Apr 29, 2014

Albanian Animation | Kau dhe Ujku

Here's an Albanian animation video that sums up a lot of the discussions happening on social media these past few weeks on Albanian Culture & Arts Scene. Although, I'm being a bit gullible naive when I define these arguments, banter and plain rants as dialog(ing) discussions. We all have the same passion (for art) and goals (for it to be just better), so let's just stop the bickering and start communicating. If we all claim to be educated enough to have the capacity to do so, then having a go at it should not be this hard. C'mon!! It is a process. Unless it is not an ‘ego’ clash, but an ‘end game’ (ambition) difference, then it becomes a (much) jaded and toxic process.

I'd like to stay positive in the hope that some of this filters in and becomes productive in the long run. So I'm just going to say: This too shall pass, once the cliches have all performed played out. As for the rest, this video speaks much better than I ever could. It says it all. Still relevant after 30 years.


“PA BRIRË TI JE MBRET.
PA BRIRË JE PASHA. 
PA BRIRË ËSHTË DHE MODA.”


PS: From 'paMUR' to 'iron curtain' - the journey of architectural art partitions. a.k.a. mirrors that barricade.



**This is where I would start the conversation on the project (possibly collaborative) I've mentioned before: SCAPEGOAT(ing).

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Apr 22, 2014

WATERMARK | A Film by Jennifer Baichwal & Edward Burtynsky

This Earth day, I would like to direct your attention to a new project by the award-winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal & Nick de Pencier in collaboration with photographer Edward Burtynsky. Their documentary WATERMARK is the awesomely produced combination of Burtynsky's famous vast perspectives and filmmakers' second collaboration since their 2006 Manufactured Landscapes.
A feature documentary film that brings together diverse stories from around the globe about our relationship with water: how we are drawn to it, what we learn from it, how we use it and the consequences of that use. We see massive floating abalone farms off China’s Fujian coast and the construction site of the biggest arch dam in the world – the Xiluodu, six times the size of the Hoover. We visit the barren desert delta where the mighty Colorado River no longer reaches the ocean, and the water-intensive leather tanneries of Dhaka.

The Making Of:


Behind the Scenes:


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Apr 18, 2014

Featured Thought | Creatives, Cultural Institutions, Mindsets & Complexes in Albania

A few articles I've been reading lately, and just as few (stray but circulating) thoughts rambling (more like partying) in my head in the middle of this night, will find themselves out in the open below. They might not all make sense to many of you, but I do hope (maybe) a few will. I will write in English, so first off I apologize to all the Albanian-speaking readers for my inability to ramble fluently in my native language. (I am working on mastering just that.) The thoughts expressed here are my own. From my very tiny corner of the world (might as well be underground too), this is more of an affirmation (than critique) of what I've been reading recently (here, hereherehere & others) and what is being said in our (oh so) vast creative community.  
***
Let's compare arts & culture (the creative fields in general) in Albania to democracy
Then, let's ask: How has the concept of democracy changed after 9/11 in US? (and the world for that matter)
How has the concept of democracy changed in Albania after the fall of communism? How about after 9/11?
What are the democratic consequences when the country itself, its territory, identity, history, future, livability, social morality (ethics mostly) and emancipation becomes a geopolitical landscape, a technology of war, a materialistic organization where all is fair game?

David vs. Goliath??? In communism, it was very clear who' was who, but democracy has us all confused. 
So, I'll ask again who's David and who's Goliath in the (pyramidal/house of cards) democracy we have constructed, and more naively, stubbornly or stupidly believe in? By definition, democracy is never meant to be easy. I contradict myself at times, let alone having a whole group or even a generation agreeing on something.  In principle, the voice of a plural (demo) democracy-making class is ideal for all the good things promised but reality as we've come to know it, turns into quite a mess. (now go back and replace democracy with art & culture)

For the sake of this argument let's not cast the characters of David and Goliath yet, but simply assign a visible power (state) and a latent regime (us /creatives). What Saskia Sassen says about urban warfare should be easily applied to artistic warfare (ah, I mean transparent relationship) between cultural institutions and creatives in Albania; seemingly diplomatic but deeply bitter exchange that is embedded in the asymmetric nature of modern warfare (a.k.a. democracy).  

Asymmetric wars are partial, intermittent and lack clear endings. The center no longer holds. It is hard to find a balance. (s.s)

In an increasingly interdependent world, the state is not a great power anymore, but it is still a visible one, therefore when it fails in self-restraint it becomes publicly exposed. But the self is not the only source of its restraint. There are other multi-dependencies that can function as latent regimes, variables that often present themselves in an ambiguous and powerless capacity, but that are far more complex in assuring the direct dependence of the very livelihood of the state. (s.s) So, the same visible threat to this (seemingly weak) regime from the power of state is its latent power, us. We are this regime. The artists, the creatives, the enthusiasts, the people. Today's modern asymmetry is the force that continually shifts, expands, retracts, and offs its center. It is the new public format, our creative battlefield with the institution. Our timid but seemingly fierce warfare. Although since I use timid to describe our fight, maybe i should use a more 'timid' word for warfare no? 

Exchange it is. And this is where it all seems to take off. I wouldn't describe it as a duel, more of a in front of a mirror selfie, or a head, pounding on a concrete block wall, sometimes a far-fetched reach through a barbed wire fence. 

As I read one of the articles earlier today, (the lack of) showing up seems to be a recurring condition. I think before we the artists, creatives, enthusiasts, critics and people start the blaming game, we should make sure we're present in the warfare exchange. No half-assed deliveries by middle men, please. (Directed at people that can physically be present there.) It should be our fault for not taking the first step of responsibility and SHOW UP!! Showing up is the first step in checking out and understanding the battlefield; listening to other minds and lips; reading through the lines; sorting through the fluff and all that good stuff. 

Experimental and emergent projects that come up, will never be of any productive use because they will be short-lived, if we are not fully committed to participate and take responsibility for our own fight. To Show Up!! If we will not show signs of caring and just leave it to the state, then we shouldn't whine at how incompetency and politics are interfering with (and already shelving) innovation and change. If we make an attempt to create and further foster some kind of productive exchange with the other side (it'll probably start off disguised as a relationship and it'll quickly turn into a full blown warfare), then of course we can't expect a dialog or a multi-log. Only a monologue on their part. A monologue that is (surely enough) not deep enough, painful enough, truly digging in the trenches of the ugliness we have come to know as (mainstream/institutional) culture and art in Albania. A monologue that is recited at times in front of a mirror and at times to the harshness of a wall. A monologue that screams for help. The camouflage of pain in the ephemera of compliments and appraisal of the so-called culture is but a commodification of trends. For awhile there, crisp shiny (green) objects {$__$} were very in. 

The first few of us to start the trend are always finding inspiration imitation elsewhere. God forbid, we find it in-house. Then, it continues down the chain to the lesser(s) (or the ones with no such access). Unfortunately, we don't steal depths (ah those 3D wonders) like fundamentals, philosophies, mediums, points of view or ways of looking at the world. And, we don't stop there. While on a high roll (of inpiration) we reject our own originality, where we come from, how we've traveled, what we've learned thus far or what we think we know. So, all we're left with are cheap knock-offs. Our work. A plethora of ephemera, that is not truly, painfully, originally, hauntingly ours. It never was. A remote plethora of ephemera. Even that we do without participating. Without showing up in the exchange. Remotely. We (mis)understand remotely. We (dis)miss remotely. We critique remotely. We produce in vain. We don't take the first step toward responsibility (about this whole mess we find ourselves in - creatively): to fully commit to our thoughts, to our opinions, our behavior, our process, our production, our means and ends. Our depth has become our distance. Remotely.

We don't read authors. We quote from their most famous books.
We dismiss theory/philosophy as ways to deepen our understanding. Instead we listen to what is being said or delivered by middle men that heard it or caught a glimpse of something in a conversation somewhere. 
We are either too lazy to formulate our own opinion or just too afraid that it might differ from what's out there topping the charts.
We claim to be artistic and culturesque just because everyone cool is, and maybe one day we'll go on to become bohemian-like or have that non-explicable other: a quality that if one dares define, it'll ruin our whole existence.

Even the littlest potential that new initiatives and experiments promise as they rise in the distant horizon, quickly disburse into thin particles (take your pick: glitter or dust) that fall in the already carved - more likely dug six feet into the ground - path of habit, dependency, perceived security, comfort and cowardliness. A cowardliness that squanders away our former intelligence (such as it was) and talent, or at least what has remained of it all - a touch of intuition. Senses that need to be relearned, retrained, and released. By not showing up (physically and performatively) we loose that touch. We keep our distance from the trenches of battlefield but even shrapnel kills. If we don't want a state-controlled culture (we already had that) or artistic production (work) that aimlessly knocks-off (forgive the pun) behind trends, then we need to show up. Show up to ourselves and to our work. And then to the rest of the exchange.

If we want a public (format) culture, art or what have you, then we need to make our latent capacities and consequent power contagiously public; by showing up and committing to this creativity. It is the greatest opportunity to challenge the most interesting-ness of life, to unleash the potential, passion and talent that is whimpering, buried in that already beaten path of habit and comfort we have dug ourselves. Only then we can expect or better yet hold accountable the state-powered institutional organization to appropriate the creative fields legible to a more inclusive, capable and committed stakeholder (us). To render its role as truly artistic, not as a spectacle for consumer and pseudo-territorial authority that has grabbed on the reins and feels a certain entitlement not only to fees, taxes or EU promises, but to artistic expertise, guardianship and curation.

To gain access we need a participation that not only is, but does. A participation that performs itself and its work. That doesn't improvise but delivers its identity. We should bury deep, deep, deep down a rabbit hole what the creative institutions have been doing for the longest time. The spectacle of being seen or the desperate need of being seen as doing something (ah the attention..): the mirror, the wall, the ephemera, the constructed and perceived extent of imitation. It is time for the doing (itself) to be seen, our beings performed, our creative daemons unleashed. 

The material gifts we buy for ourselves, most often than none costs more, mean less, and are soon after forgotten or lost under piles of ephemeral hoards. But, the work we put in, the tantalizing process of creativity and production, the people that celebrate (or cry for that matter) with us, the places we come from and go to, passionate conversations, controversial subjects, uncertain futures and so much more. All of these (re)make us over and over again. They help us show up, just so we can reciprocate right back - continuously off-ing the center, shifting variables and speeding latency. So, why haven't we showed up yet?
***
As I write this, I realize that understanding art & culture through democracy might be a bit far-fetched, even wrong for some, considering that artistic originality (known to some as the creative ego) and democratic values of equality shouldn't be allowed in the same sentence let alone be used like this, but it has helped me better understand the cultural mindset and (inferior) complexities of the Albanian setting; as well as the role of state institutions and private talent in acknowledging, supporting and (hopefully later) producing work worthy of the artist, its surroundings and a whole generation of talent that will serve as framework scaffolding to repair our much publicized, vastly "expert-ised" cultural heritage (traditional and contemporary). 

Also, the artist needs to be aware of his role in this creative warfare; the extent, latency, and capacity (even though vague) of a powerful regime (made of others just like him) so complex that accounts for the livelihood of the state. Quite an interdependent exchange that is inherently not timid, even if our approach to it is.

As I end this very long train of thought (along with a few digressions), I'd like to also mention that in comparing democracy with art (in its own right) and culture (of a nation), I think both are inherently controversial, ambiguous, utopic, and so complex that albeit well-defined (at times) -our global interchangeable reality has fundamentally transformed their core values, definitions, roles, and accessibility. If in principle, democracy has been based in equality and inclusion, now it has trouble defining its subject, us. The inter-dependency of the global reality (which I can easily see it as a modern warfare) has made us global travelers, but it has failed and it continuously struggles to geopolitically and democratically place us as immigrants, citizens, outsiders, foreigns, tourists, nomads or indigenous individuals. (s.s) 

Democracy has become a business of exclusion; all 99% of it. And, the same is happening in the arts, blurring lines and statuses through all its mediums, clients, mediocrity, capital, data bots, formal expressions and political correctness. A paradigm shift to the core.
So if you can't make the connection, too bad. They all seem to be thriving in my rambling thoughts. (☻)

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Apr 8, 2014

Featured Thought | Possible Collaboration?

Lately, Facebook and other social media conversations between most of us in the creative fields, have been lengthy, participatory and more constructive in voicing frustrations, expectations, means to ends and possible discourse, than any conference, festival or even conversation over coffee has ever produced about art and culture in Albania. I like the many directions this conversation has taken and I applaud the courage of the ones that publicly take on such a “messy” subject force that continues to fight them from a defensive position (a response defined as: very anxious to challenge or avoid criticism). 

So, I've been thinking, why not join forces and collaborate in a free, open-source collection (maybe an e-publication) of opinions, works, and what have you that include: literary writings, slam poetry, spatial and structural moments, artistic interpretations, philosophy bits, socio/anthropology research, historical facts, futuristic speculations, live performances, film and still shots; anything that would counter-voice what culture and art institutions in Albania have been selling for years, and multi-dimensionally challenge their course. I don't mean this to be a negation of what many Albanian artists and other creatives are currently doing, but more of an incentive, a boost of confidence as they move forward in their careers. And, as I mentioned above, this would be something of an anti-festival/conference. Not that they are particularly non-significant, but because most of us cannot be present and thus cannot express ourselves through participation. (more on this later)

As an anthology of voices, it should be very open in terms of coverage but I'd like to focus on the subject of SCAPEGOAT(ing) and take it from there. It has to be a collective effort, an accelerated future heritage (if you will) and I would like to work with as many as you as possible (or as interested). If you have any other suggestions, ideas or recommendations please let me know. Let's do this. ☺   

To start I would recommend you all read this piece by Eriola Pira.


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Apr 2, 2014

Featured Event | Muzgu i Rikthimit @MIZA

MIZA Galeri
presents // prezanton:

Muzgu i Rikthimit [Twilight of Return]

by // nga 

April 4, 2014 // 4 Prill, 2014
@19:30 hr  

RSVP

,

Here's the curatorial excerpt via MIZA (eng+alb); 
also, make sure to check out other works by the artist here.

The Twilight of Returning is a sound-art performance related to the deep senses , to the perception of memory and the way how an object of remembrance returns in less of its original form.

The sounds establish meeting points between the contexta and the listener, each sound bears unique perceptions and aims to trasmit an abstract sense of affiliation to the self.

Perceiveing memory, not as a meditation on the object of remembrance but as a meditation on memory itself and how memory can never reappear detachedly from the flow of thoughts/contextx/sensations that a person has during his life. Every time a memory reappears it exists as a context in progressive evolution. To remember means to continually rediscover yourself in the present state of being.

Twilight: Aesthetic/conceptual conjunction between the element of fading (of a memory) and the romantic element of the perception of the fading itself.
Returning: The return of the object of remembrance (more and more vague and abstracted )
The performance takes place for a period of about 45-50 minutes. The design of the sketch of the musical bases and modulations/stratificationa of the sounds will be prepared in advance and will then be completed during the performance through the laptops, the softwares designed by the artist and the electronic devices. 

The soundworks have a minimalist approach and the performance will also include an associative visual element with a video composed of slowly flowing blurred shapes to provide a hypnotic character to the continuity of perception..

The visual element is not meant to be directly related to the music, but have an additional effect to the musical concepts by creating a separate presentation in two different planes, like looking at an object directly in front of our vision and one in the tail of our vision at the same moment. 
Writer/sound artist from Tirana focused on “Musique Concrete”, an abstract musical form in the field of experimental electronic music. Ilir compositions have been presented/performed in artistic environments and installations in Tirana while his first album was released in March 2014 by the Italian label Manyfeetunder with wider listening in other countries like Italy , Germany , France, England. Several other works have been published published as singles online at the Bandcamp page of the artist. 

The sound compositions contain recorded daily sounds of the city life which are then extremely modified/reshaped until they loose their original form and context merging with instrumental and electronic sounds to form new layers of organic nature. Among the composers who have influenced Ilir conceptually/musically are: Luigi Russolo, Pierre Schaeffer, Bernard Parmegiani, Luc Ferrari, Francis Dhomont, Eliane Radigue, John Cage, Giacinto Scelsi , Morton Feldman, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Autechre, Akira Rabelais, Atau Tanaka, Fabio Orsi, Ryoji Ikeda, etc.
Ilir Lluka has composed music for installations performed in Tirana and short film be commissioned by the Academy of Arts presented in February 2014 at the Black Box Theater at the Academy of Arts. In March 2013 he has been part of a worldwide radiophonic/web event alongside-known figures in the world of contemporary music like Pauline Oliveros , Felicia Atkinson , Rhys Chatham , Eyvind Kang , André Gonçalves and many others representing Albania as an active point in the sound-art scene . His latest live performance "Intimate Sound Perceptions" was held on February 2014 in the premises of the National History Museum, Tirana.
The artist’s forthcoming album, a sound poetry collaboration with the poet Jonida Prifti, will be issued on June 2014 by the Italian label Ozky E-Sound. 
Since 2011 he is a member of “A Material, A Sound, A Shape”, a community consisting of many known artists in the field of experimental music, where are held promotions and collaborations beyond the divisionas between the national borders of the members. Ilir has been invited to participate in the edition of 2015 of Avantgarde Festival in Schiphorst, Germany. 
Muzgu I Rikthimit eshte nje performance zanore e lidhur me thellesine e shqisave, perceptimin ndaj memories dhe menyres sesi cdo objekt I kujtuar rikthehet duke sjelle gjithmone e me pak nga forma e tij origjinale.

Tingujt percaktojne pika takimi mes kontekstit dhe degjuesit, secila pike mbart nje perceptim unik dhe synon tejcimin e nje ndjesie abstrakte perkatesie te gjithsecilit ndaj vete vetes se tij.

Te perceptosh nje kujtim jo si meditim rreth objektit te memories por si meditim rreth vetvetes dhe sesi nje kujtim i caktuar nuk mund te rishfaqet dot kurre ne forme te ftohte i vecuar nga rrjedha e mendimeve/perceptimeve te vazhdueshme qe cdokush ka gjate jetes se vet. Cdo here qe nje kujtim rishfaqet mbart nje kontekst ne evolim. Te kujtosh, ne nje sens egoist te eperm do te thote te rizbulosh veten ne menyre te vazhdueshme.

Muzgu: Nderlidhje estetike/konceptuale midis elementit te venitjes (se nje kujtimi) dhe elementit romantik te perceptimit te venitjes.
Rikthimi: Procesi I rikthimit te objektit te memories (gjithmone e me teper me karakter te mjegullt dhe te abstraguar)
Performanca zhvillohet pergjate nje harku kohor prej rreth 45-50 minutash. Nje skice e bazave muzikore dhe modifikimeve/shtresezimeve te tingujve do jete e dizenjuar dhe parapergatitur dhe me pas do te plotesohet gjate performances nepermjet laptopit, software-ve te dizenjuar prej artistit dhe aparaturave elektronike.

Punimet muzikore do kene natyre minimaliste dhe performanca do perfshije edhe nje element vizual shoqerues te po kesaj natyre te perbere nga video me forma me rrjedhe te ngadalte per ti dhene karakter hipnotik vazhdimesise se perceptimit.

Elementi vizual nuk ka si qellim te kete lidhje te drejtperdrejte me muziken por te kete efekt plotesues anesor te koncepteve muzikore duke krijuar nje paraqitje te ndare ne dy plane te ndryshme, njelloj sic eshte shikimi I nje objekti ne menyre te drejtperdrejte dhe shikimi I objekteve ne rrafshin anesor me bisht te syrit ne te njejtin moment.

Shkrimtar/sound-artist nga Tirana i fokusuar ne “Musique Concrète”, nje forme abstrakte muzikore ne fushen e muzikes elektronike/eksperimentale. Kompozimet e Ilirit jane paraqitur/performuar ne ambiente artistike dhe instalative ne Tirane nderkohe qe album I tij I pare eshte leshuar ne mars 2014 prej shtepise diskografike italiane Manyfeetunder Label me degjim me te gjere ne vende te tjera si Itali, Gjermani, France, Angli. Njekohesisht disa punime te tjera jane publikuar si singles ne internet ne faqen e Bandcamp te Ilirit.
Krijimet permbajne ne themel te tyre tinguj te perditshem te jetes se qytetit te cilat trasformohen ne mase ekstreme deri sa humbin formen dhe kontekstin e tyre origjinal dhe shkrihen me tinguj instrumentale dhe ato elektronike per te formuar shtresa te reja me natyre organike. Nder kompozitoret qe kane influencuar tek Iliri nga ana konceptuale/muzikore jane: Luigi Russolo, Pierre Schaeffer, Bernard Parmegiani, Luc Ferrari, Francis Dhomont, Eliane Radigue, John Cage, Giacinto Scelsi, Morton Feldman, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Autechre, Akira Rabelais, Atau Tanaka, Fabio Orsi, Ryoji Ikeda etj.

Ilir Lluka ka kompozuar muzike per instalacione te kryera ne Tirane dhe per kortometrazh te komisionuar nga Akademia e Arteve i prezantuar ne shkurt 2014 ne sallen Black Box te Akademise se Arteve. Ne mars 2013 ka qene pjesemarres ne nje event mbareboteror radiofonik/web perkrah emrash te njohur te botes se muzikes kontemporane si Pauline Oliveros, Felicia Atkinson, Rhys Catham, Eyvind Kang, André Gonçalves dhe shume te tjere duke perfaqesuar Shqiperine si nje pike aktive ne skenen e sound-artit. Performanca e tij e fundit live “Intimate Sound Perceptions” u mbajt ne shkurt 2014 ne ambientet e Muzeut Historik Kombetar, Tirane.

Albumi i ardhshem i Ilirit, nje bashkepunim ne sound/poetry me poeten Jonida Prifti, do leshohet ne qershor 2014 prej labelit italian Ozky E-Sound.

Qe prej vitit 2011eshte pjese e “A Material, A Sound, A Shape”, nje komunitet i perbere nga artiste te njohur ne fushen nderkombetare te muzikes eksperimentale, ku kryhen promovime dhe bashkepunime pertej ndarjeve te kufijve shteterore midis pjesetareve.
Iliri eshte ftuar te marre pjese ne edicionin e 2015 te Avantgarde Festival ne Schiphorst, Gjermani.
Krijimet permbajne ne themel te tyre tinguj te perditshem te jetes se qytetit te cilat trasformohen ne mase ekstreme deri sa humbin formen dhe kontekstin e tyre origjinal dhe shkrihen me tinguj instrumentale dhe ato elektronike per te formuar shtresa te reja me natyre organike. Nder kompozitoret qe kane influencuar tek Iliri nga ana konceptuale/muzikore jane: Luigi Russolo, Pierre Schaeffer, Bernard Parmegiani, Luc Ferrari, Francis Dhomont, Eliane Radigue, John Cage, Giacinto Scelsi, Morton Feldman, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Autechre, Akira Rabelais, Atau Tanaka, Fabio Orsi, Ryoji Ikeda etj.
Ilir Lluka ka kompozuar muzike per instalacione te kryera ne Tirane dhe per kortometrazh te komisionuar nga Akademia e Arteve i prezantuar ne shkurt 2014 ne sallen Black Box te Akademise se Arteve. Ne mars 2013 ka qene pjesemarres ne nje event mbareboteror radiofonik/web perkrah emrash te njohur te botes se muzikes kontemporane si Pauline Oliveros, Felicia Atkinson, Rhys Catham, Eyvind Kang, André Gonçalves dhe shume te tjere duke perfaqesuar Shqiperine si nje pike aktive ne skenen e sound-artit. Performanca e tij e fundit live “Intimate Sound Perceptions” u mbajt ne shkurt 2014 ne ambientet e Muzeut Historik Kombetar, Tirane.
Albumi i ardhshem i Ilirit, nje bashkepunim ne sound/poetry me poeten Jonida Prifti, do leshohet ne qershor 2014 prej labelit italian Ozky E-Sound.
Qe prej vitit 2011eshte pjese e “A Material, A Sound, A Shape”, nje komunitet i perbere nga artiste te njohur ne fushen nderkombetare te muzikes eksperimentale, ku kryhen promovime dhe bashkepunime pertej ndarjeve te kufijve shteterore midis pjesetareve.
Iliri eshte ftuar te marre pjese ne edicionin e 2015 te Avantgarde Festival ne Schiphorst, Gjermani. 
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If you missed the event, you can now watch it below: