The Art of Memory
“If we were to reflect on the argument between art and society, the multiple art movements of the past century would come to mind; activist art movements with the purpose of reflecting or changing the logic regarding the position of art in the society of that time.
The 20th century was the most meaningful one for humanity… and especially for the evolution (not revolution) of mankind, because mankind was finally able to realise that the main element of the collective decay by using war as a controlling tool, was itself. World War II was the peak of society’s madness, and it showed clearly what mankind was capable of.
Mankind was able to build many divisive walls but it was able to tear them down as well. For this reason, the ‘wall’ became a symbolic element, which symbolized the airtight enclosure of society, through the realization that it was mankind itself that had built that wall.
All of us are in a constant and never-ending physical, mental, spiritual, and political development. We all know now that walls are nothing more than symbolism for a closed anti-human cube, for anti-communication.
The artist Alketa Xhafa Mripa, through her installation Even Walls Have Ears (EWHE), dives physically and conceptually into historic memory, by proposing the wall’s symbolism as a sensory element, as a wall that could listen in order to survey man’s freedom during the brutal period of Communist Dictatorship in Albania. EWHE is a multidimensional installation, in the form of projected writing in several Albanian cities.
This work, bases its context in the shape of an art installation about the collective memory from the painful past of many Albanian individuals who lost their freedom or lives inside the prisons and concentration camps of the communist dictatorship throughout the years 1945 – 1990.
With this installation work, the Artist is trying to get deep under the skin that’s damaged from pain and the denial of the core element of human existence; INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM AND THE FREEDOM OF THOUGHT!
The artist tries to be a bridge-element in history, getting inspiration from the responsibility that comes from the strength of public acts; by not considering contemporary art as a ‘narrow’ medium which is to be exposed only on conventional spaces such as museums, galleries, etc. She instead proposes the urban space as an interactive collector with works that are as much installations as they are performances, thus assigning a gargantuan meaning to the collective international awareness.
Her work is an open-space-memory, where the line between the public and conceptual art gives birth to no conflictual problems. On the contrary, it makes her work even more straightforward and inclusive. It is precisely this that increases the intensity of the question: Can art influence wrong politics?
The artist has traveled across Albania (throughout the period 19-28 February 2018), and has documented many testimonies from art personalities, intellectuals, or simple people, who have experienced their own personal dramas in the inhumane prisons of the communist regime.
From the different citations extracted from these confessions, the artist has picked these citations which she will project in several Albanian cities such as:
Tirana, Shkoder, Gjirokaster, Korce, Tepelene, Berat, thus transforming the Albanian landscape into an installation/projection with words made of light, which will serve to instigate a dialogue about the memory of the dramatic past, from which the country has yet to be freed.
Alketa Xhafa-Mripa was born in Kosovo, in a magical land with a dramatic historical past where war made the human existence questionable; for this reason, she moved to England. She is known for her artwork and her public engagement with the aim to bring upon change in the society where the Artist lives. (Europe and Balkans.)
Her work Thinking of You (Football Field, Prishtine 2015) which was created in Kosovo, is an installation that includes 5000 outfits which were showcased in the capital’s football stadium. This work helped Kosovo speak openly about the rapes committed during the war-time. Her latest work titled We Welcome Refugees (Tate, London 2017), is an installation on the back of a truck which moved throughout Great Britain, inviting the public for tea in order to share her reflections about the subject of hospitality in England.
Both of these examples show her approach as an activist artist. Her work engages the public space so that it can address socio-political issues in order to encourage the involvement of the community so that art can become a tool to bring about social and conceptual change.
Even Walls Have Ears is her biggest actual public project, as an engagement against anti-human dictatorship.
The artist’s report is complex, and like a positive virus, she infiltrates the darkest corners of fatal politics, reacting face to face and turning her art into the shape of ‘plateau de l’humanite’ (human podium).”
– Klod Dedja, Curator of Contemporary Art M.A.M. Foundation
Special thanks to the following municipalities and the mayors for their support for the lighting installation in each of their cities: Tirana – The Honorable Mayor Erion Veliaj; Shkodër – The Honorable Mayor Voltana Ademi; Durrës – The Honorable Mayor Vangjush Dako; Korça – The Honorable Mayor Sotiraq Filom. Gjirokastra – The Honorable Mayor Zamira Rami, Berat – The Honorable Mayor Fadil Nasufi.