andreas broeckmann on Mon, 25 Jan 1999 12:24:18 +0200

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Syndicate: Iara Boubnova: Permanent Instability, Tirana - info

Date: Sun, 24 Jan 1999 22:23:26
From: Iara Boubnova <>

"Permanent Instability" is the title of the first international exhibition
of contemporary art shown in the National Art Gallery in Tirana and curated
by Albanian artist Edi Muka. The show features the works of nearly 30
artists from practically all Balkan countries (with the exception of Serbia
and Montenegro), including artists from Kosovo, who traveled across borders
risking severe repressions back home should it become known that they have
visited Albania.

"Permanent Instability", as the curatorial concept of Edi Muka is titled,
reffers to the all over political and cultural situation in Albania, seen
very much as a model for the all over situation on the Balkans after 1989.
The constant turmoils in practically all of the Balkan countries, with the
possible exclusion of Slovenia and Turkey, are reflected upon and the
concept of "permanent instability" is meant to pin-point the never-ending
process of transformation which doesn't seem to have a stable upward
mobility to better ends but rather manifests a tendency to move in a
spiral-like movement of ups and downs, periods of relative stability
alternating with recurring plunges into total chaos. In Edi Muka's concept
"permanent instability" seems to grow into a term to be used as a defining
constant for the region.
As the first ever international exhibition of contemporary art in Albania,
"Permanent Instability" displayed an incredibly high level of curatorial
achievement, as well as, a solid consistency of artistic achievement,
showing also the works of a number of Albanian artists in an international
context for the first time. The exhibition gives a possibility for getting
to know cultures that have been isolated during the last decade. It makes a
step towards a common identity, even though it looks like a permanently
unstable one. The one-liner summary of this project would be - "a
white-cube aesthetics in a black-box environment" and there are at least
two things that should be mentioned in this context. First - the "plane
crash" on the Balkans is
very likely to be going on still and the end is not to be seen yet. And
second - there is hardly a better and more expressive/radical use of the so
called "white-cube" aesthetics in an environment (physical and urban) which
is the absolute opposite of that. It is one thing to see "white-cube"
aesthetics in the "white-cube" perfection of the Western urban
surroundings... It is a totally different situation when the white, clean
spaces of the National Art Gallery in Tirana, covered with perfect parquet
flooring, are filled up with statements and testimonies of human dissaster,
ongoing conflict, or in some cases - the wisdom one accuires after
difficult experiences. Provided of course, that life on the streets and in
the hills of Albania (and elsewhere on the Balkans as well) is so rough,
poverty could be so obvious and the always present expectations of
unfolding chaos, so tangible that the white walls of the gallery become
quite transparent...

The media used represent the whole variety operating in contemporary art
the world over. The concerns of the artists vary from reflections on the
recent (and on-going) war in former Yugoslavia or the threatened Albania,
to the relative stability of Bulgaria, which has been through a lot and has
reached a new plateau of ... no one knows what yet, to the more relaxed
situations in Turkey and Slovenia. However, in the huge, white, renovated
especially for this show, museum halls, various art languages and media
equally co-existed as witnesses of the long-term spiral transformation from
totalitarian past to some unpredictable and distant future. The slow
spiral-like movement of the political, social and cultural transitions in
the region is reflected in the heroic and anti-heroic self-portrait photos
of Nebojsa Soba Seric from Bosnia; or in the installation "Transformation
Always Takes Time and Energy" by Pravdoliub Ivanov from Bulgaria which
consists of 15 pots on the heating plates with never-to-boil water.

The post-catastrophical alienation shows its face from behind the
neo-expressionist paintings "Comfort" by Edi Hila (Albania) with the
disappearing every-day-life objects, as well as, in the large-scale color
photos of "Bridging the Interspace" by Igor Grubic (Croatia) where the
private interior is squeezed in the whole world. In the "Portrait of the
citizen from FYROM" by Alexander Stankovski and Branko Srkanjak, the
historical maps of Macedonia, under the politically correct name "Former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", and its neighbors are showing each country
during its "Golden Age" (the age of largest territorial expansions). The
current personification of the national identity on the Balkans is based on
long lost past glory and is one of the main causes of conflicts.

In the context of the Balkan countries languages had been mixed for
centuries and it looks as if here everybody can understand almost everybody
else. Here the video projection "Speaking Wall" (Danica Dacic, Bosnia),
consisting of over 60 human lips which are non-stop whispering 3 min. long
texts in different languages, makes a very sharp political sense. On the
opening day, the "regular" daily demonstration of the people of Tirana and
of the whole country are driven mad on a daily basis by the
"demomstrations" in support of a currupted man and a former president Sali
Berisha, the critical implications gave specific museum connotations and at
the same moment to the IRWIN performance in which real Albanian soldiers
guarded the raised flag of NSK, the Slovenian group famous for its
anti-totalitarian artistic tactics.

The show had a competition part as well (titled "Onufri'98", after the name
of the almost mythological figure of an Albanian icon painter from the 13th
century), which was meant meant to raise here the status of contemporary
art. The international jury of Giancarlo Politi, Jan Dibbets, Suzana
Milevska, Graham Crawly, etc. awarded two Grand Prizes: the National one -
to the young Albanian artist Alban Hejdini for his untitled installation
where the monstrous ready-made crates for shells on the floor, full with
fragments of human corpses, are juxtaposed to the elegantly framed color
photos of kitchy knickknacks on the wall; and the International prize to
the Bulgarian artist Luchezar Boyadjiev for his work "See You, See Me, See
That Tree", in which the black and white computer print-out of the collaged
Jacues Callot's "The Great Misfortunes of War" with the walking in male &
female, Adam & Eve-like figures, is placed behind a blocking wall and can
be seen only through spy holes as a metaphor of the total informational
voyeurism of TV nowadays.

Taking place in an art context which is largely governed by old structures
and attitudes of uncompromising devotion to traditional media, the show
trigered a lot of reaction and debate both with the general public and the
professional circles thus fullfilling radically one of its main goals - to
function as an instrument for changing the art situation in the country,
namely, underlining the fact that contemporary art is not just about beauty
but more about truth, no matter how one would define it, and a valid
powerful instrument of reflection on the most complex issues of life today.

							Iara Boubnova