Alban Muja

Interview with the curator Vincent Honorè

Pavilion of The Republic of Kosovo, Arsenale, Sale D’Armi

May 10 – November 24, 2019


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Where do we need to go to visit the Pavilion of The Republic of Kosovo?

Vincent Honorè   Family Album by Alban Muja for the Pavilion of the Republic of Kosovo will be situated in the Arsenale, in the Sale d’Armi.

What are we going to encounter?

VH   For the Kosovo Pavilion, Alban Muja has produced a new work, a three-part video installation that digs deep into personal and collective memories of the Kosovo War (1998-1999). Family Album interrogates the role that images and the media have in constructing and shaping narrative, identity and history, especially in times of conflict. At the starting point of Muja’s project lies a selection of photographs of child refugees taken during the war, images that were published in newspapers and on news sites around the world, and which became synonymous with the war, emblematic of the chaos, trauma and pain communicated to the public by the global media. 20 years on, Muja tracks down the individuals, now adults, captured in these frames to delve both into the way in which the ensuing images act as carriers of personal memory and in how they helped craft a wider political and media story beyond the control of the subjects represented. The work is a subtle and respectful, minimal and sensitive exploration of personal memories and narratives. It allows the main protagonists of the crisis to get their own narratives back, to inhabit their stories. Given that two decades later, the world faces new and ever-growing hotspots of conflict and an acute refugee crisis, whose experience and reality are contingent on the proliferation and dissemination of accompanying documentary images, Muja’s project for the Kosovo Pavilion opens up a wider field of questioning about the relationship between aesthetics and politics, between subject and narrator.

How did the collaboration with the artist Alban Muja develop?

VH   We collaborated from the very beginning of the project. Alban had the concept, which we developed together in an organic and natural way, in a constant conversation. Alban knew he would use the three images of displaced children as a source, he also knew the work would end being a video installation. From there, we discussed, exchanged references, met with other artists, looked at theories about images and media, met the protagonists, visited the gallery in Venice where the work would be shown, and developed the new work that you will see in Venice.

What is your relationship with the history of this country?  

VH   The Kosovo War was the largest forced displacement of people in Europe since World War II. As a French citizen, at the time of the war a young adult, I remember vividly the news reports and images about the conflict. These reports and photographs, the last one to happen in Europe in the 20th century, are a reminder to the world of Kosovo's journey from war to freedom and the many sacrifices made by its people along the way.  However, when I began starting to work with Alban on the project, I wanted to have a closer understanding of this legacy. So I visited Kosovo with Alban and Arta Agani, Director of the National Gallery of Kosovo, our commissioner. We met several individuals, not only the team involved with the project but as well the many individuals, politicians and a wide cross-section of people who had very specific links to the past conflict - that still very much has a sort of a presence in the country. This research was necessary to have an emotional understanding of the context

What are the things you believe are not to be missed at this year’s Biennial?

VH   There are so many projects I don’t want to miss: I am very much looking forward to visiting the pavilions of the artists who were included in the Baltic Triennial that I curated last year: Daiga Grantina for Latvia, Lina Lapelyte for Lithuania, Kris Lemsalu for Estonia and Laure Prouvost for France. I am curious about the first Pavilion of Madagascar, as well as about the Albanian Pavilion by Driant Zeneli, the Swiss Pavilion by Renate Laurenz and Pauline Boudry, and the Austrian Pavilion with Renate Bertlmann. Last but not least, I am looking forward to explore the exhibition by Ralph Rugoff, May You Live In Interesting Times.


Courtesy of the artist

Venice Biennale 2019. Italian Pavilion
Swiss Pavilion by Simon Würsten Marin
Interview with the curator Chris Sharp
Driant Zeneli
Felicia Abban, John Akomfrah, El Anatsui, Ibrahim Mahama, Selasi Awusi Sosu, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Interview with the curator Nicoletta Lambertucci
Daiga Grantina Text by Ingrid Luquet–Gad
Renate Bertlmann in conversation with Vincent Honoré