Adrian Paci’s exhibition is a successive show of the Transcultura Project started at Bunkier Sztuki in November 2006 by curators Magdalena Ujma and Anna Smolak. This is the team’s sixth individual project dealing with identity issues of inhabitants of a contemporary globalized Europe.
Having previously showed Iranians in Germany, Poles in Berlin or Norwegians and Czechs in Europe, Bunkier now presents the work of an Albanian artist who lives and works in Italy. Unlike the previous shows, Paci’s presentation seems extremely personal and autobiographical. The message is straightforward and clear. Videos show various periods of Paci’s artistic activity, utilizing diverse filmmaking techniques and styles.
Earlier work seems to be an objective representation of existing situations, like “Albanian stories” in which the artist’s three-year-old daughter tells strange fairy tales, and mixes these with images from the Albanian war reality. In her story, an imaginary cock and cow come together with multinational forces and explosions, illustrating the true history of her family. Other films are “staged.” Some reenact life situations, like “Believe me, I am an artist.”
This video shows Paci being questioned by police as a suspect of sexually abusing his own daughter after a Photography Lab reported seeing strange photos Paci shot of a little girl with an Albanian border exit stamp on her back. The sign is a metaphor for abandoning your country, explains Paci. It’s a mark that indicates how your life becomes part of your body. Although the situation is staged, it preserves a documentary-reportage atmosphere with minimal expression and the use of specific technical news-camera aesthetics. Showing an opposite approach is the film “Turn on.”
The ambiance is created with montage and sound. Text and narration are not as important. The film is an image of the artist’s hometown, illuminated by raw light bulbs and power generators, symbols of Albania’s energy crisis. This is an extremely beautiful and sensual picture of Albanian reality. Other films present fictional situations in a both theatrical and poetical manner. These are metaphorical films like “Vajtojca,” which is a funeral ceremony of the artist’s own death. It shows a stirring image of a woman ritualistically mourning over an artist’s body. Death becomes a symbol of transformation or even transfiguration of an emigrant into a new man.What ties the films together is their intimacy, small number of characters, use of narrow frames and the feeling of concentration and attention.
By focusing on himself and his experience, Paci invites a new perspective to the discourse of migration. He shifted a common analysis topic from focusing on relationships between “artist and society” to the relationship between “artist and his biography.” He changes the understanding of how being an emigrant shifts from fulfilling a cultural mask or role to bearing a specific mark, a stigma that remains and determines one’s life. Being an emigrant means to be a victim. Paci’s films also question the role of biography in artistic activity.
Paradoxically he denies that personal experiences play a vital role in his art. He searches through his biography to discover more general problems and definitions. What gives his work an aspect of timelessness is the aesthetics. Sublimity of religious rituals, theatrical situations and a sensual narration attitude distance us from the historical events that the work relates to, from the social or political focus and consequently from temporality. The films’ aesthetics imply a more existential and general perception.
Adrian Paci’s work builds on paradoxical aspects of proximity and distance, of the intimate and neutral, of objective and aesthetic, of being emotionally involved and withdrawn. This multitude of perspectives creates a complex image of an emigrant, outsider and uprooted man. The question is whether a man like this can become part of a trans-cultural society or whether he is merely food for those arguing that cultural borders are in fact impassable.
Adrian Paci, “Spaces In-Between.” Showing September 7-October 21 at Bunkier Sztuki, pl. Szczepanski 3a.