On the occasion of the 58th Venice Biennale we have interviewed Driant Zeneli, artist of the ALBANIAN Pavilion.
You are representing Albania at the Venice Biennale. As an artist based in Italy, what is the relationship you have with your country of origin? And how has been expressed on this occasion?
DZ I always had the sensation to live on a bridge, always unsteady but also able to look at both sides of the river. But I must say I have been back to Albania in the last three years and that’s where the work of the pavilion came from. My works develop as trilogies and Venice’s chapter –Maybe the cosmos is not so extraordinary– is the last shutter of the most recent one.. But all three chapters were shot in Albania in industrial dystopian contexts and emerged from personal and random encounters with people –I call them heroes even if they could be considered antiheroes in real life– who created their parallel world to survive their own chaotic reality… But the idea is to allow people to experience how a local story and context can become a global one. How the story of these people coming from such a specific place and context can resonate with people’s life. The metaphor for this is the mineral I chose to focus on in the film, chrome, which is one of Albania’s main resources, and which travels the world and even reaches cosmic worlds as it is used for spaceships. The idea is to offer a total journey from the body of the mountain to the cosmos. And more concretely the pavilion has been a collaboration with a French curator Alicia Knock working at Pompidou. We worked actively at expanding the project beyond the borders of the pavilion especially in the catalogue where we gathered a community of artists, curators, scientists and writers coming from different contexts such as Cuba, Nigeria, Angola, Kosovo among others.
You have already represented Albania at the 54th Venice Biennale, but last time, in 2011, it was a collective exhibition. Can you tell us about the directions your artistic research has taken from the last Biennale to today, and how you approached the pavilion as the sole protagonist?
DZ The title of the work I presented at the Biennale eight years ago was Some say the Moon is easy to touch, which is part the trilogy When dreams become necessity. I must say I feel I have been growing up in my practice a lot in the last years. Maybe the cosmos is not so extraordinary (2019), is a sculptural video installation which expands upon a multidisciplinary project entitled Beneath a surface there is just another surface, started in 2015 at Metallurgjik, a dystopian industrial complex in the city of Elbassan, Albania. The project and its title derive from the pioneering science-fiction novel On the way to Epsilon Eridani (1983) by Albanian physicist and writer Arion Hysenbegas. The book is also the invisible scenario of a series of drawings I have been making. The work as a whole is the result of ten years of attempts, it is the new step in a long journey, where film as a medium is still at the centre but other elements also add onto the project envisioned as an installation.
Ph. Atdhe Mulla