ARTMargins Online Blog

Contemporary Art in/and Public Space: An Interview with Pleurad Xhafa

Written by Raino Isto

Preparing to make casts of the memorials to the victims of January 21 for Negative I-II-III-IV

Pleurad Xhafa is an artist living and working in Tirana, Albania. Xhafa studied in Bologna, and graduated with an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts, Bologna in 2012. Xhafa works primarily in video, photography, and installation, and his works address the politics of public space, commemoration, and labor in contemporary Albania. Recently, Xhafa's work appeared in Teatri i Gjelbërimit [The Theater of Greenery] at FAB Gallery, Tirana, and his works Mind Goes Blank, Eye is Gazing Into the Future (2010) and Breaking News (2013) are currently on view in Triple Feature #5 at Tirana Art Lab, Tirana. We spoke about the state of contemporary art in Albania, the relationship between art and public space, and the possibilities for contemporary art as a form of critique under neoliberalism. The following interview took place via email.

Read more: Contemporary Art in/and Public Space: An Interview with Pleurad Xhafa

"It's Very Exciting to Talk About Artist-run Countries": Edi Rama, the COD, and the Problematics of Celebrating the Artist-Politician

Written by Raino Isto

The dream of the artist's involvement in politics is not a new one. For well over a century, artists and critics have been engaged in debating the ideal combination of an ever-growing number of approaches: realism, aestheticized politics, politicized art, art-into-life, relational aesthetics, art-as-industry, and artivism, to name just a few. In the early 21st century, the avant-garde's desire that the artist might take up an active role in political processes continues to exercise a strong sway over curators, theoreticians of art, and artists themselves. It should come as no surprise, however, that many of the apparent examples of artists involved in politics are drawn from geopolitical peripheries, sustaining an image of small and geographically distant cities, nations, and regions as 'research and development' zones for debates that are then carried out at a remove in Western Europe and the United States. In this post, I examine the problematics around one particular example of an artist's involvement in politics: the case of Edi Rama, once mayor of Albania's capital city, Tirana, and now Prime Minister of the country. Rama's friendships with well-known contemporary artists such as Anri Sala, and curators such as Hans Ulrich Obrist, have made him a popular example of the possibilities of an artist entering the contemporary political realm. As Obrist put it in his introduction of Rama at a talk associated with an exhibition of Rama's work Marian Goodman Gallery in New York, "In the artworld we talk about artist-run spaces, but it's very exciting to talk about artist-run countries."

Read more: "It's Very Exciting to Talk About Artist-run Countries": Edi Rama, the COD, and the Problematics...

"For a Permanent Revolution in Switzerland!" Nadya Tolokonnikova presented her Book "How to Start a Revolution" in Zurich

Written by Matthias Meindl

It is eight pm and I am standing in the ballroom of Zurich's Kaufleuten, a chic locale in the 1990's, which has become ever more commercial since. The reading of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's Anleitung für eine Revolution (Manual for a Revolution) should start in a minute. As most of the readers will recall, Tolokonnikova was one of the three members of the art-activist group Pussy Riot who were convicted for their 'Punk Prayer' in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February 2012. She was sentenced (as was Mariya Alyokhina) to two years of hard labor for hooliganism and allegedly inciting violence against a social group (the orthodox believers).

Read more: "For a Permanent Revolution in Switzerland!" Nadya Tolokonnikova presented her Book "How to Start...

Schooling at Home and Abroad: Chto Delat's School of Engaged Art, or Winter Notes on Summer Impressions

Written by Matthias Meindl

Summer School with guest lecturer Boris Buden in Front of the building of Neues Deutschland

The Art Collective Chto Delat, based in Saint Petersburg, has been around for twelve years and is quite prolific. Members have participated in many of the major art biennales in the world and among others they have had solo shows at the Institute for Contemporary Art (2010), London, and the Vienna Secession (2014). Naturally, such an inexorable career has raised some doubts about the group's self-professed leftist agenda. in the case of the Chto Delat, criticism is, not only inevitable but also useful. Such criticism is inevitable on the one hand, because making left political art is always caught up in dialectical contradictions.

Read more: Schooling at Home and Abroad: Chto Delat's School of Engaged Art, or Winter Notes on Summer...

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