Iara Boubnova on Mon, 25 Jan 1999 19:02:17 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Permanent Instability, Tirana (report)

[By way of Geert Lovink]

"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

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

							Iara Boubnova

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