Τέχνη, ie as in the Greco-classical sense of the word, but also in its contemporary sense (I intend art as an act of resistance, as defined by Gilles Deleuze; while culture, following Jacques Derrida, as something dubious between cultivation and colonization from which one must always beware). Yet, this sounds contradictory to what was said above. So why do I say that it is art when firstly it is culture and only then art? I say this because, in itself, such an approach constitutes an artistic idea on curating.

So the art of curating as polyphony is an artistic postulate that modulates the cultural processes where I was born (parents, family, society) by identifying all the connecting-interrupting bridges or umbilical cords (the bridge itself is also an interruption, of the flow of water for example). This postulate, the art of curating as polyphony, precedes the cultural process – in other words, the organization of the exhibition space – which is done through the co-location within the same space of objects and subjects. Thus, finally, the cultural process precedes and produces the artistic results.

From the first time, when I decided to organize the exhibition space to display “The Gut” – which was an artistic product of mine (https://vimeo.com/110004456, while Studio 203 has a version of its own) – I thought that it would be necessary not to curate the artwork or artist/s, which are a priori self-sufficient from the aest+ethical-semantic point of view, but to curate myself (not as the author of the video with the camera submerged in the dirty Tirana[s River, but as the author of the event); and then, hopefully, the public, with what uncommunicative, interrupted, failed, not only as a goal of the authors, but also as a result of chance the artwork already had and embodied (The video was produced within the event 100 KM ART, on the so-called Tirana-Shkodra highway, and was shot over and inside the polluted Tirana’s River and the three bridges that interrupted it).

Therefore, it is clear that, firstly, the art of curating as polyphony is not intended to curate the artworks, but the curator/s and then the public through its aspects and effects. Consequently, my interest as a curator has never been, it is not, and will ever be to sell the artist/s artworks. Secondly, the art of curating as polyphony does not aim at the meaning/s of the artwork/s, but at their levels and limits of comprehensibility/semiosis. Consequently, my interest as a curator is to circle the horizon of events of understanding of artworks within the curating space, to circle those limits where the meanings of the artworks are generated or extinguished, where the curator/artist is generated or dissolved as subjectivity. In this way, I think at this point it is clearly evidenced my subjectivity as a curator, a researcher adrift and of the drift, of the flow of socio-cultural events; an auctor but without auctoritas, a sub + jectum (subject, submissive) and ob + jectum (object, brought forward, exposed) in the midst of the flow of non-communication, interruption or aesth+etical failure of the artwork “The Gut”, induced by chance but also amplified by the self-intention of the actor/s.

On the one hand, edited in this way, the “The Gut” was made of almost raw film material – it was curated, but not entirely – to give importance to failures, interruptions, and non-communication of intended semiosis. On the other hand, the video presentation environment, under the Kamza bridge, maintained the same aesth+ ethical-semiotic tonality, which did not take the work of art as a model but, from an aesth+ ethical-semiotic point of view, modulated it (in fact, the video ends under the Kamza Bridge, in the place of display, exhibition) aiming and tuning in with its levels and limits of understanding (the meanings it makes in “takegiving” with that specific space, where the natural flow of the River and the “cultural” highway- intended as part of the urban planning culture but also of the artistic event 100 KM ART – break the ties and separate from each other).

Thus, considering that the exhibition space, Kamza’s (under)Bridge, was an incompleted environment, it created a symphony with the video noises as resistance and denunciation of the impossibility of its completion. In this manner, it remained adrift to the course of events and uncontrollable destiny of (socio-cultural dispositifs) of the author and his will. Thus, through this tension, the exhibition space was not completely alienated from the Tirana’s River, the context of the work of art. But aimed, even through the video-artwork (supposed as a product that enriches its cultural context), the semiosis through sensory sensations (smell, sight, hearing) that came uncontrollably from the space in question.

This procedure was a kind of tuning with all possible tonalities of the video artwork. The latter took on no other meaning than an amplified erasing, missing, failing of any meaning (the video was installed under the bridge parallel to the river flow and the spectator in front had – perpendicularly – the understructure of the Bridge that alienates the underworld of the River from the surface above the bridge). In this way, it can be said that positioned in a limbic space the art curating as polyphony is not a dialogue or dialectic with and through the artwork – to give one or more meanings to the public – but a purgatory fugue after aesth+ ethical-semiotic tuning with tonalities of the artwork/s semiosis.

COVID19 Grant for the artist Romeo Kodra (part IV).

I was granted as an artist, in December 2020, by Finnish Arts Center: “for the working conditions and professional employment of applicants who have lost work orders related to their artistic work or have been prevented from practicing their profession due to the coronavirus pandemic.” Considering that I do not think that my vomit cleaners fellows have had any grant “for the working conditions,” I wanted to maintain a sort of security distance from the institution that granted me, Finnish Arts Center, as well as all other Finnish institutions representing the Finnish State. In this manner, I will try to avoid the infection of being part of the generally accepted narrative of COVID19 out-break-out and the consequent system’s need of social “integration” (of artists, of migrants, etc). I wanted to avoid any kind of integration – mine and my work – within a system that needs “heroes” (because “someone has to do it”) to work by risking the infection (so, I do not deny COVID19 outbreak) to maintain the system working (I deny the narrative of COVID19 breakout, which I do not see in the life and working conditions of my vomit cleaner fellows). Thus, I tried to produce disintegrated and disintegrable artworks that do not refer to COVID19 as a meat grinder but as a consequently logical effect of a psychogenic meat grinder system such as the one I am used to living in since I was born.

[Déjà vu of Déjà vu. I do not know who said it first, but exists in Albania the story of a foreigner (maybe a journalist) defining the capital city, Tirana, more or less, as follows: “I have seen cities without a boulevard, but I have never seen a boulevard without a city such as in the case of Tirana.” A certain Andrea Bulleri, Italian urban planner, quotes it as belonging to Claude Arnaud, a French writer, that seems have visited Albania in the ’70 and placed it as the context of his 1994 autobiographic book Le caméléon. However, I am not quite sure as, to me, it sounds much more older, considering the echo of this phrase in my Albanian ears. Anyway, whatever the truth is, something is sure, the person who said it was somehow quoting Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and her thoughts regarding the Cheshire Cat: “Well! I have often seen a cat without a grin … but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!” Yet, the most curious thing, for me, is that the boulevard, as a grin, often is perceived as a smile, and maybe a large one in urban terms. But this smile is like the smile of Victor Hugo’s L’Homme qui rit. It is more like a cut, an erasure, if considered that the boulevard, according its etymology, was a fortification wall. Only after the destruction of Bastille‘s walls the boulevard was used, by the reactionary forces that came out of Congress of Vienna and Enlightened Absolutism (Haussmann’s boulevards in Paris and Ringstrasse in Vienna are perfect examples), as an urban dispositive of openness that glorifies the will of the political and economical power holders (ancien régime and the bourgeoisie) as well as their need of absolute control.
In Tirana, the dispositive of the boulevard was transplanted as a calcified method: alliance, between the Albanian version of the ancien régime (Albania’s self declared King Zog and his government) and bourgeoisie (Italian fascist government and Albanian collaborators); as well as a smiling grin, which erased unilaterally part of the original urban texture, vanished without traces (“this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.”)
In Helsinki, the boulevard is not anymore a method; from the last urban plan (2016), it is a methodology named “boulevardisation” (transformation of highways in city boulevards), which intends to make a more eco-sustainable city(?) as well as a more open city (?) to accept more migrants (neoliberal propaganda to justify the densification). In Helsinki the dispositive of the boulevard of course was transplanted calcified as an alliance as well as a smiling grin, but here, methodologically, the alliance is more complex as it comprehends almost all political parties (neoliberal and neoconservative), the academics (private and public universities), an army of artists and cultural operators with their representative institutions as well as private philanthropic foundations of private companies/industries directly involved with the urban development.]

I decided to respond to the psychogenic contexts through schizophrenic artworks (Los retablos de las maravillas – two photographs of two drawings/paintings; Entr’acte: El video retablo de las maravillas – video). This means that taken separately, the first component of these artworks – el retablo of the Albanian fetus – through its declared pathetism tries to tune the institutional pathos of helping artists (especially migrants, when the institutions are run by neoliberals) during COVID19; the second component – el retablo of the Finnish coffin – through its declared pathetism tries to tune the pathos of helping natural environment (especially within the national state borders, when the institutions are run by neoconservatives); and the third component – el video retablo – through its declared pathetism tries to tune with the overall theatrical pathos of the times we live in (In TAIKE’s website the last of three evaluation criteria, after Professionalism of the Applicant and the Working Plan, is Reduction in work and income due to the COVID-19 pandemic … for which my vomit cleaner fellows were happy considering that the reduction in work meant less vomit quantity to clean, which, by the way, did not produce reduction in incomes because they were payed according predefined/fixed working hours for the cleansing of all public transportation buses). Therefore, in these artworks, there is no originality, no new model, nor a new role of the artist within a larger social level. The produced artworks are schizo-modulations of already existing (often psycho-, but not always) models/roles such as my personal auto-bio-geo-graphy; the polyphonic paintings of Paul Klee; an unedited artwork of Dritan Hyska where is used the google translator voice to read the Italian Labor Law in a foreign (non-Italian) language; extracts from Antonin Artaud’s Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu. And, considering that my art started with a quote from Leibniz “conatus is to motion as a point is to space, or as one to infinity, for it is the beginning or end of motion,” and if for Paul Klee “a line is a dot that went for a walk“, then these artworks correspond to vomit that went for a walk, from Tirana’s Boulevard (Maternity Hospital, where I am born) to the boulevards of The Boulevardisation of Helsinki. However, although separately these artworks include the dichotomy neoliberal/neoconservative narrative, altogether, maybe because the of intrinsic denial of originality, models, and roles as well as the declared intention of schizo-modulation, these artworks, hopefully, are not reciprocally included in the mainstream narrative. At least this was my intention.

COVID19 Grant for the artist Romeo Kodra (part III).

I highly recommend to everyone the vomit cleaning work experience inside Helsinki’s and Espoo’s public transportation buses during the night shift for 10,67€ per hour (without calculating the taxes … please google the average wages in Finland). If nothing else, it gives meaning and a dream interpreting cipher to those, especially migrants like myself, disoriented within the real heterotopia of the world’s happiest country. Illuminating in this sense were also the personal stories of the workers (all migrants, of course): a Tamil that, eager to emigrate (destination: EU!), sold everything in his posses, paid 25.000$ to human traffickers which abandoned him in one of Erdogan’s concentration camps (operating thanks to EU funds) and constricted to pay another 25.000$ (he is still, after four years, paying his cousin from London that helped him) to “the officials” just for being thrown somewhere in an unknown Greek island; a Kurd journalist from Baghdad that have mentioned the corruption affairs of a politician in a daily newspaper and for this constricted to abandon his life in less than two hours; a Syrian that hates the socialists as well as the Americans and cannot understand why I “cannot see how socialist the Americans are” … but he admires Trump and sympathizes for a communist world (I think my friend’s weltanschauung is an interesting case study for geopolitical think tankers); a Bangladeshi, that was so incredulous when he learns that I know what kathakali is, for this reason, to change his shift only to talk to me about the dances of his country; etc. But the most illuminating was the outbreak of COVID19.

There was some terrible news, between March and April 2020, coming from my parents living in Bergamo, Italy. The COVID19 was causing deaths never seen in the livings’ memory. My father told me Bergamo reminded him of Sarajevo 1992, without bomb outbreaks but with COVID19 outbreaks, and, of course, more ambulance siren sounds. Meanwhile, in Espoo, I and my fellows had a problem: what to do with the alcohol tester, without blowing on which we could not start, clean, and fuel the public transportation buses? I contacted my supervisor that contacted the bus company office about this problem. “We will let you know as soon as possible” was the answer. Meantime, following the government’s advise, I and my fellows were informed by the company on how to wash the hands, how to use the hand sanitizer, and also how to wear a face mask. However, a week later we had a mouthpiece for the alcohol tester of 30 to 50 buses we had to work with every night. I told to the supervisor that this is not very intelligent considering that I will put the same mouthpiece in 30-50 different alcohol testers. After seeing him shrugging I thought was better to go directly to the bus company offices. There, when I asked for the mouthpieces, the desk officer thought I had lost mine and gave me a new one with the advice “Try not to lose it!”. I said, ” I need 50 mouthpieces!” after which the desk officer looked at me like I was joking. But when I explained the problem he understood. Yet, I could not have more than three mouthpieces that he had in his office. However, he promised the bus company “will find a solution”. After a week or so, I got a tubular junction for the alcohol tester mouthpiece.

“Is this a joke!” I said to the desk officer. “Yes? What do you suggest, though?” he asked after my rhetoric question. “I dream you could deactivate the buses’ alcohol testers,” I replied. “No, that’s not possible,” he said. “Why?” I asked genuinely. “Because of security reasons. Don’t you know that?”. I told him, “Yes, I know about your security reasons.” That was the last time I asked regarding protection dispositive for coronavirus.

I and my Tamil fellow got ill for four or five days each but nothing happened to us. The other fellows used to say that we were lucky because we already passed through COVID19, but I think it was just the normal flu, because of our low immune system, considering that the Tamil guy used to work 12-16 hours in two working places (he, after the night shift, worked in another place where he used to clean the cabins of the Helsinki-Tallinn ferries) and I used to walk (6+6km) to my working place to spare 120€ per month for the bus tickets. With my fellows we talked a lot about the outbreaks of COVID19, its genesis in a wet market in Wuhan, or the more or less conspiratory theory of the Chinese government intentionally spreading the virus, or its contrary according to which it is the US government spreading the virus. Yet, from all the theories we had the same result: the problem is the system. A system that pressures on animals (bats) living space and conditions or the superpowers’ (US, China, EU, Russia, etc.) antagonism for the supremacy within the system. The sure thing is that the system is not with and/or for us, because after COVID19 outbreaks, for us, there were no breakouts: we could not work remotely or just quit the job as we had to feed our families and ourselves. On contrary, strange enough (or maybe not so strange), COVID19 outbreaks eased and helped our job, considering that there was no vomit to clean and, generally, the public transportation buses were cleaner as, because of COVID19, fewer people traveled to avoid contact with other people.

On June 2nd, 2020 I quit my job as I was involved with the European Commission for the evaluation of research, art, and cultural cooperation projects (projects up to 2 or 4 million €) where I am paid better (450€ per day). Of course, it is a freelance job and the precariousness is always incumbent (one does not work every day), but in this case, unlike vomit cleaners, maybe because of the “nobility” or “elitist” kind of job, the system protects the employees.

Yet, because of the COVID19 travel restrictions, I feel like in Albania before 1996: in a coffin.

“I feel like in Albania before 1996: in a coffin.”
Mixed technique on paper (drawing/painting: gesso paint, ink, chunky graphite) 21cm x 29cm.

COVID19 Grant for the artist Romeo Kodra (part II).

A dream scene. That’s what it was. Once more, it was January 6th, not 1996, but in 2016 when I first came to Finland. Yet, to make sure that the perception was real and not a dream, there were -25 degrees … -25 windy degrees. It was challenging to maintain the same convincing and persuading capacity in front of my sister, to whom I, for months before, suggested to transfer with her one-and-a-half-year-old son in Finland. Why? Because Finland is the happiest country in the world, especially for the quality of the education system … even Michael Moore knows that … so, to continue our Bosnian-Albanian family muhaxhir tradition, I suggested “invade” Finland (see Where to Invade Next).

From Vantaa airport to Haukilahti there is 30 minutes drive. From Kehä 1 (Ring 1, which is the zipper axis that connects Helsinki with Vantaa and Espoo making possible the developing Greater Helsinki Region) to Länsiväylä (Western Highway) the landscape was a combination of forests and industrial or contemporary buildings. Once in Länsiväylä the sea appeared … frozen. At Tapiola’s overpass, the taxi driver entered Westend, taking Westendintie, which he left at the corner of Linnake (Fortress), entering finally Haukilahti. The view of Toppelundintie reminded me Tirana’s boulevard, but without buildings … only 20-30 meters high trees wrapped, frozen, in the snow forming a dense white wall. 200 meters ahead the taxi driver turned left and drove up to Pitkänkalliontie where a white building with prefabricates similar to Enver Hoxha’s scientific state socialism ones appeared to me as a perfect joke of someone or some unknown force to stimulate my absent childhood nostalgia. After unloading the luggage in the middle of an almost empty but very warm apartment, I turned at my sister and said: “I don’t know how and when, but I will not stay here only for this month, just to help you with the ‘integration and general settling’ … I will come again, because living here seems like living in a painting.” I still am not sure about the meaning of my sister’s facial expression, whether was related to the -25 windy degrees, to the worry of having to be alone after a month with a small child in a foreign country, or to the disbelief of having a brother so insensitive and out of his mind.

On May 25, 2019 I arrived with my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter and her mother in the apartment of Pitkänkalliontie, where the smiles of my sister and nephew were waiting for us. However, the above-mentioned facial expression of my sister of 2016 wasn’t gone. It just had moved on the face of my partner. Yet, the almost Mediterranean temperatures of Haukilahti’s summer of 2019 helped a lot to relax every one of us. In addition, in few weeks I found a job and everything was going in the right direction. Thus, with a work contract in my hand, I went to Helsinki’s MIGRI Office for the work permit and registration of residence. There, surprisingly, I found that as a migrant, and not an EU citizen (for whom the procedure is immediate), I had to wait from four to six or more months to have my Finnish Residence and Work Permit. I protested, kindly (considering the kindness of the officer), regarding the difference of treatment, especially when I am in posses of an EU Work and Residence Permit for Long Term Residents released by Italian authorities (as I lived in Italy for more than 10 years), which, by the way, are possible to have from the Finnish MIGRI Office if one is a migrants living in Finland for more than 10 years. The officer was so polite and kind to remind me that she was “very sorry” and “this is the Finnish law”, to which I replied that I was “more than sorry to have paid in Italy taxes for EU thinking that Finland was part of it”. The discussion regarding the meaning of “Finland is EU” went long and, neither she nor I won in the end.

[Déjà vu. I left the Albanian coffin on January 6th, 1996 to join INKER Zaprešić, a football club of the first Croatian League where I passed only a few weeks, because another club, HNK Gospić, came with an offer I couldn’t refuse: full-service accommodation in Hotel Velebno, 8000 Deutsche Marks at the beginning of the first year (which served for my sister’s ballet school fee in Baku), 7000 at beginning of the second year, 500 Deutsche Marks per month plus premiums per win and/or goal, as well as the possibility to play on free days (which was Sunday) for the lower league team of Novalja where I could gain some extra per game. Yet, after my parents moved from Albania to Italy in March 1997, my father got badly injured risking both his feet in a factory, in Grasobbio, where he was working. For this reason, at the beginning of 1998, I decided to move to Italy and sign for US Leffe, an Italian club of Serie C. The move was a bargain for the club, because of a special law (being under 21, I benefited from Bosman Ruling and one of its commas, regarding the players that have signed the contract at 18-years-old or less). Because of that law, I could move without US Leffe having to pay for the interruption of my contract. But above all, it was a bargain for me, considering that I could stay finally in Bergamo with my family, which from 1990 was somehow scattered here and there because of the Bosnian war and Albanian State collapse and consequent migratory experiences. But, when everything seemed done, an Italian law impeded me to sign the contract as a non EU player/migrant with less than two years of residence in Italy. So, if I wanted to play in Serie C, I had to wait two years before playing the first game (Three years later a Nigerian player sued the Italian Federation and changed the law). It was strange, because as a migrant worker one could have the residence and work permit immediately after showing the contract, but as a professional football player this was not possible. I don’t know whether I was more angry or depressed. Yet, Roberto Spagnolo, a good man, Leffe’s director now having a lot of success in Atalanta, encouraged me by saying that two years were nothing and I could still sign with the team, and meanwhile play for a “dilettanti” team without losing a penny of my stipend. Yet, just the name “dilettanti” for me was a joke, especially after dreams with UEFA or Champions League (there were some talking between the HNK Hrvatski Dragovoljac and Gospić). In four months I was so depressed that I remember vaguely having left the apartment even for a walk around “le mura di Città Alta”. However, in the summer of 1998, a shocking image saved me: Ronaldo, il Fenomeno, descending the stairs of the airplane in Brazil after risking his life and still playing on the same day of the World Cup Final in 1998. I just understood the shitty world I was angry and depressed for. In two weeks I found a job. With other my fellows from the Balkans, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Senegal, Morocco I enjoyed unloading by hands DHL’s smelly trucks for a so-called cooperative which used to change several times its name to avoid taxes and made profits exploiting migrant workers.]

During the first five months in Finland, without a clear legal status, I spent all my savings and learned a lot about Finnish migration laws. I learned, for example, that in Finland does not exist a Constitutional Court (in Albania some EU and US representative-prostitutes give the lack of an operative Constitutional Court as a justification after the adjustment of which everything will start to be “normal” and Albania will be integrated finally within EU family!!!), an institutional body which checks the Parliament’s laws coherence, especially, as in my case, when these laws contradict the EU laws. In this manner, to have his right recognized, a bottomless pocket migrant like me would have to sue MIGRI Office and wait for the decision (My Finnish law expert friend advised me to avoid this enterprise, especially after considering my “financial resilience”!). I also learned – from my kind colleagues of Europe Direct Contact Center – that, only a member state court can decide and annul a decision taken by member state institutions and not an EU body or authority (But, hey, I learned that I have the right to submit a petition – Article 227 TFEU – to the European Parliament … yew haw!). I can also contact the Finnish Ombudsman, which I did, the general one and Parliamentary one, the task of which are “to promote equality and handle cases of discrimination [as well as] promote the rights of foreigners in Finland”. Thus, I discovered that “taking into consideration the matters [I] raised, concerning the rights of long-term EU-residents, in [Ombudsman’s] work to promote non-discrimination, to the extent that this is possible[…], unfortunately, [they] cannot do more to help me”, because, “based on the information [I] provided, [my] case is already being handled by the competent and appropriate authority.” (extracts from e mail date: 04.07.2019)

By the end of September 2019, my Finnish law expert friend asked me: “Do you understand that being of Albanian origins and having a family – mother, father, sister, daughter, and partner – all with Italian passports, to a MIGRI officer you can easily be suspicious? One can think, for example, that you were not allowed to take the Italian passport because – maybe – you have criminal records. Why don’t you change your citizenship, or, considering that exists as a possibility, at least take a second one?” I didn’t reply as I could, because my friend is a kind person and seems believe sincerely in his candid Finnishness and is proud of it. But, considering that I abhor anything that has to do with identification, especially by a state, a national state, I think even the idea of having a passport is aberrant and vomiting. To me, the passport – not only the Albanian – is not worthy of cleaning my ass.

So, what I did, even because after five months I was without a penny, was changing the application at MIGRI: not at as a long term EU resident asking residence and work permit in Finland, but as a parent of an EU citizen (as father of my “Italian” daughter). And to MIGRI, as to any other institution of any state, just as to the Albanian military doctor of 1996, romancing with my nether regions is its reason of existing. ON November 6th 2019, I joined other my fellows from the Iraq, Kurdistan, Sri Lanka, enjoying parking and cleaning public transportation buses of Helsinki and Espoo, where the first Finnish words I learned, from WhatsApp messages arriving from the central office, were: “oksennus pesu” followed by the number of bus. And to me this made a lot of sense …!

COVID19 Grant for the artist Romeo Kodra (part I).

In December 2020 I was granted by the Center for the Promotion of Art of Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture with “COVID-19 grant for artists[,…] 4000 euros, which is intended to cover two months of work [ as] short-term support for the working conditions and professional employment of applicants who have lost work orders related to their artistic work or have been prevented from practicing their profession due to the coronavirus pandemic” (link: https://www.taike.fi/en/newsitem/-/news/1337219).

Being my research focused on the “boulevard” as a historical urban dispositif of power for visual and cultural
integration of the other/ness (migrants intended as “the other” and nature with its landscape intended as “the otherness’ par excellence), I thought to produce some artistic content maintaining the same focus.

The context is auto-bio-geo-graphical: Albania and Finland. Both, as nation-states, have in common more or less the period of independence (Albania/1912, Finland/1917), the particular languages, which differentiate from the predominant European languages, as well as a strong cultural and mythological oral tradition. Yet, despite the radical social, economical, and political differences (where Finland is considered as an advanced democracy and Albania still as a transitional society), the last urban practices (Helsinki Urban Plan 2017 with its “boulevardisation” as well as this year’s Helsinki Vision for Art and Culture 2030 and Tirana Urban Plan 2016), with all their supporting institutions, discourses, legislations as well as imaginaries, present similarities which are strictly related with the cultural shift, from industrial to post-industrial societies, where neoliberal post-bourgeois governmentality pressure on the sense of cultural inferiority of Finns and Albanians (the concept of acculturation will be analyzed).

The topic of my research “Iconology and Iconographies of Boulevard: from Boulevard to Boulevardization and BoulevARTization”, imposes iconography as the method of the research, which consists in collecting, classifying, and producing imag(inari)es (‘image’ intended as ‘bild’: see in Hans Belting) of the boulevard as well as their cultural analysis, which, altogether, serve to define the mythological archetypes (see in Carl Jung) inscribed within wider contemporary urban and cultural iconography. Therefore these artworks are my iconographic and iconological contribution to contemporary produced imag(inary)es.

The first objective of my research is to define, through iconology and boulevard’s iconography, the mythologem (see in Károly Kerény) of “separation/conjunction of opposites” and the archetypal image of “the industrious”, which are fundamentally related with the boulevard, since its first appearance (replacement of Paris’ old bastions, 1668, with the first documented boulevard) and etymology (Middle Dutch ‘bolwerc’: walls of fortification/bastions). The second objective is to analyze the persistence of both, “separation/conjunction of opposites” mythologem as well as the archetypal image of “the industrious”, and the ways through which these two nurtured the systemic changes and adaptations, from mercantile to industrial, and postindustrial societies.

I do not remember if it is a real story that happened to me or someone told it to me as a kind of joke and then I turned it, as in a dream, into a real story that happened to me. I remember being in a queue for a liter of milk in 1990, in Tirana (who has experienced the crisis of scientific socialism, knows what I am talking about). It’s not dawn yet, but it’s not completely dark either. I thought I was going to be first in the queue, but I saw 7, 8 people preceded me. The strange thing is that they were laughing under their breath. I hated them. I don’t know if I hated them more for preceding me or for being in a good mood at 5 am. But I understood immediately why when my best childhood friend Cubeli made me a sign to look at who was the first in the queue: a small half-bust of Enver Hoxha produced at the time as a souvenir by Ndërmarrja Artistike “Migjeni”. So, Cubeli – who was always first in line, was often used to throwing away things (such as plastic shopping bags) that people (which we called bytha t’zgjuta/ smart-ass’) left the night before to “take a front-row seat” in the milk queue -, this time, could not dare to do anything. And the others were pissing him off with their sarcastic comments for his lack of courage. After a while, with other people queuing in, the event opened a debate, where for the first time I so an open political dissent and heard critics against the government. And is there, that, for the first time, I heard someone saying that “we Albanians are like in a prison”, “we, in Albania, live like in a grave” and someone other adding that “Even our map looks like a coffin …”.

"Even our map looks like a coffin …" mixed technique on paper (drawing/painting-gesso paint, ink, chunky graphite) 21cm x 29cm.
“Even our map looks like a coffin …”
Mixed technique on paper (drawing/painting: gesso paint, ink, chunky graphite) 21cm x 29cm.

I do not remember if it is a real story that happened to me or someone told it to me as a kind of joke and then I turned it, as in a dream, into a real story that happened to me. I remember in 1994 going with the other guys from “Ismail Qemali” High School to make the first pre-military check-up visit. Near Ura e Tabakëve in Tirana, there was a small military garrison with an improvised visit room. The doctor waiting for us smiled behind the table and said something about the usual jokes on military visits, but to relax our contracted faces, not at all in the mood for jokes, added: “I would like to leave the door open if you agree, so you’ll see that is not that terrifying this check-up.” After seeing the hands of the military doctor romancing with the nether regions and bottoms of my friends, when he called my name I refused and went out. Because of the military police night controls – which my mother told me continued almost twice a year until 1997 when my family went to Bergamo – for 18 months I didn’t sleep at home but passed the nights at my grandparents or uncles, until January 6th, 1996, when I left and emigrated from the coffin.

On August 7th, 2011, I turned back to Albania with a passport from Bosnia Herzegovina, which I got in 1996 because of my father’s origins. Being without a visa and having the Albanian passport expired since 1996 I passed several hours with a policeman in the airport’s police station declaring who I was and why I was “visiting” Albania. At 2 am, I was released by the police and went to my uncle’s home. The first thing I noticed when I came out of the gates of the police station was a banner promoting the population census of 2011.

To build, or not to build? That is the question regarding The National Theatre of Albania. (Romeo Kodra)

During the last COVID19 lock-down night, on May 17th, around 04.00 AM, the activists, artists and citizens, that occupied and resisted for almost two years inside the building of The National Theatre of Albania, were beaten and violated by the “Department of Eagles“, which has nothing to do with contemporary art, but with “Shqiponjat” / “Eagles” is the exact name of police quick intervention squad, which intervened without identification numbers like “die Sturmabteilung” or “le Camicie Nere” of 2020, remembering Albanians the times they live in.

On May 17th 2020, the bulldozers of the Albanian government erased The National Theatre although the pan-European cultural heritage organization Europa Nostra weeks earlier had selected it as one of the European cultural heritage monuments at risk. Actually, the building thanks to the support of EU institutions had very good possibilities to be restored and renovated with EU funds. However, the government of Edi Rama and mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj, decided to accelerate the money laundry machine, erasing The Theatre and opening in this manner a new 200 million euros construction site for “modern” towers.

Pleurad Xhafa’s installation, “Two Hundred Million Euros in Five Hundred Notes”, destroyed under the rubble of The Theatre.

The very next day, the activists, artists, and citizens protested for several days in Tirana and started a tour of protests in several cities of Albania during which they distributed a petition, collecting signatures, for the re-building of The National Theatre “where it was and how it was” (sign the petition if you agree / link).

According my opinion, rebuilding “The National Theatre where it was and how it was” is a sort of symptomatic reaction which denotes the drift of the authoritarian governmentality of these last 100 hundred years in Albania.

The National Theatre, at the time known as “Il Circolo Italo-Albanese Scanderbeg” was a product of fascist colonial practices carried out by Mussolini to impress “the indigenous” (Albanians of the time) with its Italian architectural rationalism, this last a sort of “misunderstanding of the modern” (at least, this was the opinion of the critic Bruno Zevi on Italian architectural rationalism). Thus, “Il Circolo Italo-Albanese Scanderbeg” was a building which spectacularized the fascist politics and colonialism as well as the figure of the authoritarian leader, being Scanderbeg or Mussolini itself. It had nothing to do, from an architectonic and/or urban point of view, with the Albanian context of the time (it was constructed few months before the invasion or the “annexation” of Albania by Italian troupes in 1939). The only integration with the context was through the “zipper axes” boulevard (“asse cerniera”) constructed by Italians urban planners, which, as an alien urban dispositif, divided the retrograded, ottoman, old Tirana and modern, Western, “new Tirana” / Tirana e Re (this is the name, still today, through which is known the quarter of the western part of the Boulevard).

All the constructions in Albania, including the Boulevard as well as “Il Circolo Italo-Albanese Scanderbeg“, were financially managed by SVEA, an Italian-Albanian financial institution, which, knowing the impossibility of the Albanians to repay the debts, granted large sums in the form of loans to the highly corrupted self-proclaimed King Ahmet Zogu and his government. Through this lack of repayment Mussolini justified in front of the Italian Parliament the invasion or “annexation” of Albania, as he liked to consider it, justified by a large part of Albanian collaborationist intelligentsia.

Albanian Minister and poet Ernest Koliqi (in center, black suit) with Italian Lieutnant Francesco Jacomoni (center, white uniform), “Il Circolo Italo-Albanese Scanderbeg”, 1942.

Ahmet Zogu, the former Prime Minister who had proclaimed himself King of Albanians in 1928, a day before Italian invasion, on April 6th 1939 abandoned Albania passing the Greek border with his family and a large quantity of gold.

On May 21st, 2020, four days after the erasure of The National Theatre, Erion Veliaj, the mayor of Tirana, apparently forgetting the possibility to restore The Theatre with EU funds without taxing the Albanians, send an official request to the Prime Minister Edi Rama, asking the permission to apply for 30 million euro loan at European Bank of Investment – “with very favorable financial conditions” – for the construction of the new Theatre, which will be placed on 30% of the territory of the former Theatre, leaving the rest to Fusha Family affairs.

I guess, through this elementary information, the circle of governmentality is completely evident. In other words, in Albania there is an ongoing process of return to the roots: of violence, erasure, corruption, financial speculation and political spectacularization through architectonic monumental constructions which characterized the beginnings of fascism.

B.I.G. Bjarke Ingels Group, proposal for The National Theatre.

To jump out of the circle, the rebuilding of “The Theatre where it was and how it was” does not indicate the right direction. Knowing somewhat the Albanian context, generally speaking, therefore including but not limiting the discourse on the case of The National Theatre, I tend to prefer neither to erase nor erect buildings nor monuments. If buildings and monuments are erased or erected, I guess it is preferable to deal with them or what remains of them, to cultivate a relation with their presence or absence. This does not means that the resistance against the mafia in government, when it erases or erects, was and is not necessary. On contrary. The resistance should be intensified. However, the context needs sobriety. Needs less, not more. Less buildings, not more buildings.

In the case of The National Theatre or what remains of it, the resistance should continue on “The Empty Space” of The Theatre, to quote Peter Brooks and maybe witness the materialization of its vision. In this space, to escape the circular symptom of “Il circolo Italo-Albanese Scanderbeg”, should be preserved the erasure and evidenced its foundations, literally, as a sort of Chris Burden installation, making clear the concrete profits of the last 100 years.

Chris Burden, Exposing the Foundation of the Museum, Los Angeles, 1986.

“It’s high time for bullets to tinkle across museum walls”. (Romeo Kodra)

Regarding the last exhibition Prova of Adrian Paci at The National Gallery of Arts in Tirana, at the end of the post, I wrote:

To conclude, in Paci’s National Gallery showcased works one is always in front of an art of ideas and never in front of an idea of arts, always in front of an idea expressed through a medium or media and never in front of an idea of medium or media. In other words, in front of the endless prove of consumerist reproduction and commodification of art, which more than with the aesthetic of arts has to do with anesthetic policies.

https://aksrevista.wordpress.com/2019/12/02/what-does-adrian-paci-and-prova-prove-romeo-kodra/

Recently, at The National Gallery of Arts in Tirana is open the new exhibition: Tirana Patience, curated by Nataša Ilić and Adam Szymczyk. According to the curators the idea is to open the paintings collection of socialist realism (actually it is written “realist socialist”, which I hope is the rough Albanian version given to the reader by the notary that The National Gallery payed for the “professional” translation) on which contemporary artists will act by performing or discussing with the public. In other words, according the curators, the idea is “not to exhibit/display the works, but to temporarily withdraw the artworks of the past from view of the visitors” (I am freely translating the Albanian version of the text).

I have not seen the exhibition. But do I need to see it? Do I need to visit The National Gallery of Arts directed by Edi(p) Rama’s nominated director Erzen Shkololli and judge afterwords the anesthetic artistic and cultural policies of the fascistoid regime installed in Albania? Do I need to visit the exhibition where the text’s concepts (I feel generous to call these bullshitting “concepts”) are clearly anesthetic (Tirana Patience, so to say “Tirana, do not act, stay at home and reflect, maybe reading Edi Rama’s and Ardian Klosi’s Refleksione or George Soros’ Theory of Reflexivity” … or just entertain yourself by playing patience game/solitaire)? Do I need to visit The National Gallery of Arts to understand that Nataša Ilić and Adam Szymczyk, if not two illiterates of the context, are just two contemporary art prostitutes prostituting their status as foreign curators – supposed as acknowledged – and sold to the – supposed ignorant of arts and contemporary art – Albanians, as usually is done in our contemporary version of panem et circenses way of governing? Do I need to visit Tirana Patience to see, once more, how the arts and artists, with or without their will (lucky the dead ones, that cannot see what is done to them and their works!!!), are prostituted? Do I need to visit the exhibition to see how Intervista of Anri Sala will be interpreted, again and again and again, through pseudo-Freudian lenses of unconscious repression and not through a correct translation of the Albanian and discover than the “hand” of the “mama’s wunderkind” but also of the French art professors that know very well the contemporary art market needs? Do I need to see the displayed and dis-covered artworks by the contemporary artists to understand that the same lenses will be used even in this exhibition, where enough is never enough when it comes to the reactionary exoticisation of “communism era” covered by the left-washing critical passwords such as “post-truth”, “neoliberism”, “paved ways of democracies”, “social and political revolutions”, and so on and so forth?

Actually the answer of these questions is obviously rhetoric. But fortunately in Albania there is art circulating, but out of the institutions. It circulates on the walls, intended as facades of buildings and social media profiles (sounds restrictive, limited and even ridicule, but the regime have already erased every other possibility for free art expression). One of these is the so-called campaign of some activists against one of the so-called Albanian oligarchs, which is not more than an ordinary mafia criminal that has made is fortune through money laundry, corruption of politicians as well as exploitation of workers. His name is Samir Mane, connected with Edi Rama’s government, but also with the former government of Sali Berisha.

The activists’ campaign started when Samir Mane, the owner of Albchrome, fired some miners of Bulqiza, because they dared to found a miners union with the help of Organizata Politike. It is normal in a fascist country governed by Edi Rama, that openly declares the lack of workers’ unions which makes the country more attractive for the investors. Anyways, the fact is that “Saimir Mane oppresses the workers” appeared everywhere.

OP thellon fushatën publike kundër Samir Manes

The Facebook page Bojkoto Samir Manen, calling to boycott all the products of Mane’s companies, was created. Yet, even Mane’s payed slaves entered in action, erasing the writings.

This erasures brought me in mind a work of 2014 with Sead Kazanxhiu, Erasure … We Would Prefer Emilo Isgrò, where me and Sead were destroying and erasing with “big bold strokes”, like Edi Rama, the children’s artistic creations. Unfortunately, time passes, and our provocative action does not seem any more as such, but sicks to the real wound of our reality.

IMG_9498

But not only. All these actions of writing and erasing brought me in mind, as some others followers of the Bojkoto Samir Manen Facebook Page also noticed, even a cartoon from the state socialism period. It is titled Parrulla V.F.L.P. (The Slogan: Death to Fascism, Freedom to the People), with author my late friend Gëzim Qëndro, when he was a creative and still not an art critic.

And again these actions project me to Lacan and the concept of littoral (in Lituraterre) when the psychoanalyst reading Edgar Allan Poe plays in a Joycean phonetic manner with the letter, litteral and littoral, with the coast+line or the border of the subjectivization. In other words, there where the art is taking place, where its aesthetics are challenged in their becoming by decodification and recodification. As the reader can imagine we are talking about the other pole of the prostitutional anesthetics of The National Gallery of Arts.

To conclude, I should add that this article it is not to show how prophetic I have been by anticipating The National Gallery of Arts anesthetics artistic and cultural policies, which were punctually materialized through Tirana Patience concepts. This article is to stress even more the cognitive influence of the capitalism that produces shitty persons, artists, politicians, societies as well as environment. Just take a look of these picture of Samir Mane and a caricature of a capitalist by Mayakovsky (it was also quoted somewhere in the page of Bojkoto Samir Manen, which I cannot find … however, Chapeau to the person who did it!). Is this a prototype of the capitalist? How could Mayakovsky figure Mane 100 years ago?

Samir Mane by Majakovski?

And please check what Mane Trade Construction Investments produces. Below you see the green periphery of Tirana and Mane’s urban and architectural intervention made of a complex of luxury (kitschy) villas.

Samir Mane’s Rolling Hills and Long Hill.

Rolling Hills Luxury Residencies it is not ironic at all. In this territorial and environment consuming gut is self-barricaded le crèm de la crème of the Albanian new money bourgeoisie. Even in this case the cognitive effects of capitalism are visible.

So, this article is written to make people somehow realize all the signals we are daily facing. And not only visual signals. All the Albanians know that Sali Berisha stands behind the deaths of the tragedy of Gërdec, Ilir Meta behind the deaths of 21 January as well as Edi Rama behind the large part of deaths of the last earthquake when people were left in damaged and unsafe houses. Therefore, it is not anymore time for metaphors and posting bullets (as the case of Armando Lulaj), but, quoting Mayakovsky, “[i]t’s high time for bullets to tinkle across museum walls” and make feel not the reality but the real to the prostitutes of the politics and arts in Albania and/or visiting Albania.

Helsinki’s Boulevardisation Case. (Romeo Kodra)

La prostituée du boulevard de Clichy et l’inspecteur qui la surveille ont tous les deux de mauvais souliers et tous les deux ont mal aux pieds d’avoir arpenté des kilomètres de bitume.

Georges Simenon.

Prelude. Etymologically the “Boulevard/Bulwerk”, a Dutch term, in XIV Century, entered in French language meaning: a “bastion, walls of fortification (the flat walkway over the top of the bastion)”, a word connected with defensive militarization and control of political power; and later “a large city road, promenade”, indicating an urban space for the spectacular circulation of objects (commodities) and subjects (people).

The semantic transition, from a bastion to a promenade, occurred during Le Roi Soleil Louis XIV, when the old bastions of Paris, after the construction of the new ones in a larger perimeter, were erased to make space for a wide tree-lined promenade.

During my research on this topic, I found significant that the first examples of the boulevards as urban dispositive of political power control appeared almost in the same period: in Paris within Haussmann’s renovation in 1853, and Vienna “by the will” of Kaiser Franz Joseph in 1857, transforming the old fortification walls in Ringstrasse, demonstrating in this manner the “will of openness and democratic dialogue”.

In addition, the boulevard is also a clear imperialistic political gesture, in terms of urban space, which delineates the subjectivization of a changing regime of power and governmentality. Following the Lacanian reading, to have a subject there must be “the trace”, walls/fortification in this case, “the erasure of the trace”, transformation of fortification in boulevard, and “marking of the erasure”, monumentalization of the boulevard.

In fact, three points need to be distinguished: the trace, the erasure of the trace and the marking of the erasure. It is at this level that the signifier arises and the subject emerges.


PETTIGREW, David and François RAFFOUL. 1996. Disseminating Lacan. Albany, NY.: State University of New York Press, p.39.

This process can also be considered as a new governmentality (Foucault), changing from the societies of discipline to the societies of control (Deleuze Gilles, Postscript on the Societies of Control, October, vol. 59, Winter 1992, pp. 3-7, The MIT Press). This governmentality and this control become more clear when, in its support, a full state apparatus is revealed, made of financial institutions, laws, construction mega-companies, famous architects/artists.

And last, but not least, to complete this picture, the representational aspects of the political power gesture are almost always represented faithfully by the formal aspects of arts (urban planning, architecture, sculpture/monument), reproducing altogether or at least one of the following aspects:
a) the alignment with the boulevard,
b) the verticality of urban objects (architectures, monuments)
c) hermeticism/closure sense emanated by these objects.

Therefore, it is with Haussmann’s urban interventions in Paris (1853) and transformation of Vienna’s bastions in Ring Strasse (1857) that the boulevard’s double signification, from one side, conceptually, evidenced the “twofold nature of capitalism” and “formation of [its] sovereignty” (Deleuze/Guattari – Anti-Oedipus); and, from the other side, historically, “the change of regime and governmentality”, from despotic absolutism to enlightened despotism. In other words, seems like the Ancien Régime, after the Congress of Vienna, to “tolerate the bourgeoisie” to participate in political power and prevent further revolutionary atrocities and nationalism, by erasing the bastions, tried to demonstrate openness and democratic dialogue with its subjects, and, by constructing spectacular boulevards, to codify and control their consumption and circulation.

Since then, the boulevard marks and mirrors the change of regime and governmentality of political powers, with all its related political power discourse, the bureaucratic procedures, the organized rationality by defining, shaping, guiding and affecting people and their conduct in the city space, which make the boulevard a perfect dispositive to measure the social pressure and control of political power regimes.

Helsinki’s boulevardisation. In 2015 Helsinki’s Urban Plan was drafted by the Urban Environment Division of the Municipality. The first out of ten themes of the draft regarded “densification”, which was justified under the pretext of “increasing of the population” caused by the arrivals of “migrants”. The main urban tools used for the densification were “city boulevards”. Simultaneously the Urban Environment Division released another document, “City Boulevards in Helsinki”, where appeared an unusual term, namely “boulevardisation”.

In 2017 the plan was approved.

However, two problems can be noticed. Firstly, there is no information and deep analyses on Finnish tradition of “densification/boulevardisation” and the perception of the Finns regarding “densification/boulevardization”. Secondly, the participation of the migrants in public hearings and other platforms for public participation, being them the main reason that justified the densification and “boulevardisation”, until now, it is unknown.

So, what is Helsinki’s “boulevardisation”? In what type of “boulevard” is based? Following the etymology, to have a “boulevard” there must be an erasure. What is being erased though? At the beginning, after the Congress of Vienna, the boulevards were a sort of consequence of the decision of the Ancien Régime to tolerate the lower bourgeois class to participate in political power and avoid in this manner the nationalism. In this regard, is there any connection between this approach and the decision of Helsinki’s Municipality to densify and boulevardize because of the migrants? Moreover, to resist against the boulevardistation is somehow connected with nationalism and the resistance against the migration? Regarding the governmentality, what are the mechanisms of management and administration (work processes, procedures, rules, laws), as well as the ways of classifying individuals or groups (by income, nationality, and professional categories), which allow power institutions – in this case Helsinki Municipality/Urban Environment Division and Migratin Office – for their identification, classification, ordering, and control? And last, but not least, what are the similarities and differences in terms of representational aspects of art displayed in urban and public space of boulevard?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I am living in Finland, Espoo near Helsinki, from May of this year. I have never seen a city with more open construction sites in the same time as Helsinki. And I am coming from Tirana … In Tirana there is a lot of mafia and money laundry supported by the government. I do not know very well the Helsinki’s context, but there are a lot of signs that things are not much better. Yet, what most impresses me is the passivity of “Finns” towards this urban development booming. And, without knowing why, I feel like “something is rotten in the state of … Finland”.

There is a web pop-up that reminds me this feeling … and Pacific (1967) of David Alexander Colville.

What does Adrian Paci and “Prova” prove? (Romeo Kodra)

Adrian Paci’s exhibition Prova, at The Albanian National Gallery of Arts, is held in the framework of director’s (Erzen Shkololli) institutional policies. In other words, as it is required to a government nominated director, the exhibition is held to promote a florescent and vivid Albanian artistic context during “Edi Rama’s time” (just quoting Anri Sala), the time of Renaissance (Rilindje, in Albanian, a worldwide christologic term and patriotic related with the Albanian independence movement, which is the pompous name given by Edi Rama to his government, that has in its focus the patronage of art and artists, where, of course, the patron comes first … please check this one man show during the presentation of the Albanian Pavilion of Venice Biennial of Architecture 2014 at London AA School of Architecture in 2015 link). Yet, according these policies, no Albanian acute and actual pressing problems should be evidenced, because the promotion, as every marketing student knows in this age of cognitive capitalism, can be – God forbid – compromised in its shiny emanating lustrousity. Maybe, just a little, but always through illustrative and glossy representations, respecting and following the formal contemporary art curating canons, to make happy the self-critical spirit as well as the homologated aesthetics of the bourgeoisie that frequents these kind of exhibitions. And, of course, what can be better than blurry, pseudo-intellectual and pseudo-philosophical artistic strategy of “universalizing the Albanian context” and making it “global”, as the curator Adam Budak suggests to the reader of Prova throughout the exhibition’s text.

This kind of exhibition and these kind of artists (Adrian Paci, Edi Hila, Flaka Haliti to mention some of them promoted by the Gallery) serve to connect the Albanian public contemporary art institutions context with the neoliberal art system, led by a globalist, stateless, apparently apolitical, and post-bourgeois class, that measures everything in terms of consumption and profit, where everything and everyone is a consumable commodity for those in power, respecting and following the laws of a pyramidal hierarchy. And these artists are very happy with it, providing, through the commodification of the art, the system’s basic raw materials.

Reading exhibition’s curatorial text one could think that Adrian Paci is somewhat a deeply politically engaged artist. Prova is the “artist’s most mature and radical gesture of a political nature, expressing the urgency to take action and indicating the willingness to perform the civic responsibility”, says the curator. However, the author confuses the political gesture of the artist with Edi Rama’s Party/Renaissance gesture (see Edi Rama’s mantra “political action with colors” and his choice selecting Adrian Paci to evangelize through “a lecture” the Albanian Ambassadors in 2016).

The concepts like “Arendtian space of appearance” are totally deviating and inarticulate in their consistency. In this case the author, Budak, by using the word “appearance” (key word, in my opinion, but of a different kind, which I will try to explain below), wanted to make it more intellectually catchy and added “Arendtian space”, the relation of which with Paci’s work remain shrown in mystery. The same could be said regarding Paci’s painting of an “ethical subject at the moment of becoming and transition”, a pseudo-philosophical concept, which contradicts the “mise-en-scène” (term used by Budak, another key word in Paci’s work, but with different connotations in my opinion) that Paci always does. This means that, if we are spectator of a mise-en-scène, than there is no ethical subject at the moment of becoming, but only a pose, a mimic, a simulation of becoming (see also the men posing, as requested by their author/director/Paci, in the video Prova).

This contradiction in Budak’s text reappears again where the curator wants to evidence Paci’s scene:

“Paci’s scene has a quality of an ancient drama: we are spectators in the theatre of quasi-heroic gesture, on the ruins of enlightenment where the grand recit of morality are staged with pathos and splendor.”

This mishmash between ancient drama and quasi-heroic gesture (which is self-explained, because if we consider quasi-heroic the ancient drama, than what is heroic?) is further confused with morality, pathos and splendor (a refreshing of Nietzschean The Birth of Tragedy is needed, and, if it is not too much and hard to digest, followed by On the Genealogy of Morality of the same author). In addition, the grand recit, the syntagmatic expression which should bring in our minds Lyotard (?) and the Postmodern Condition(?), sounds, firstly, more like a strategy of the curator to highlight the philosophic concepts behind the artist’s work, and, secondly, a strategy of the artists, not to eliminate the hero (see this topic on the work of Lyotard), but to change his place, from the stage to the backstage, where the famous and worldwide known author/director/Paci, we (should) know, is placed.

Yet, despite this confusion, is because of Budak, that one can evidence the real fulcrum of most Albanian artist’s work, which consist precisely in the mise-en-scène that often appears in Paci’s showcased works at The National Gallery (I even agree with Budak to use grand recit referring to Paci’s work, but with another meaning, as it is used sometimes in France, which relates to the grand récits of the great leading actors of the Parisian Théâtre Boulevardier/Vaudevillesque). Moreover, being the artist, as Budak defined him, “self-referential”, one should know more on the “references” of Adrian Paci to understand better his mise-en-scène (Or not? Or the curator is defining the artist as “self-referential” just to provide him with a sort of license or Schengen Visa to freely ab+use artistic and philosophical concepts as well as art history? Personally, I am fine with that, but in that case we should talk on Paci’s art as a sort of amateur hour).

Firstly, to understand Paci’s mise-en-scène or grand recit, we should turn back to that being happily involved within the global neoliberal system of exploitation and commodification of art that consumes everyone and everything following the laws of the pyramidal hierarchy. Let’s take in consideration for example Home to go, a his early work present at The National Gallery of Art exhibition.

Home to Go, 2001.

In this case, the migrant – the artist himself, the great leading actor, as suggested by the resemblances of this work with the artist – is apparently represented as a sort of martyr, a Christological character. What an elitist, clerical, and bourgeois context, such as the Italy of 2001, could have expected more than this work? As I see it, it confirms and represents the imaginary of the majority of the Italian elitist artistic context of the time. But, what about the migrant and his specific characteristics? [Just a specification: the majority of the migrants in Italy and in Europe were and are not coming from a Christian tradition, so this Paci’s work do not “universalize” properly to make “global” the migration problem, but tries to make it more familiar to the host.] Being myself a migrant in Italy of 2001, I do not think that it represents the image of me and my imaginary at that time. I do not even think it represents the frustration and wrath of ordinary migrants that were and still are daily targeted by Lega Nord (I lived in Bergamo at that time, almost the same context of Paci). I think it does not represent even the imaginary of the Albanian migrants, that, after the Tragedy of Otranto, lost every illusion on the hospitality and open arms of the Italian and European Union States. Moreover, it is better to specify that the Italians culture of hospitality is something else, that has to do even with the Christianity, but it is not connected with the pathetic and patinated/glossy representations such as Adrian Paci’s Home to Go. In this regard, even Budak’s use of terms such as pathos and splendor, sounds deviating and ab+usive, because these Paci’s works, as a lot of works circulating and feeding the contemporary neoliberal art system, share more common traits with counter-reformation art period (certain Mannerism and Baroque, if you like) than Renaissance, as Edi Rama in Albania or the neoliberal contemporary art system want us to believe. In other words, these Paci’s works characteristics, instead of pathos and splendor, could be more appropriate to define as pathetic and glossy.

Secondly, to understand Paci’s “self-references”, which I would rather call “references”, we should still consider them as a sort of simulation, a mimic, a pompous boulevardier or vaudevillesque acting the great leading actor. With this in mind, his works in general, and Prova in particular, showcased at The National Gallery exhibition, suggest the Albanian artist par excellence: Kolë Idromeno. Idromeno is considered to be the first Albanian modern painter and artist. In this regard, if we follow the words of Budak, referred to Paci, we can easily have an idea of who Kolë Idromelo was:

“[T]he moving image (a film, a video) dialogues with the still image of the photographic series as well as with the image, captured within the frame of painting, the artist’s primary skill and vocation, proving […] formal versatility and his interest in a variety of expressions and languages”.

In addition, being Paci the curator in 2017 of some Idromeno’s photographic works, we can easily notice the similarities in terms of visual traits between some characters of Prova. However, although even in Idromeno the characters/actors are posing, the differences between the two are remarkable and similarities limited in the classical composition of the frame. Consequently, even the “reference”, looks superficial, pretentious.

For example, in Idromeno, if we want to hazard the Lyotardian reading suggested by Budak, we do not see the “description, illustration, narration” – as Adrian Paci himself explains in the interview above linked (“Idromeno nuk proteston me fotot e tij, ai nuk proteston as me pikturat e tija. Thjesht përshkruen, ilustron, tregon.”) – of a grand recit such as the Bible stories, but the meta-narration. And meta-narration means, etymologically, “beyond narration”, or, as Idromeno does, the contextualization of a known narration. So, within the grand recit of the well-known biblical infernal stories, we see not the characters of the picture perpetuating through characteristic poses all the tragedy and pathos of the biblical tradition, but a character of the context (Shkodra) during Idromeno’s time, which, as suggested by the pictures, is a context emanating a terrible and horrible comicality. And this makes a character, which doesn’t exist within the grand recit, a specific and original one, which is a very different thing from Paci’s impassive and lifeless characteristic characters, that confirm the mainstream and political power canons of representation, the grand recit precisely. I guess, to make understand the difference between being a character and having a character, a Quentin Tarantino’s fast-food philosophy quote can help Paci and Budak.

Thus, in Idromeno we do not see the narration of a grand recit, but a joyful play with the medium (theatrically or photographically), as he always did, with all the media, in all its artistic production, being it painting, photography, architecture, etc. In Paci we have only a superficial, glossy and pompous description, narration, illustration that intentionally confirms and is ready and happy to be marked, in terms of meaning, by the grand recits of our time, being it the elitist bourgeois clerical context of Shkodra and Italy or the confirmation and promotion of Edi Rama’s neoliberal policies.

And, what is most important, in Paci’s showcased works there is no play with the medium or media (even in painting Paci seems an imitator of Edi Hila, another artist adrift of mannerism, but of his own) from a technological point of view. In this regard, the Idromenoan “joyful play with the medium”, in Paci’s Prova for example, is limited in the alternation of camera focus between foreground and background objects. The focus goes from the microphone to life suffered faces of the filmed persons. The produced, generated or stimulated meaning according this very basic film syntax is: voice to the poorest? Wow! Isn’t it original? I do not know how to define this kind of cinematic take. To me, more than obscene, for which I have a lot of respect because is somehow connected with the transgression of an ordinary scene, this kind of illustrative use of the medium/camera looks like Albanian tallava video clips or pornography. It brings in mind not the history of the video art (maybe even scholastic in this case could sound too generous), but the new trends of luxurious porno films made in USA/Hollywood (it is a wide used cliché in these films the focal transition from genitals in action, a bouquet of roses on the table, placed in middle-background, and, in far-background, the “cozy” city view, seen from the extra-large window of the apartment placed on the top of the skyscraper where the action is taking place).

The same scholastic rigidity in terms of use of the medium is present in several Paci’s showcased works, where the balanced, centralized, symmetric and glossy images abound up to boredom and dullness.

To conclude, in Paci’s National Gallery showcased works one is always in front of an art of ideas and never in front of an idea of arts, always in front of an idea expressed through a medium or media and never in front of an idea of medium or media. In other words, in front of the endless prove of consumerist reproduction and commodification of art, which more than with the aesthetic of arts has to do with anesthetic policies.

P.S. There is a peculiar trait or red thread in Paci’s works, which I have considered for a long time as very important, if not the most important, to decipher the artist’s evolution. It is a sense of waiting, expectance. But throughout his works it seems spontaneous, never developed, quasi unconscious, and not rationalized. So, it is difficult to talk in this case of evolution. Maybe, in this regard, something should be written, but it is difficult without passing through the psychogenic aspects of his works, made of pious spirit and pomposity.

Rena Rädle and Vladan Jeremić at Tirana Art Lab’s Performative Exhibition, an interview, and some considerations on “art-washing” and “left-washing”. (Romeo Kodra)

[This text is written in English and not in Albanian, because, firstly, the Albanian readers of this blog know almost all the issues that will be discussed; secondly, because somehow, especially after the last visit in Tirana, few days ago, I felt more foreigner in my birthplace; lastly, because the text concerns mostly non-Albanians people involved in the discussed art event.]

In September I was contacted by my friend Vladan Jeremić, that sent me the link announcing his and Rena Rädle participation at Tirana Art Lab’s Performative Exhibition, and asking about my presence. Their idea was to organize an “action of barricades against gentrification of Paris Commune in Tirana”. Unfortunately I was in Brussels those days. Vladan, considering our intention from 2017 to collaborate, wanted somehow to involve me. But, as I explained to him, I had already closed my experience with Tirana Art Lab, as I lost “connection” with Executive Director Adela Demetja, that in my opinion “belongs to the other side of the barricade” and apparently whatever she does seems contaminated by the prevailing logic of doing art in Albania; in other words: promotion of political power, following the submissive models of Anri Sala, Edi Muka, Erzen Shkololli, Edi Hila, Adrian Paci & Co.

This affirmation can be considered too harsh, but I will try to explain it.

When I turned back at my B&B apartment, I opened the link to read the text presenting the Performative Exhibition 2. After reading it, I understood that my friends were totally out of the context, ignoring the history of Komuna e Parisit in Tirana. I contacted Vladan to clarify some obscure passages of the text, that, as Vladan said to me, was “written by him, Rena and Adela”.

It was immediately clear which part of the text was written by Adela Demetja, because “the ignorance” or voluntarily “ignoring” of the context was too visible (this is becoming a symptomatic trait of making art in Albania). Reading the text I noticed that one of the participants was Valentina Bonizzi, and discovered that “Komuna e Parisit, emerg[ed] during the socialist period”! What an epiphany! So, I told to Vladan that the text “sounds left-washing” and, as I saw it, “your work assembled in this manner will not produce effects”.

Obviously, Vladan reacted questioning on how could I judge their work without seeing it and added that after seeing it I “will be amazed”.

However, beyond his positive expectations, I told him that my opinion was based on the conceptual organization of the text and the bad use of my concepts produced during Tirana Art Lab experience. I also explained him that Valentina Bonizzi was working for Edi Rama’s Center for Openness and Dialogue (COD), and I thought that this should be enough to maintain the distances from her, or at least to be aware and challenge her to clarify on this issue, before any collaboration. In addition, in my opinion, one should consider a problem Bonizzi’s experience at COD, as she works there not because of her CV, but because of her partner, Driant Zeneli, that happens to be cousin of Falma Fshazi, director at COD (Fshazi is “worldwide famous” – who cares about a CV at COD!!! – for translating Edi Rama’s masterpiece KURBAN in Turkish! And that means a lot in Albania!). Moreover, one should also know that Bonizzi is “very interested in some teenage activists fighting against political power” … in Kamza Municipality (headed by opposition Party) … no matter Bonizzi works for Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania. So, for her, seems that the problem is elsewhere (According to me, the real question is whether Bonizzi’s work should be considered as “mass distractions or mass destruction” as the works of Sala, Muka, Paci, Hila & Co.). Finally, as I see it, all these facts are connected with the “means of productions” (I bet nobody asked Bonizzi on these issues during her presentation at Tirana Art Lab. But maybe I am wrong. Am I?), which represent a sensitive topic in the framework of Rena Rädle and Vladan Jeremić works (at least this was my impression on their work).

Furthermore, and what I found and considered as most deviating and reactionary, I told to Vladan that Komuna e Parisit in Tirana do not have anything to do with Paris Commune. Far from that.

Firstly, for those who are ignorant or want to ignore the context, Komuna e Parisit was not “emerged during socialist period”. During “socialist period” that part of the city was an Agricultural Cooperative and the state land was cultivated with corn and grain. After 1991, with the change of political regime, there were some scattered illegal buildings constructed (1, 2, 3 floors high). But it is after 2002, with Mayor Edi Rama, that the bulimic constructions of buildings boomed (at least 10 or more floors) and the real Komuna e Parisit “emerged”. And, what is most important, the name Komuna e Parisit, as a quarter, was given during Edi Rama’s period, just to left-wash the neoliberal urban practices (a lot of fans consider Edi Rama as a genius in this original political use of left-washing, but the roots can be easily found in George Soros foundation and Michael Bloomberg‘s way of administering a city).

Everyone in Tirana knows (for more information one should ask to Fatos Lubonja) that Komuna e Parisit was the real vision of Edi Rama for Tirana and, as we experienced in these years, for Albania.

The land of the Agricultural Cooperative at Komuna e Parisit, with the change of the regime, from state socialism to the capitalist free market, was meant to return to the former land owners. But Edi Rama, as Mayor, blocked the propriety certificates of the owners which should have been released by the Municipality of Tirana. In other words, nobody could have had the propriety certificate unless selling the land to the oligarchs of Edi Rama (it is considered that 20% of each building went from the “constructor” to the pockets of former Mayor now Prime Minister of Albania … is anyone still astound by Edi Rama’s bunker-villa in Surrel?). This is a known problem of the transitional Albania, where the legitimate land owners were blackmailed or deliberately robbed (in Albania you can often find three or four “certified” land owners for the same piece of land), or where the workers that became owners of the former state fabrics after the collapse of the regime were left in misery, easy prey for mafia, which in this manner bought for a pittance the whole Albanian assets.

Anyway, all this facts at Komuna e Parisit happened when Tirana was also transformed in a sort of new contemporary art paradise in the South-Eastern Europe and Balkans. So, beyond left-washing urban politics, there was an ongoing art-washing process. And the key figures were the same: Anri Sala, Edi Muka, Edi Hila & Co. Until now, none of them has ever questioned the neoliberal urban practices of Edi Rama.

So after all these missing information, that a curator should provide to the artists before contextualizing their work (but maybe Vladan and Rena needed a PR and a tourist guide for Tirana’s best restaurants), I asked Vladan if he was sure to continue with the idea of connecting Paris Commune and Komuna e Parisit in Tirana. After a hesitation he thanked me and added that a re-framing was going to happen, “more radical”.

After that, we have been in touch during the organization and production of the event. I was glad to see the correction of the ignorance or voluntary ignoring of the context, regarding the emerging of Komuna e Parisit in Tirana, on Tirana Art Lab’s webpage:

But what I felt, especially after seeing the online live intervention, was, again, a total abusive reformulation of what I have done in Tirana Art Lab during 2014-’18. Anyway, before “judging without seeing the work”, I asked to interview the artists and waited to visit Tirana and see what have remained from “amazing” and “more radical” art event, before expressing my opinion. Here is the interview:

Romeo Kodra: What is the connection of the exhibition “Komuna e Parisit revisited” with the historical Paris Commune?
Rena &Vladan: Our starting reference for this work in Tirana is the meaning of the Paris Commune considering the relation between art and politics. The Paris Commune marks a historical instance of political subjectivization of the working class, at a time when new bourgeois art institutions as the academy and art salons flourished in Paris. Realist painter Gustave Courbet was one amongst many cultural workers and artisans who solidarized with the communards and took over important functions in the 72 days lasting workers-led self-government of Paris. The practice of him and his fellow artists was an early example of the avant-garde principle that art and life needs to be brought in one, and that artists need to become a political subject on the side of the working class. Remembering this historical reference, our major question was if such practices have any significance in contemporary Albania and other European peripheries. Our intention was to test and to discover if it is possible to perform the unity of art and politics in Tirana, having in mind that each artistic event is after all limited to a cultural public and can hardly become a mass social manifestation.
Another connection between the title of the exhibition and the local context in Tirana lies in the fact that there exists a street named Paris Commune in Tirana. Despite this fact, the original meaning of the Commune in Tirana is not a common knowledge and it is in a way suppressed by the on-going building and real-estate speculations in the city. Therefore we aimed with the exhibition to underline the emancipatory heritage of the Commune and to recuperate the primary meaning of this name.
R.K.: What is the overall relation of the performative exhibition concept with this historic event?
R&V: The performative exhibition is a format suggested by the curator Adela Demetja, director of TAL. This format is demanding, but it is in the same time very inspiring. In the framework of this format, it is important to realize a kind of constant mobility of artistic production, a certain discoursivity and ability to foster movement. The whole setting was inspiring for us because we managed in the past to develop a specific practice that we determine as transformative artistic practice. This kind of artistic practice puts in the foreground the use value of art and tends to integrate art as a relevant actor in the struggle for social justice. Transformation is a process in which artistic production becomes useful in a concrete political conjunction, but within that transformation art does not loose its artistic qualities. In contrary, the process of transformation provides a new quality of art.
The connection between the artistic transformation we have performed at TAL and the historical notion of the Paris Commune lies in the idea of the political transformation of the artwork, which began during the Commune. Historically, the communards first decided to tear down the Vendome column and then the (unrealized) idea was born to put artworks from Louvre on the barricades, in order to protect themselves from the bourgeois cannons. In that way, the art work became useful for the political purpose and the previous autonomy of the artwork was transformed and in this way art has got a completely new value. With our work in Tirana we went back to the roots of this ideas and performed it concretely with our last intervention together with people from of Aleanca për Mbrojtjen e Teatrit.
R.K. Why this kind of intervention? How did you involve other people? What was their contribution (if any) in terms of concept and production?
R&V: With the aim to produce artistic objects that can function within a protest situation and as symbolic barricades in defence of common space in the urban fabric, at TAL we developed objects from cardboards and wooden sticks that can easily be moved and carried out in the streets. The objects are covered with drawings that conceptualize the struggle against capitalist destruction, some of them refer to the condition of production in the arts, others are more general. At the exhibition at TAL, we have exhibited these objects together with didactic drawings that we made in 2013 in Bucharest for the event “Parasites and Prophets, International Conference on Artistic Production, Organization and Struggle” and as a result of our seminar “Art Production in Restriction. Possibilities of Transformative Art Production and Coalition-Building”. This event we organized in 2015 in Norway and it brought together artists, writers, critics, and curators from Europe and the United States who were active in groups (such as W.A.G.E., ArtLeaks, Occupy Museums, etc.) that are struggling for better working conditions in the arts and society at large. The aim of this event was to come up with a common method for organizing and coalition-building in the art world and beyond. So, both artifacts served as a kind of didactic tools for the visitors in order to politicize their relation to art and labor.
The performative exhibition included as well artistic and research practices by invited colleagues Valentina Bonizzi, Raino Isto and Filip Jovanovski and discussed the function and use value of an artwork within social surroundings, modes of participation and possibilities of artists’ organization in the region and from the socialist past of Albania.
We had already heard some time ago about the plan of the government to remove the National Theatre and about the protests against its demolition and against the privatization of public space in general in Tirana. We’ve established contact with a group of people organizing events at the occupied theater, most of them member of Aleanca për Mbrojtjen e Teatrit and among them Lindita Komani and Elvis Kazazi, and offered them to use the objects for their activities. With them, we organized a joint action and carried the objects from the exhibition space at TAL to the National Theater. Now it is up to them, how they make use of them further in their struggles.
A very interesting “transformative moment” of our work was exactly in the act of carrying the objects trough the city, when they were moved to the theatre by the people who are defending the theatre from demolition. In a very personal manner the activists and artists from the theatre reshaped our mobile art objects and flags and walked with them via major streets of Tirana. They walked along the boulevard and passed by the governmental buildings of prime-minister Edi Rama and National Gallery. The parade had lot of attention by the passers-by and it was a clear message that a protest is performed in front of their eyes.
R.K. Is there any thing new that you discovered from the context (in terms of art, culture, politics)?
R&V:We have been here in Tirana for the first time in 2005 when we participated in the Tirana Activism Festival organized by MJAFT, but these were different times. Now the change is quite visible. We are very surprised at how much the ideology of liberalism and free market is present in the city. Tirana has become one big building construction experiment.
R.K. What can you say in terms of means of production during the entire event?
R&V: TAL is a self-organized art organization with no state funding and it has limited resources. We have been aware of the limitation when it comes to means of production. However, with a lot of enthusiasm we coordinated the whole production with Adela Demetja on a very high level. Our common goal was to imagine different ways of distribution of art.
The wider economy of art is, as financial capitalism, based on speculation. Similar to trade with assets, profit is made not through production, but through circulation (distribution) of the artwork. Our answer to the current situation is to create art that conceptualizes the aspect of its distribution, but in a diametrically opposed way. The distribution we aim at is the circulation of the art work due to its (political) use value, in this case for the struggle against privatization and commercialization of public space and institutions. So, as the last instance of the performative exhibition at TAL, we invited activists to reshape the objects and they were transformed into tools for common use. We think that we’ve managed to fulfill the initial goal and to transform art into means of production of struggle.

I do not know why, but reading the answers I had the feeling that by “means of productions” Rena and Vladan mean financial aspects of art production, which for me instead should mean the concepts, theories and techniques of producing art; in other words the laboratorial aspects, or what stands behind of art production.

In addition, the way the subjectivization is treated, “the art and life needs to be brought at one”, seems contradictory with the way Performative Exhibition is done, where there is no subjectivization, but only subjectification of art, because the life intended as protest or resistance is absent and the art, theatricalized, present.

However, the most impressive fact for me was that the intervention happened as if everything started from zero/0. How was it possible that after the ironic and sarcastic intervention of Georgia Kotretsos and Tirana Art Lab (Yes, Tirana Art Lab, an institution, has an artwork in its portfolio, the same as the Artist Prime Minister Edi/p Rama!) on the boulevard space, as well as after dozens of AKSREVISTA’s writings on the boulevardization of art and artists, Tirana Art Lab organized an artistic intervention on the boulevard which had a “lot of attention by the passers-by and it was a clear message that a protest is performed in front of their eyes”? Really, a lot of attention? A performed protest? Maybe, someone should have informed the artists and the leftists activists Vladan and Rena that the same day, on October 12th (Google helps a lot searching “Unaza e Re 12 Tetor”), six protesters were jailed at Unaza e Re/New Ring of Tirana. It is incredible how the leftist artists were not aware of the protests, which, by the way, is ongoing daily from 2018. Or the Performative Exhibition was just an artistic intervention to deviate the attention from the real problem? Are we talking even in this case for the art as a weapon of “mass distraction or mass destruction”, distracting the masses or destroying the becoming massive of the protests?

Anyway, it is very strange that a connection between the urban revolution of the Paris Commune, which happened as a clear consequence of Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s urban speculations and spectacularizations in Paris, and Tirana’s New Ring, which is happening as a clear consequence of Edi Rama’s urban speculations and spectacularizations, was not made. I know that Adela Demetja is allergic of reading, but Vladan and Rena I guess have heard about David Harvey, especially when they deal with neoliberism, urban speculation and spectacularization of politics through art.

But, let consider the possibility that the artists did not know anything regarding what was and is still happening in Tirana. Let consider them as ordinary tourists that wanted to taste the delicious Albanian dishes and make some money through recycling a former art project and adopt its objects in an alien context, just to finance the accommodation and per diem.

So, if we focus only on the power of art to stimulate and/or generate new meanings, I would like to know what is new in the boulevard parade of Vladan, Rena and other activists for the protection of National Theater? Where is the transformative power of art? In this regard I saw a picture on facebook page of Tirana Art Lab, proclaiming: This is what we mean by Performative Exhibition!!!

For those who do not know, the man on the picture is Robert Budina, a film director that, honor him, with bare hands resisted with other citizens against the police and governmental forces that wanted to destroy the National Theater few months ago. He is there resisting and defending from the destruction the National Theater, although the “workers/proletarians”, the actors of the National Theater (except two or three of them), disappeared, fearful of losing the working place and being fired by the government (This fact I guess shows the difficulty to articulate concepts and discourses through ready-made and consequently pseudo-marxist terminology in Albania).

So, questions rise: where is the transformative power of Rena’s and Vladan’s piece of art that Budina holds in his hands? Is the piece of art stimulating and/or generating new meanings, or is absorbing meanings from Budina? If is Budina that tranforms the artwork, then what is the difference between Budina’s picture holding the art piece of Rena and Vladan with this other picture?

Personally, I do not see any difference, except Budina being a very kind and collaborative man and Ronaldo a well payed millionaire.

But maybe I am wrong, these pieces of art transported in a parade on Tirana’s main boulevard, have nothing to do with the representational, showy, decorative aspects of arts. Maybe even the protesters of Aleanca për Mbrojtjen e Teatrit, that used the art pieces as props during their artistic events, are completely wrong. Maybe, maybe, maybe. There are a lot of maybes. Maybe a better research and contextualization should have been done.

P.S. In Albanian is considered “butaforì” (promps, in English) a decorative art, an art which is too obvious and superficial and is very different, if not contrary, from the “radical” or “amazing” art.

P.P.S. Unfortunately, in the case of Unaza e Re/ Tirana’s New Ring as well as in the case of National Theater there is no discourse or articulation from a leftist point of view, which per se seems paradoxical, but knowing the Albanian politics of the last 30 years is perfectly coherent. At the moment, being in opposition the right wing is trying to gain consensuses supporting the protesters, although it is this same opposition, which, when was governing the country, made the fascist laws for the expropriation of houses or tried to destroy artistic and cultural heritage objects (such as the case of the “Pyramid”), for mere financial profits of the oligarchs. Moreover there is a clear tendency of dividing the protesters from each other. I remember protesting students impeding the protesters of the New Ring to join them; I remember protesters of Zharrëza doing the same to the students of Lëvizja për Universitetin; even Aleanca për Mbrojtjen e Teatrit had some similar problems with Oragnizata Politike. So, in other words, the occasion to intervene through this type of projects was very appropriate, but it necessitates strong research on the context, courage and above all no art-washing and left-washing, because of these lasts Albania is plenty.