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This is not a Palmtree


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

neurotitan, Berlin November 2016

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.

(text Annika Hirsekorn)

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