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neurotitan shop & gallery
07.11.2015 - 28.11.2016
this is not a palm tree
Alban Muja | Artan Hajrullahu | Atdhe Mulla | Dren Maliqi | Driant Zeneli | Endri Dani | Enkelejd Zonja | Haveit | Ilir Kaso | Jakup Ferri | Jeton Muja | Koja | Ledia Kostandini | Majlinda Hoxha | Olson Lamaj | Remijon Pronja | Silva Agostini
opening on the 11th of November at 7pm
The group exhibition “This Is Not a Palm Tree” focuses on the work of young Albanian and Kosovar artists. For the first time in this form in Berlin, protagonists of the contemporary art scene in both countries will be collectively juxtaposed. The artists on display attempt to approach the multi-layered manifestations of collectivised memory and national identity in their home countries – both discourses which play an imperative role in current art from both countries.
To envelop individual artistic positions under a national context seems stifling, even anachronistic and out of place, in the face of global realities such as mass migration and trans-cultural, hybrid identities. At the same time, however, an art conception that moves in an international context also needs to create a space, in which local connections and differences can be named and discussed. Albania and Kosovo today are still strongly informed by their communist past; Albania, who only since 1991 could begin to slowly emerge from near total isolation under the dictatorial regime of Enver Hoxha, and Kosovo, the former province of socialist Yugoslavia, whose 2008 declaration of independence makes it one of the world’s youngest sovereign states, albeit one still fighting for global recognition. Due to their communist legacies, both pasts are informed by state dictated image-politics as well as the current construction and manipulation of national commemorative and founding myths. The juxtaposition of artistic positions that deal with the historical and current commemorative and representational politics of two states that consider themselves one people opens another dimension: not only will the respective Kosovar and Albanian state ideologies be questioned, but also this constitution of a commonality – the narrative of Albanian as an ethnicity, homeland, culture and tradition.
The exhibition’s title “This Is Not a Palm Tree” references a widespread image on facades of Kosovar homes: the mosaic of a palm tree, mostly formed by bigger brown and grey ornamental stones, with the leaves not always shaded by green. To interpret these facade ornaments as a reference to Albania may seem far-fetched but is, in fact, not without reason. Most Kosovars identify Albania as the motherland at the same time that they clearly feel Kosovar with regards to their nation. Thus the Albanian flag, for example, is omnipresent in the small country, and palm trees, that do not exist here, can only be found behind the border, on the way to Tirana or at the beaches of Albania, where many Kosovars spend their holidays now that this is possible again. Albania, where palm trees do grow, and which is so near, yet has been out of reach for so long, retains its mythic qualities – as a place of longing and the true homeland.
At the same time, “This Is Not a Palm Tree” also alludes to Belgian painter René Magritte’s famous caption “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This Is Not a Pipe). In his 1928 work “La trahesion des images” (The Treachery of Images) Magritte examines the complicated relationship between an assumed reality and its representation by means of pictorial and linguistic signs. A pursuit whose continuation of thought can be read, for example, in Driant Zeneli’s work “This Is a Castle”. In 2010 the young Albanian artist travelled his home country in order to document the new Albanian castle buildings that are used as restaurants, hotels and suchlike. This building trend in Albania clearly bears witness of a local architecture that references folk myths – an architecture that pretends to be something that it is not, that thus appears short-lived and naïve, whereby it bears analogy to that conceived palm tree metaphor.
At bottom “This Is Not a Palm Tree” neither can nor wants to present a profound analysis of the two countries’ recent pasts’ relationship in any detail, nor wants to elaborate how the different starting points have influenced, and continue to influence, the national identity building and commemorative politics with their narratives in both Abanian and Kosovar society. But juxtaposing the young contemporary art scenes of Albania and Kosovo does enable us to trace a line – between communism, old and new ideologies, Albania, Kosovo and Albanian. “This Is Not a Palm Tree” highlights how local representatives of this art scene analytically, cleverly and ironically deconstruct state dictated memories and identities in a formally convincing manner, and thereby make their art contribute to future discourses within local image politics.
Alban Muja’s artistic position is in a way very specific since it reflects and comments contemporary society and its burdens but mostly in very specific geo – political context. In a way, his artworks are permeated with the bitterness of the geopolitical, social and artistic system, which is communicated by individual artistic acts – some ironic, some intimate but always critical.
Artan Hajrullahu (*1979, Kosovo), studied painting at the academy of art in Pristina. Daily life and nostalgia are major topics in his work. His drawings are represented in a delicate way and express scenes of human being as well as the nostalgia of the artist’s childhood. He creates poetic stories in which the link between human being and household objects remains important. Hajrullahu lectures painting at the high school of visual arts in Gjilan.
Atdhe Mulla works a freelance photographer, among others for the magazine Kosovo 2.0. For him photography is still considered a realist medium; “A medium in a natural relation with the visible world so that many people believe a photograph tells the truth, or shows the world as it is. But not the professionals. They know how a photograph can lie and manipulate reality” In his work Mulla provides a look into the process of photography. The artist investigate how the medium of photography is used in a time of almost full access to worldwide sharing, and the challenges and opportunities that this situation provides for the expansion of creativity, as well as the constant exploration of the medium of photography itself.
Dren Maliqi explores images displaying the tensions of a world triumphantly taken over by liberalism and individualism, but also a world still strongly influenced by the legacy of collectivist ideologies and institutions. Maliqi uses the experience of Pop Art as a starting point for his topics, respectively he uses the images of the individual’s diminution and pallor in a society characterized by mass consumption. In a subtle way, he de-taboos cult ideals and modern day symbols from his homeland.
Driant Zeneli’s (born in 1983 in Shkoder, Albania) whole body of research aims to challenge physical and intellectual’s limits by staging ironic and dreamlike situations, sometimes absurd. He explores the importance of performative attempts through his personal involvement or through someone else’s participation. In his work the aim of redefining the idea of failure, utopia and dream - as foundational moments for building a possible alternative - is at the core of these actions, as well as of other works that investigate how art can intervene on didactic practice and possibly redefine it.
Endri Dani was born in 1987 in Shkodra, Albania. He lives and works as an artist and graphic designer in Tirana, Albania. He also is co-founder of MIZA gallery, an artist-run gallery in Tirana, dedicated to the work of emerging Albanian artists. “My training as a painter permeates my photographs, videos and installations which tend to incorporate found objects; artifacts of ordinary life; elements of Albania’s history; and souvenirs. My recent work has been largely research oriented, dealing with the predicaments of Albanian life and its underlying paradoxes, particularly as they manifest themselves in material and consumer culture. I am inspired by subjects that have touched me personally, or stories arising from my daily encounters. I try to let experientially derived insights slide poetically towards a sort of fictional space where everything is possible.”
“My main focus is centered on video animation. Regarding my artistic work, I'm trying to be very clear in that what I present to the public. Always I was inspired by classic animated movies like Walt Disney and even more from Japanese animations. I think it's because of the simplicity of implementation. I began this journey of experimenting with animation as an autodidact, drawing in frames and animating in other techniques like stop-motion and 3D. Usually I choose surrealistic topics, leaving part for the exaggerated imagination.”
“Haveit is a group of four girls that tend to go beyond everyday pleasure, moralistic rules and refuse to agree with the matters that are being served. We won't do anything except tell our and your story!”
Ilir Kaso was born 1982 in Përmet, Albania. He graduated in 2005 from the Academy of Arts in Tirana. He is a lecturer at the University of Arts of Tirana. Kaso’s works deal with experimental cognitive techniques as a way to understand better the metaphysics in art. He tries to understand what the best tool for comprehensively expressing the subject is. His creativity is merely a continuous bridge towards the “small” family world and the possessive onsumer’s one of unclear values.
While I was studying (1999-2004), my city Pristina was invisible and isolated from the western (art) world. This became an influence for my work, its content and its appearance. The awareness of the political situation; the invisibility of my country within the artworld and the alienation from western art from which art students like myself suffered, resulted in a series of video's. I used myself as the main protagonist in these videos to establish an ironic distance to issues of cultural identity, history and the place of the peripheral artist. Since these last few years, I have been focusing more on the works on paper and wall-paintings. My drawings often show circumstances in which people are alienated from their surroundings. Moreover, questions involving identity and the status of the outsider become an important role in my oeuvre. Ordinary practices from everyday life, critique of the cynicism of the art world and memories from my personal background have all become recurring subjects within my work.
Jeton Muja’s art practice has always been dedicated to investigation and research of different media, themes and ways of expression. Since 2004, his essential leitmotiv has been the syntagma “Investigation continues”, the slogan used in his home country for the people who disappeared during the war and after the war . He has been articulating the concept of investigation through drawings, videos, installations and performances.
Through a language of displacement and fragmentation, a set of objects, images and memories articulate the process of the home becoming unhomely and the
The artworks by Olson Lamaj act in real contexts to overwhelm or create disorder, seducing and hypnotizing the viewer. His research could be called said ‘borrow-based’, where images and situations belonging to the community are re-elaborated becoming reflections on human existential nature. Or they represent a sort of institutional critic without any judge on social and cultural dynamics of the milieu where the artworks are shown. Far from being nostalgic or plaintive, he basically acts as a fighter then as a victim. In his work there’s always an element typical of the parody, and this represents a Lamaj’s attitude expressed in a way similar to a “grin” rather than laughing. Highlighting the ambiguity or the two faces of the same ‘coin’, in his works he uses photography, video or installation. But they merely are functional means to convey a message than structural parts of his practice. In 2012 Lamaj was a co-founder of MIZA Gallery, an artist-run space in the heart of Tirana that plays like an exhibiting vitrine for Albanian young artists to host and develop artistic projects in order to spark and increase the debate around the Albanian contemporary art scene.
Remijon Pronja, an artist born 1984 in Tirana, started his studies in the Artistic Lyceum “Jordan Misja” in Tirana, in order to pursue his dream for studying in the Academy of Beautiful Arts in Brera Milan. He comes back in Albania after the studies to continue his artistic activity and meanwhile trying to find himself among the enriched Albanian art values and his personal achievements in Italy. Many of his works deal with social themes - treated by different techniques, they have a geopolitical side as well. Pronja is questioning personal identity which goes through many changes in the course of our journey and becomes the cause of so many questions about ourselves and the society we live in. Remijon Pronja is co-founder of MIZA gallery, founded in 2012.
Marie-Luise Hetzel curatorial assistance
in cooperation with