Gerta Xhaferaj: 16'
July 1st - August 18th 2023
Being intuitively drawn to working in a documentary manner, in her work Gerta Xhaferaj deals with the topics of cultural identity, dynamics of the urban area, transformations of the city and retroactive changes of self and memory. The exhibition 16' delves into these themes by presenting them through an ambiental installation where she combines sound, video and photography with the elements of construction that can be seen on the streets of contemporary Albania.
Aesthetic Abortion is a series of photographs that explores the structural character of urban peripheries in Tirana, Albania’s capital city. The series deals with the aesthetic legacy of the periphery, recording the visual identity of a zone and at the same time mourning the violence that has fundamentally transformed the character of that site. Aesthetic Abortion documents houses constructed in the Astir neighbourhood, on the western periphery of Tirana. Each photograph in the series focuses on a single structure, and the aesthetic multiplicity of these structures reflects their informal genesis. These houses represent a contemporary architectural vernacular that is common in Albania, where post-socialist hopes of economic success and stability led citizens to construct private homes in many urban peripheries, utilizing their own design, without the help of professional architects. These structures were frequently built without proper planning permission, but they were also completed in an ambiguous legal context, in which informality was the norm and the bureaucracy necessary to obtain these permits made them — practically speaking — difficult or impossible for many citizens to obtain. Subsequent efforts on the part of residents to legalize their homes have sometimes dragged on for more than a decade, leaving families in limbo.
A destiny of one such home is presented in the video entitled 16’ which delves into the aesthetical and political relevance of a collapsing house and the profound philosophical significance imbued within the notion of home. It embarks on a meticulous artistic speculation, approaching the essence of what a domicile truly represents, while contemplating its profound entanglement with memory and the structures of belonging. It is a story about the house that’s being built for 30 years and demolished in 16 minutes. The placement of this house in the suburbs of Tirana, Albania, bestows upon it an additional stratum of intricacy and complexity. The informal construction that burgeoned in the aftermath of the nation's dictatorship mirrors the indomitable human urge for shelter and security amid the waves of political and societal transformation. These hastily erected structures embody both resilience and fragility, a subversive political potency but also a weak derivative of power games, serving as an apt reflection of the tumultuous history that pervades the very kernel of the nation.
In "The Poetics of Space", Gaston Bachelard navigates the psychological dimensions of home and its profound impact upon human consciousness. He posits that our homes act as vessels of remembrance, shaping our identities and endowing us with a sense of rootedness. A house, with its rooms, corners, and concealed crevices, metamorphoses into a receptacle for our most intimate experiences—a repository of cherished moments that shape our perception of self. Hence, the collapse of a house signifies not solely the loss of a physical structure, but also the disentangling of an intimacy, of a block of memories, and a rupture in the very essence of belonging. It serves as a peculiar reminder of the impermanence that permeates our material existence and the fragility of the bonds we forge with the spaces we inhabit.
Abundance of inconsistencies of the aesthetical features of the presented structures, the monumentality of the destruction as shown in the video, and construction elements infiltrated into the exhibition space with the echoing sound of the collapse are aimed to evoke the sensations of a feist. To intensify this ambient, during the opening the artist offers an analogy between eating the cake in the shape of one of the houses presented in the photographs and destroying a house. If a house can be destroyed in 16 minutes, how much does it take for a cake to be eaten?
Gerta Xhaferaj (b. 1993, Fier, Albania) is a visual artist who lives and works in Basel, Switzerland. She studied architecture in Tirana, where she received her MSc. degree in 2017. She is currently pursuing an MA program in Fine Arts at the FHNW University of Art and Design in Basel. Gerta’s work has been exhibited in: Museum of Contemporary Art Skopje (2023); Manifesta Biennial 14, Prishtina (2022); Zeta Contemporary Art Center Tirana (2022); Boulevard Art & Media Institute; Tirana (2022); Vogue Photo Festival; Milan; (2021); Ecumene Project, Bologna (2021); Bazament Art Space, Tirana (2020 - 2021); Galeria e Bregdetit, Vlora (2019); COD - Center for Openness and Dialogue, Tirana (2019) amongst others and she is a finalist at "Ardhje Award 2022" at ZETA Contemporary Art Center in Tirana. She is a 2022 winner of the VID Grant Financial Prize by the VID Foundation for Photography, Amsterdam.
The exhibition is part of the "Spaces of Empowerment" program that the "Culture Hub Croatia" Platform is implementing in 2023 as part of the Prostor creative hub. The exhibition is co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia. The work of the Platform "Culture Hub Croatia" is supported by the National Foundation for the Development of Civil Society and the Kultura nova Foundation.
Curator: Jasmina Šarić / Technical setup: Marino Vukasović / Assistant: Lotta Erkkilä