The eternal dissident

novelle_vaghe

by Marco Fantini

Intro

I made two trips to Albania. The first time I was there was in 2006 as I was invited to talk to the students of the Academy in Tirana. The second time was eight years later, on the occasion of my solo exhibition which took place at the Promenade Gallery in Valona (“Personal Issues“). These were two different geographic experiences. In 2006 Tirana was a city-country, a cluster of decrepit buildings placed side by side with the first emblems of the urban reconstruction. Its cultural life was inside the city itself, confined to the maze of circles of writers, artists and intellectuals wrapped by a strange atmosphere of secrecy and elitism. Today Tirana is a modern and transparent city: its boulevards, with the new asphalt, are busy with an evident cultural and economic vitality. Nevertheless, if you go out onto the inner main roads the chaotic and crumbling traces of the past resurface, making it similar – in several respects – to Mexico City, where I lived for nearly three years when I was young. My destiny is curious. The places where I lived and where I had the most important experiences in my life are similar to each other (I have genetically inherited Tirana as one of my home towns as my mother is of Albanian descent, even if these Albanian origins are mysterious and date back to remote times). What Venice, Mexico City and recently Hanoi share with Tirana is the coexistence of a still unresolved recent history and the allure of ancient glorious times. Summed up in one word: decay. Even my work as an artist seems to possess the stylistic touch of decadence. The same applies to the house where I live. Maybe it’s the karma…. no doubt, it is all the fault of Karma…
The fact is that, during my stay in these cities I had the opportunity to know various artists: those belonging to the new generations and the older ones, these latter having confronted the difficult dynamics of the totalitarian regime for nearly two decades. All of them have left an indelible mark on my memory. Certainly because of their intelligence and knowledge, but above all for the intensity and contrasts of their approach: a modus operandi that, in my opinion, goes beyond the mere sphere of contemporaneity and becomes a merely individual need to hide and at the same time reiterate the uniqueness of their voice in their work of art and through it. Albanian artists and intellectuals are the result of a disconcerting dilemma that grips them, as they feel torn between their personal identity and internationality. I believe that this dilemma represents the fundamental feature of their greatness. I dedicate the following text to all the Albanian friends I have met and to the young artists who are about to enter the scene.

It is well known that Albanian art and literature were the mirror image of socialist realism for nearly two decades. On the contrary, the flourishing of criticism during the years of totalitarianism is less well known but it is of crucial importance if we want to understand what the new generation of Albanian artists and the dissidents during the regime have in common.

For many years art criticism in Albania was the main control tool used by the organs of political power; a sophisticated tool through which an entire population was directed, persuaded and convinced to identify itself in the ideology of depersonalization. As a consequence, those artists, scholars and writers who had fought the subliminal violence of critical discourse through their own works were forced to put on this very same appearance and at the end were able, within their respective area of competence, to become antagonist clones with the same sophistication and cunning. This awareness is still present in the new generations and it crosses their work as an immanent fact. Following this reasoning, it would not be unreasonable to conjecture the persistence in the current art scene of a methodological approach borrowed from the necessities of the past: the coexistence in the work of the realistic and critic register.

There is almost no young Albanian artist – as anti-reactionary as he/she can be -who is unable to draw or paint from life. The academicism, this forced via crucis, in the art training and education of every student at the Academy of Tirana has become its hallmark, a shadow that accompanies it even in the most radical and unconventional experimentations; the inverted image of an inability to make use of the mere conceptual speculation.
For it seems that another expressive possibility outside the real fact doesn’t exist for Albanian artists. More than 30 years of socialist realism cannot be dismissed so easily: although denied, fought and opposed, even at the risk of one’s physical safety, these years are an unavoidable mnemonic and cultural heritage, a crutch, perhaps the only one, to lean on in order to try and find the way to look to the future and start again.

Still today Albanian Art is the subtle Art of dissent and denouncing, hidden in the folds of the formal rigour and nostalgia.The story of every Albanian seems to be the history of an irreversible destiny, and the above mentioned nostalgia seems to be the logical consequence of the Inevitable. Obliged to be subject to realism, both by the system and by the stratagems to fight it, Albanian artists have never cried out their anguish. They hold it back still today, in the silence and shadow, as if this were a vintage wine, a precious treasure to be shielded and protected.

The works created by the new generations seem to have the unmistakable signs of nostalgia inside, although they adhere to the aesthetic mode of contemporaneity and the new media are frequently used. Nostalgia for something that has never been experienced or not yet fully completed. The effects, also the aesthetic ones, brought about by realism, that persist in the techniques and poetics of today’s artists seem to be mitigated by the shadow carried by the dream.
A dream devoid of emphasis and expectations, which cannot be pronounced, not even within one’s own home.

A mature dream.
A dream full of calluses, pierced by wounds.
A dream with feet firmly planted on the ground.
A Real dream.

- Courtesy prometeogallery di Ida Pisani Milan,Lucca

Driant Zeneli, Some say the moon is easy to touch…– video- 2011 – 04’43”  – Courtesy prometeogallery di Ida Pisani Milan,Lucca

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Driant Zeneli, When i grow up i want to be an artist -  video, 2007, 21’55”, color, sound – Courtesy prometeogallery di Ida Pisani Milan – Lucca.

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Driant Zeneli, When i grow up i want to be an artist -  video, 2007, 21’55”, color, sound – Courtesy prometeogallery di Ida Pisani Milan – Lucca.

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ARTAN SHABANI, Utopia and devolution, acrylic dry on canvas, 2016, 70×100 cm

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Ardian Isufi, Antihomazh (anti tribute), Installation

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Ardian Isufi, Death of the artist, Video performance, 2012, 4 min, 55 sec

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ANRI SALA, Intervista, Video, stereo sound, 1998, 26 min

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ANRI SALA, Title suspended, resin, nitrile and electric moror, 2008, 26,37 x 43,30 x 14,17 inches

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ANILA RUBIKU, Albania, woman, justice and the law, Installation, 2013

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ANILA RUBIKU

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ANILA RUBIKU, Effacing memory, Installation, 2014

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Opera di pittore del periodo della dittatura _ collezione Marco Fantini

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