“Public Intimacy”

gent gjikola

“This pavilion brings together works from the 1960s onwards by three different Albanian artists creating in diverse art genres. It presents works by Safo Marko (1925–2012), probably Albania’s most talented 20th century female graphic artist and political poster designer; Shyqyri Sako (b.1937), one of the leading Albanian poster designers and film painters, especially during the years of the New Albania Film Studio (1952–1992), and Ilia Tërpini (1938–2018), one of the most renowned Albanian cinematographers from the1960s right up until the 2000s. The purpose of this pavilion is not to highlight undiscovered talent or some kind of well-deserved ‘delayed revenge’, shedding light on a generation of creative artists who were sunk by the country’s entrenched socialist system for exhibiting modernist affinities in art - it is not that and was not meant to be that! It is important to note that all the participating artists in this pavilion were involved in major projects of socialist realism in various fields of art. Therefore, I strongly emphasize that this pavilion is a curatorial effort to highlight the disregard, the avoidance, the circumvention, even anoutright fight against – on a technical, hierarchical and syllogistic level – by the dominant mode of socialist realism’s approach towards those fields of art demarcated and described as minor, preparatory, and even transitory, in which many of these artists excelled. Almost none of this kind of work is currently shown in our museums. It is somewhat absurd to think of it now, but on a strategic level, the non-inclusion of these genres as an expression of the creative range, within the system of socialist realism, brought onto this school of realist art far more of a recidivist reputation than it generally deserved. The existence of the works presented here is evidence of this proposal. Socialist realism dominated Albania as a genuine dogmatic art school and as zeitgeist for over thirty years (from the late 1950s well into the late 1980s). This is a period during which art was identified through towering and heroic work, culminating – literally and visually – in triumph and apotheosis. Fundamental aspects of human nature such as uninhibited behavior, the ordinary, the rudimentary, the despair, the longing, the uncontrolled emotion or the natural brutal sincerity, were reduced and almost eliminated from the concluding work, which almost always took final shape in epic painting, monumental sculpture, or film features filled with dramatic and heroic emotions. Socialist realism’s final work was explicitly presented as a hieratic placement with unambiguous, clear ideological readings and a statuesque orthodox formality. To use a parallelism well understood by a generation of Albanians who were born and lived between socialist realism and post- communist reality: the tractor vehicle was far more important for the system than the
tractor driver. Following the same logic, this pavilion is dedicated almost exclusively to the talent and working hours of those ‘tractor-drivers’ and ‘tractor mechanical interconnecting mechanisms’, far more important now, in this period, than the tractor- as-a-product of socialism itself. At a glance, it now seems rather clear that as the ‘political’ tractor rusts in the
shadows, insignificant, ruined and denied, many of its technical, artistic and intimate gears still shine and glint.
For this, we really have to thank postmodernism.” – Text by Genti Gjikola.

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