Lost and Found
Arta Agani, National Gallery of Kosovo
Lost and Found
For its third participation to the Art Biennale, the Republic of Kosovo has selected Sislej Xhafa to represent his country. With a politically and socially charged conceptual practice, Xhafa’s consistent pursuit is to find the human element in inhuman conditions.
His installation ‘Lost and Found’ is a symbol for the people who are still missing after the Kosovo War. The conflict ended in 1999 but of the many thousands that disappeared, 1664 people remain unaccounted for. The work consists of a small shed made of wooden pallets with a ‘lost and found’ sign and a telephone. The telephone never rings and refers to the families who are waiting to receive a phone call with news about their missing relative. The wooden pallets and the plastic wrap allude to the movement of people across the globe. At the opening days of the exhibition, a telall – a town crier figure – periodically announced the names of the missing.
For Xhafa, the power of art lies in its ability to question. In Venice, he wants to provide a space where visitors can think about human rights issues. The issues are not limited to Kosovo, but are becoming increasingly global and urgent: from basic human needs such as lack of food, shelter and education—to societal concerns such as the uncertainty of our shared future and increasing restrictions on personal freedom.
“The viewer will perceive displaced fragments of reality and questions begin to emerge. Simply by being removed from their usual surroundings, these fragments emit complex codes of both nostalgia and revolt, instilled with profound emotion by the artist that absorbs each and every phenomena with unusual sensitivity before translating them into a loud visual voice.”
Arta Agani, curator
Sislej Xhafa was born in Kosovo in 1970 and is based in New York City. Xhafa is known for works that could be described as ‘actions’ or conceptual strategies which challenge cultural stereotypes, preconceived prejudices and institutional structures. Often exploring the modes through which contemporary society functions, he investigates social, economic and political realities to ultimately critique consumerism and its driving mechanisms. The tangible social results of economic theories are at the heart of Sislej Xhafa’s artistic research, questioning the legal status of his country of origin, Kosovo.
Working in a variety of media from painting and drawing to sculpture and installation, his engagement with political dimensions is always indirect and implied, reflecting on social norms and strategies and the ways in which they are unconsciously manipulated.
Sislej Xhafa is an internationally recognized conceptual artist with an extensive oeuvre that spans the last 20 years. He has received numerous awards, recently incusing the Academic Honoré from the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy. He has a successful international career recognised by many leading museums and institutions and many of his public interventions and installations have become landmarks of the cities for which they were commissioned. He is represented by GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana; and BlainǀSouthern, London and Berlin.
” …..Gazmed Jusufi, Ismet Krasniqi, Rrustem Alia, Sahide Metushi, Shake Tahirsylaj, Magribe Kajolli, Mirko Buha, Sadri Demiri, Pjetër Preqaj, Vlladimir Spasic, Agron Berisha, Tomë Gjokaj, Albulena Kelmendi, Ndue Hasanaj, Emine Muhaxheri, Tereza Tunprenkaj, Basri Tupella, Lule Qerimaj, Zivka Stojkovic, Agim Bunjaku, Ejup Morina, Blerim Mehmeti, Lan Rexha, Armend Qerkezi, Milaim Batusha, Zylfije Krasniqi, Valbona Krasniqi, Laureta Shala, Naif Dugolli…..”
Viva Arte Viva
Kosovo will also be represented at the ‘Viva Arte Viva exhibition’ of Christine Macel by Petrit Halilaj. Growing up in a rural village in Kosovo during the Serbian-Kosovar war, Petrit Halilaj fled with his family after his house was razed to the ground. In his installations and sculptures, Halilaj explores this personal history and constructs dwellings and shelters that symbolize the personal space that was taken from his youth.
Review by The Venice Insider
The minimalist and conceptual work of Sislej Xhafa is installed at a perfect location in the old Arsenale. As there is only this solitary work, it was a very wise decision to put the sign with the explanation completely on the other side of the space. When you return to take a closer look, this gives you time to reflect on what you read and how you would cope in such a difficult situation. It’s almost impossible to imagine how these families must feel. The pavilion really succeeded in their goal to make a strong statement and to create awareness on this sensitive topic, which unfortunately is still relevant to our world. I really loved the pavilion. It forces you to stand still and think about the past and the future. It really touches the soul, as you can’t stop thinking about this for a very long time after your visit.
The Kosovo pavilion is one of my 8 favorite exhibitions which has a powerful message hidden underneath a beautiful work of art. Discover the other 7 pavilions in my post ‘The Art Biennale 2017 is not only about art’.
Katia – The Venice Insider
If you want to know more about the Art Biennale 2017 and the other national participations, this overview page is a good starting point or you can read my post ‘What to expect from the Art Biennale 2017’. If you want to be informed about new pavilions being added to the site, you can subscribe to The Venice Insider biweekly newsletter.
(Picture in banner: © Kosovo Pavilion)
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