The exhibition in Turin is the culmination of an ambitious three-part project, curated by Leonardo Bigazzi. The first iteration was a major performance production – the largest public art project ever implemented by Petrit Halilaj – that took place on 7 July 2018 at the ruins of the Cultural Centre of Runik (Kosovo), the town where the artist grew up. This was followed by an exhibition at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland (20 July – 19 August 2018).
The third and final, culminating exhibition takes place at the Fondazione Merz, Turin. The exhibition is centered around a series of monumental installations recontextualising, within the exhibition space, the sets, costumes and stage objects of the Runik performance. The project, Shkrepëtima, continues the artist’s investigation into the historical roots of Runik, reflecting on the potential of art and the value of memory. By intervening in the real world Halilaj intends to change the processes of the formation of collective history of his community, bringing it closer to its origins and calling into question models that still regulate its social structure today.
The performance is the result of extensive research into the history of Runik, from its Neolithic origins to its recent past, and intended to act as a “spark” in rekindling its cultural development. In Albanian (the artist’s mother tongue) the word “Shkrepëtima” means “flash” or “spark” and, by extension, indicates a sudden and intense thought that works as an activator of conscience. The term also recalls the historical legacy of the homonymous multi-ethnic cultural magazine published in Runik between the 1970s and 1980s by the school’s teachers, who were directly involved in the local cultural programming.
Photo by Andrea Guermani
Photo by Renato Ghiazza
Photo by Renato Ghiazza
The place that for 30 years has been the symbol of the cultural identity of Runik’s citizens is the House of Culture. Dating back to the Yugoslav era, the building used to contain a library of 7,000 volumes, a theatre that regularly held shows and film screenings, and the site of the village cooperative. All activities had come to a halt when the political situation worsened before the war, and the building was partially destroyed during the conflict. Since then, the building was in a state of total abandonment until Halilaj, with the members of the community cleaned it and made it safe to host the event. Even though the destiny of the House of Culture has until now, remained uncertain, following the performance, the Ministry of Culture ordered that the building be included in the list of assets of national interest, assuring thereby that it would be restored in the future.
In Turin, the artist has reconstructed the proportions and volumes of the building of the former Runik House of Culture using the sets of the performance, within the space of the Fondazione Merz, an industrial structure built in the 1930s. Here, Halilaj relates two buildings and two very different realities, but they represent an important historical testimony and a point of reference for the communities that were born and grew up near them. His intervention therefore reminds us not only of places of memory within the construction of our identity, but also that their potential is not necessarily limited to a city or a nation, thus expressing itself in various forms generating new stories and points of view.
CREDITS Courtesy of the Artist; ChertLüdde, Berlin; kamel mennour, Paris/London; Fondazione Merz, Torino
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