2016 / CEE Monthly

Focus: Ex-Yugoslavia and Albania | Letter from the Curator

Adela Demetja about what shaped her curatorial practice and why she chose alternative art spaces to represent the region.

Adela Demetja is an Albanian curator and writer, as well as director of Tirana Art Lab, living between Frankfurt am Main and Tirana. For viennacontemporary, she curates 2016’s edition of special presentation Focus, shown on September 22 – 25 at Marxhalle, Vienna. Focus: Ex-Yugoslavia and Albania will feature a representative cross-section of contemporary art from the region, and will include works by young and established artists presented by alternative art institutions.

How is the situation in Albania? This is one of the most common and strange questions that I get from people after knowing that I come from there. I have lived between Germany and Albania for years, but I never get the same question related to Germany. I was struggling for a long time for the answers until I realized that whatever my response may be, it will never be satisfying because the way the question is posed is inappropriate.

Generalization, simplification, concrete definitions have led to the creation of stereotypes and a fixed image about the people and the countries of Ex-Yugoslavia and Albania in the past years. Similar problems may arise in the attempt to specify and unify the way of illustrating and reading the art and culture developments from the countries of this region.

There are, for sure, some common political, social, economic and historical factors that led to the creation of similar contexts, which should serve as common ground for understanding and reading the complexity and plurality of contemporary art narratives, while avoiding homogeneity.

This point of view has shaped my curatorial practice and it will delineate the approach in curating this year’s Focus: Ex-Yugoslavia and Albania at viennacontemporary. I have invited alternative art spaces from the countries of Ex-Yugoslavia and Albania, who will present artistic positions from different generations that have been part of their program throughout the years.

In Western Europe and North America, alternative and independent art spaces emerged in the 70s and developed in opposition to the art market. They played an important role for institutional critique. In Ex-Yugoslavia and Albania, the alternative art scene was created and developed for opposite reasons: the lack of contemporary art institutions and the absence of the art market. As a result, many of the independent art spaces that emerged during the 90s, mostly initiated by a young generation of artists, curators and art historians, have played a key role in establishing the art system, especially for contemporary visual art, in the region as well as promoting it beyond. While alternative and independent art spaces in most SEE countries remain the leading actors in the contemporary art field, they face existential problems daily, taking into consideration that their financial survival depends on public money and private funds, which they have to raise for almost every project.

Focus: Ex-Yugoslavia and Albania will include works by young and established artists, as well as important historical positions from these countries, presented by institutions  Apoteka – Space for Contemporary Art in Croatia, Galerija Alkatraz from Slovenia, Serious Interests Agency from Macedonia, Tirana Art Lab – Center for Contemporary Art from Albania, and Šok Zadruga from Serbia. Focus is supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.

22–25 September 2016
Marx Halle Vienna

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