Presentation at SparwasserHQ, Berlin:

29 May 2007, 6pm

“KOSOVAR CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS ARE THE AVANGARDE OF __________________”. Rene Block, Prishtina 2003

Albert Heta
Sokol Beqiri (presented by Albert Heta)
Flaka Haliti
Jakup Ferri (presented by Flaka Haliti)

Moderator: Tobi Maier (curator, Frankfurter Kunstverein)

After initial encounters at the Academy remix Symposium at Städelschule in Frankfurt (2005) and the project Prishtina Sounds at the National Museum of Kosova (2006) critic and curator Tobi Maier has, together with SparwasserHQ, invited the Prishtina based artists Albert Heta and Flaka Haliti to Berlin. They will present their work and those of two fellow artists from Kosovo: Sokol Beqiri and Jakup Ferri within the context of Kosova’s changing socio-political realities.

The starting point for this evening talk and screening will be a text by Shkelzen Maliqi on the new work by Albert Heta “KOSOVAR CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS ARE THE AVANGARDE OF __________________”. Rene Block, Prishtina 2003, which takes the form of a flyer promoting a new centre of a contemporary art in Prishtina. While this work of Albert Heta directly deals with the concept of the avant-garde, it implies a critique of the fetish of art originating from South-East Europe and most importantly the uncertainty of Kosovo’s very own existence. With the recent referendum on the instalment of Serbia and Montenegro as two independent states, how does this affect Kosovo – which is technically speaking still part of __________________ ? And how is the work of Kosovo – Albanian artists in the region negotiating with their nations longing for independence?

One example entering transactions with these questions is the work of Heta, who for the Cetinje Biennial in 2004 created the Embassy of the Republic of Kosovo, Cetinje. In another instance Heta’s Kosovar Pavilion in Venice Biennial 2005 was distributed as factual information by e-flux and sparked controversy with officials from the Albanian pavilion. Didn´t the fact that the majority of the people believe that there will be a Kosovar Pavilion, and that there will actually be a party called the Kosovar Pavilion, make this Pavilion a reality?

In his photographic series Peoples, Sokol Beqiri accompanies the monuments of local heroes with a bodyguard as if to say, that like in the past wars the monument could be damaged, destroyed or substituted. Coming close to questions of public space and the relevance of architecture in Kosovo, where mosques and churches were destroyed in reciprocal manner, Beqiri addresses the change of national icons and heroes in Kosovo over past years. While curating the regional or national has long surpassed current discourse in western curatorial practice, the question of national identity in regions such as Kosovo plays a vital role in the early stages of local conceptual art practice. If curator Rene Block, an almost symbolical figure for putting artists from South Eastern Europe on the international map, attributed the Kosovans an avant-garde status he was re-emphasising the concept of competition along national and geographical boundaries which in turn was affirmed through the series of Balkan exhibition since 2000.

Like Flaka Haliti, Jakup Ferri however ironically questions these definitions of his practice at home and within the international art circuit. Acting as a protagonist in many of his videos, Ferri is concerned with history and memory, when like in a recent video he continues Croatian artist Mladen Stilinoviç´s thoughts expressed in the famous 1992 embroidery: An artist who speaks no English is no artist with his own broken English. In light of the 52nd Venice Biennial opening early June, this discussion aims to engage the Berlin audience with a set of questions of national identity, an identity that in the case of Kosovo cannot be celebrated, because it does not exist, yet.

A selection of works of each artist will be presented, followed by open discussion.
This evening will be held in English.

Kosovar Contemporary Artists are the avant-garde of ___________________”.
Albert Heta’s flyer is a quotation of Rene Block’s statement, which says, “Kosovar Contemporary Artists are the avant-garde of ___________________” . The quote has been taken from an interview that was published at the time of his visit to Kosovo in July 2003. Block actually said that Kosovar artists are the avant-gardes of art in the region. However, Heta leaves out this part of the determination, thus implying that this issue has to remain open. Perhaps he likes the idea that Kosovar artists are the avant-gardes, and thus emphasizes it as the motto, while producing hundreds of thousands of copies of this leaflet. However, it also seems that he has doubts about the appellation.
Primarily, Heta appears to be one of those sceptics who despise the label “the art of the region” or “the art of the Balkans”. This may be the reason why he leaves Block’s determination blank. Yes, they are the avant-garde, although you cannot figure out which or whose avant-garde they are.

The other possibility is that Heta intentionally made this crippling denunciation of Block’s statement, to intentionally provoke. If common sense is that contemporary Kosovo’s artists are not the avant-garde of the region, then we can state that they are “the avant-garde of European art”, or even better “the avant-garde of world art”.
However, it seems that Heta does not want to make this interpretation. This is not because it would sound too pretentious or incorrect, but rather, he wants to challenge the lone Block’s construction on the avant-garde.
Today, we cannot be certain if being in the avant-garde has any precise meaning or significance. In this actual case, this looks more like a blank observation, without any content.

Declaring a Kosovar artist to be an avant-garde artist, as a given, as made by this reknowned contemporary art connoisseur, is a glorifying qualification that is very important and valuable.

Kosovar contemporary artists should feel honored and thankful for this appelation. However, I fundamentally believe that this is Heta’s point, too: the qualification of avant-garde has no exact meaning and will always remain empty and incomplete.
Finally, this provocation is functional in the sense that it refers to the Kosova art scene, provided that it is understood as an open invitation for reflection with more courage concerning the situation, capacities, achievements and aims of this art form. The scene, as much as it is provoked by Block’s remarks, should be provoked even more by the echo of the emptiness, which undoubtedly is accompanying the praise.

Shkëlzen Maliqi, June 2006.


Artist Bios:

Sokol Beqiri
Born on 1964 in Peje. He lives and works in Peje, Kosove

Selected group shows
2004 - "LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT"CETINJE BIENNIAL 5, Curated by Rene Block and Natasa Ilic, Cetinje;
"M’VYN NDRIM RADIKAL / TREBA MI RADIKALNA PROMJENA", Curated by What, How & for Whom / WHW, Gallery Nova, Zagreb, Croatia;
"The failure of the beauty/Beauty of the failure" Curated by Harald Szeemann, Fondacione Joan Miro, Barcelona, Spain;
''the joy of my dreams''seville bieennial/seville.spain.
"The Balkans - a crossroad to the f uture", Arte Fiera Bologna,Italy;

2003 - "U-topos" 2th Tirana’s Biennial, Curadet by Branislava Andjelkovic, Tirana, Albania;
"In Den Schluchten des Balkan" , Curated by Rene Block,Kunsthalle Fredericianum Kassel,Germany;
"In Progress", 56th Locarno Filmfestival , curated by Harald Szeemann, Locarno, Switzerland;
"Blood and Honey - Future is at Balkan", Curated by Harald Szeemann, Essl Collection,Vienna, Austria;
" Bitter / sweet harmony ",Digital ArtLab, Curated by Edi Muka ,Holon ,Israel;


Albert Heta
Born in Prishtina Kosova (1974). Lives and works in Prishtina

Solo Exhibitions, Public Projects and Interventions
SOMETHING ELSE ( in collaboration with Maria Jose Rojas), Galeria Concreta, Santiago de Chile, Chile.
5 x 8' Albanian flag on the Santa Fe Art Institute
Building, 3 - 21 August, 2005., Santa Fe, Mew Mexico, USA.
Vernissage 9 - 11 June 2005
12 June - 6 November 2005
La Biennale di Venezia 51. International Art Exhibition
distributed by e-flux:
public media intervention; official notice on DNES Daily Newspaper, 11.02.2005, Prague , Czech Republic:.
5th Biennial of Cetinje
public intstallation; vandalised and removed after 3 days, Cetinje, SCG.
Selected Group Exhibitions

Archeology of Today?, The Kosova Gallery of Arts, Prishtina, Kosova.
Els Hanappe Underground, Athens, Greece.

7 BIENAL DE VIDEO Y NUEVOS MEDIOS DE SANTIAGO, Museo de Arte Conteporaneo, Santiago de Chile, Chile.
2. BERLINER KUNSTSALON 2005., Berlin, Germany.
KOSOVA.EXE, The Brno House of Arts, Prague - Brno, Czech Republic.
A NEW PAST, Marronnier Art Center & Insa Art Space of the Korean Culture & Arts Foundation, Seul, Korea.


Jakup Ferri (1981) Prishtina, Kosova.
Lives and works in Prishtina..

Solo Exhibition.
Artists Space, New York

Group Exhibitions
,,Ethnic Marketing,,  Azad Gallery, Tehran
Galerie Adler, Frankfurt (Main) Germany
,,This is not America,, ByArt Projects Gallery, Tel Aviv
,,Istanbul,, International Istanbul Biennale, Turkey.
,,e-flux Video Rental,, The Moore Space-Miami, KW Institute for Contemporary Art-Berlin,Manifesta Foundation-Amsterdam.
,,Kosovo.exe,, The Brno House of Arts, Brno.
,,e-flux Video Rental,, e-flux, New York.
,,Mediterraneans.Arte Contemporanea,, MACRO al Mattatoio, Roma.
,,Onufri prize,, National Gallery, Tirana.
,,Coalesce: With all due intent,, Model Arts and Nilland Gallery,
Sligo, Ireland.


Flaka Haliti (1982) Prishtina, Kosova.
Lives and works in Prishtina

Group Exhibitions
„Prishtina Sounds", Audio Installation , National Museum of Kosova  ,29/4/2006 .
"Akademy REMIX"- 18-23 November 2005/ Portikus -Frankfurt Main .
"Belegrade Artist Reporter " , REX & B92 / 3-14.2005 –Beligrade .
„Missing Identity" ,/ National Museum of Kosova / 30/9/2005 –Prishtinë.
"Liria e Lëvizjes"  culture campaign performance, organized  by„Urban FM 103.5", July /2005/Prishtina. Presentation at StadtRaum /Frankfurt/Main – July 25 /2005.
"Studentët për Studentë",  Students Galery Center , 24/5/2005 Prishtina.

Rahovec- workshop/exhibition,2004.
"Art Without Borders" Regional Young Artist–Workshop 3-9 /Maj 2004 ,Artaid .
 "Kinse ART" 2004, organized  by "KAN" and radio "Urban FM " 2004