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 Armando Lulaj Albanian Trilogy: A Series of Devious Stratagems

Pavilion of Albania at the 56th International Art Exhibition, Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy 2015. A project by Armando Lulaj, curated by Marco Scotini

Albanian Trilogy: A Series of Devious Stratagems, a project by Armando Lulaj curated by Marco Scotini, is a reflection on Albanian social history, a single narrative corpus articulated over three distinct moments: Albanian Trilogy is a sort of time capsule of the past, with strange memorabilia and trophies which presents, contemporaneously, fiction and documentary material. Combining evocation and documentation, the project concentrates on a historic-political phase that was extremely important for the building of an identity that was not just Albanian but international. On display are three videos and archival materials, as well as an enormous whale’s skeleton, which is both protagonist and silent witness—an incarnation of the giant-Leviathan, the Hobbesian principle of sovereignty.
For Armando Lulaj (Tirana, 1980) Albanian Trilogy represents the conclusion of many years of research into the period of the Cold War in Albania and, in particular, on the relative themes of collective memory and historic experience, brought together in a film trilogy - in which three mythical fetishes symbolize sea, air and land.
The first work in this series is It Wears as It Grows (2011), the second piece of the trilogy is the well-known project NEVER (2012), while the third video Recapitulation (2015) was created specifically for the 2015 Venice Biennial. Lulaj’s work plays, above all, on the lapses in history: as the curator, Marco Scotini, states: “it reveals a friable terrain where one expects to find potent and unmovable representations”.
In Albanian Trilogy, Lulaj’s artistic research into the specters of socialism and Scotini’s curatorial research on the politics of memory arrive at an important common result.

Albanian Trilogy, a Series of Devious Stratagems by Armando Lulaj
The Albanian Pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition in Venice, La Biennale di Venezia
Arsenale, 2015
External view

Albanian Trilogy, a Series of Devious Stratagems by Armando Lulaj 
The Albanian Pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition in Venice, La Biennale di Venezia Arsenale, 2015 External view. The pavilion’s display wants to maintain the constituent duplicity between the episodes of the past as starting points but also as escape points in their artistic re-enactment in the three films of Albanian Trilogy. In order to mark out the gap between the past and the present, the exhibition pavilion has been transformed into a double museum: on the one side, exhibits and documents in their original state are set out in a display and, on the other, their return in a different and altered state becomes visible in the cycle of video projections.

On May 25, 1959, at the height of the Cold War, Nikita Khrushchev visited Albania to discuss the Soviet Union’s plans to arm Enver Hoxha's state with submarines and warships, positioning long and medium-range missiles along the Albanian coast, in order to counter the U.S. missile bases installed in Italy for the sake of controlling the Mediterranean. In 1963, after the break in relations with the USSR, the Albanian navy, in a paranoid fear of enemy attacks, sighted an object that repeatedly appeared and disappeared at the surface of the sea off the coast at Patok. Believing it to be a submarine, they shot it. The object turned out to be a cachalot (Physeter macrocephalus), the Mediterranean sperm whale. After being recovered, the whale's remains were displayed in the Museum of Natural History in Tirana.

From 1968, at the hight of the Cultural and Ideological Revolution, until the fall of the Communist regime in 1990, the Institute of Marxist... Leninist Studies at the Central Committee of the Labor Party of Albania supervised the integral publication of the seventy-one volumes of Enver Hoxha's Works. Spanning his entire career, first as military leader during the National Anti­ Fascist Liberation War, and later as First or General Secretary of the Labor Party of Albania, it contains extracts of reports, keynote speeches, diary notes, and theoretical tracts dealing with everything from agrarian reform and art theory to political analyses and seething critiques of his imperialist and revisionist opponents - subsequently of the Yugoslavian, Soviet, and Chinese kind. In each of the seventy-one volumes, the frontispiece that depicts Hoxha has been replaced with an image of one of the seventy-one bones of the cachalot displayed in front of it, its natural body reintegrated into the political one.

NEVER, Film, Full HD video 8/W and Color, Sound 22'
In 1968, during the Cultural and Ideological Revolution, when the relations between China and Albania reached their zenith, the Albanian LaborParty made a grandiose commitment to the magnificence of the figure of their despot, Enver Hoxha. Hundreds of young people were forcedto join the Albanian People's Army in this undertaking, covering a surface of 36,000 square meters with massive, white..painted stones, spellingout the dictator's first name on the steep side of Mount Shpirag overlooking Berat, the ancient, 2,500-year-old town. In 1993, after the fall of Communism, the Democratic Party came to power. At the party's order the army attempted to destroy the letters on the side of mountain, using napalmand heavy military equipment. The fire caused by the explosions failedto fully destroy the letters, while two soldiers were burned alive. After this defeat, time has passed by and what remained of the inscription was covered by bushes and weeds.

NEVER, film, Full HD video B/W and Color, Sound, 22', 2012. Directed by Armando Lulaj Produced by Armando Lulaj Paolo Maria Deanesi Gallery

IT WEARS AS IT GROWS
Film, RED transferred to Full HD, 8/W and Color, Sound 18'On May 25, 1959, at the height of the Cold War, Nikita Khrushchev visited Albania. Soviet plans to arm Enver Hoxha's state with submarines and warships, positioning long and medium-range missiles along the Albanian coast, were devised to counter the US missile bases installed in Italy in order to control the Mediterranean. A large number of young Albaniansailors took part in military training under the Soviet army. In 1963, after the break in relations with the USSR, the Albanian navy, in paranoid fear of enemy attack, sighted an object that repeatedly appeared and vanished in the sea off the coast at Patok. Believing it to be a submarine, they fired. The object was in fact a cachalot {Physeter macrocephalus L.. ), the Mediterranean sperm whale. After being recovered, its remains were displayed in the Natural History Museum in Tirana, where it canstill be found.

IT WEARS AS IT GROWS
RED transferred to full HD B/W and Color, Sound, 18', 2011. Written and directed by Armando Lulaj Produced by DebatikCenter Film Artra Gallery cinqueesei

RECAPITULATION
Film, RED transferred to Full HD8/W and Color, Sound 13'. On December 23, 1957, at 11:10 AM, a US Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star aircraft flown by Major Howard J. Curran left Chateauroux, France, heading for Naples, Italy. Above Turin, the aircraft radio failed and after hitting bad weather with strong winds, the plane veered off its flight path to end up, by mistake, in the sovereign airspace of the People's Republic of Albania. At 1:28 PM, the intruder was intercepted by the Albanian Air Force Command, which instantly ordered two MiG-15 fighter jets to take off and identify it. By 3:50 PM, the fighters reported that they had spotted the intruder in the area around Rinas Airport, flying at 500-650 km/hr at an altitude of 150-200 m. Prompt countermeasures were taken. The airplane was forced to land and, to keep it from taking off again, the airport was locked down.

RECAPITULATION
RED transfered to full HD, duration 13min, b:w. color. sound, 2015, Courtesy of DebatikCenter Film

Catalogue
The publication, in the form of a historical atlas, is published by Sternberg Press, Berlin and is edited by Marco Scotini and designed by Dallas (Francesco Valtolina & Kevin Pedron). The book is seen as an extension of the exhibition and includes the following essays:The Science of Whales: Narratives of power and invention of the enemy – Marco ScotiniWritten. (Erased.) Rewritten. – Elidor MëhilliMemories of Hybrid Communism. – Boris GroysThe War for Truth – A conversation between Hou Hanru and Armando LulajThe Poetic Violence of Decay – Edi MukaCinema and Performance in “Albanian Trilogy: A Series of Devious Stratagems” – Jonida Gashi
Credits: Exhibit

Artist
Armando Lulaj

Curator
Marco Scotini

Deputy Curator
Andris Brinkmanis

Commissioner
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Albania

Exhibition Graphics and Web Design
Dallas (Francesco Valtolina & Kevin Pedron)

Web Development
Pablo Galbusera

Website Coordinator
Alessandro Azzoni

Exhibition Design, Outfitting
Luigi D'Oro architect & Arguzia s.r.l.

Display Rendering
Ruben De Sousa
Giovanni Valentinis

Transport
Lamitrans Albania Sh.p.k.

Insurance
Sigal Uniqa Group Austria

Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Albania

Credits: All media
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