• Petrit Halilaj. Shkrepëtima

    texts by Leonardo Bigazzi, Beatrice Merz, Nina Zimmer, Petrit Halilalj, Sala Ahmetaj
    pages: 160
    format: 23 x 27 cm
    date of publication: May 2019
    binding: hardback
    language: Italian/English
    isbn 9788877572769


    This catalogue is published on the occasion of the exhibition Petrit Halilaj. Shkrepëtima curated by Leonardo Bigazzi and held at Fondazione Merz from 29th October 2018 to 17th February 2019. “In recent years, Petrit Halilaj has succeeded in transforming his own biography and the recent history of his nation, Kosovo, into living matter for his works. Despite working with a public and collective dimension, his work often originates from a personal experience, and is usually the result of an intimate process shared with the people dearest to him. Using sculpture, video, performance and drawing, Halilaj has developed a deep reflection on the construction mechanisms of cultural identity, on the value of memory and on the role of art in the shaping of collective consciousness in contemporary society. Shkrepëtima is a project which also includes the solo exhibitions at the Paul Klee Zentrum in Bern and the performance that was held in the ruins of the former Runik Culture House, which for over thirty years had been the symbol of the cultural identity of its citizens. The whole community was involved in the project, through presentations, meetings and a workshop with elementary school students. The last stage of the entire project was the re-contextualisation in the form of sculptures and monumental installations, of the sets, costumes and props of the performance in the exhibition space of the Fondazione Merz in Turin. The images of the performance are shown in a single-channel video (Shkrepëtima, 2018) in which parts of the 4K filming of the performance alternate with those made by the artist in a more subjective manner with his Go-Pro inside the ruins of the House of Culture before the redevelopment. This kind of film, deliberately of an ‘amateurish’ style, is an integral part of Halilaj’s research process and constitutes today most of his video production. Each project generates dozens of hours of footage made by the artist, often for documentation purposes, and in most cases is not used in the production of a work. We might add that the title Shkrepëtima summarises the very essence of the artist’s vision. Art can be a ‘spark’ able to restart a process of reflection on our identity, and represents an opportunity to imagine alternative hypotheses where today’s politics and current economics have already clearly failed. The fate of Runik’s House of Culture remained uncertain, but following the performance the Ministry of Culture ordered the inclusion of the building in the list of property declared to be of national interest, guaranteeing its future restoration. In recent years, Halilaj’s work has therefore sought concrete solutions to real problems using not only the freedom, but also the economies of the art system. Everyone should have the right to have access to beauty, not just those who can afford to enter a museum or live in a Western city. Albeit in different contexts and on different scales, the processes recall the practice of socially engaged artists like Theaster Gates. By intervening directly on the processes of construction of the collective history of his community, and by bringing it closer to its origins, Halilaj proposes a universal reflection on the potential of art and its power to transform reality. But also on the fundamental role it can play in building a people’s historical awareness and in managing the responsibilities of memory, so that this be inclusive and therefore able to reject a nationalist rhetoric. Starting from the story of a small country seemingly far from us, Halilaj reminds us that only through a deep awareness of our past can we assume the correct responsibility to build the future.” (Leonardo Bigazzi)
  • Petrit Halilaj. Shkrepëtima

    with a text by Leonardo Bigazzi
    pages: 24
    format: 23 x 27 cm
    date of publication: October 2018
    binding: paperback
    language: Italian/English
    isbn 9788877572745


    This small publication has been printed on the occasion of the exhibition Shkrepëtima by Petrit Halilaj (29 October 2018 - 17 February 2019) held at Fondazione Merz.   The Shkrepëtima project presented at the Fondazione Merz continues the artist’s investigation into the historical roots of Runik, the little Kosovar town in which he grew up, from its Neolithic origins to its recent past. The exhibition is the culminating and conclusive moment of the project, entirely produced by the Fondazione Merz. The first and fundamental chapter of the project was the performance held on 7 July 2018 in the ruins of the Runik Culture House, which for over thirty years had been the symbol of the cultural identity of its citizens. This show was followed by another, at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Berne, Switzerland (20 July - 19 August 2018). The exhibition presents a new series of sculptures and monumental installations that re-contextualise the settings, costumes and stage props of the performance inside the exhibition space. In the work of Halilaj the ruins of the Culture Centre take on a voice to recount history, becoming the expression of a precise will to remember the past in a context in which the desire for removal of memory is very strong. Through his dreamlike and visionary language, Halilaj has achieved a surprising balance between the weight of the history of these fragments and the physical lightness arising from their suspension. Inside the Fondazione Merz, a former 1930s industrial structure, the artist has reconstructed the proportions and volumes of Runik’s Cultural Centre using the wooden stage sets of the performance. Halilaj has managed to relate the two buildings and two very different realities, which certainly represent a point of reference for the communities that were born and grew around them. His intervention reminds us not only of the centrality of the places of memory in the construction of our identity, but also that their potential is not necessarily limited to a city or a nation, and can be expressed in various forms, generating a space of shared reflection.