Unstraight Alliance Art Residency 2014

The two works presented in this exhibition, Jepi me gojë (Use Your Mouth) by the art collective HAVEIT from Prishtina, and Koncert në Vitin 2014 (Concert in the Year 2014) by the Swedish artist Conny Karlsson Lundgren, are the result of a one-month art residency in Tirana, organized by the Albanian organization Aleanca Kundër Diskriminimit të LGBT and The Unstraight Museum from Sweden with curatorial support from the Department of Eagles. This is perhaps the reason that even though the residency did not have a specific theme and the artists worked produced separate works, they have important characteristics in common.

First, we encounter in both works several displacements and inversions that are difficult to ignore. In the case of haveit’s performance, a family scene that would normally happen in a kitchen or living room is displaced into one of the most important public spaces of Tirana: Skënderbeg Square. Also, the poetic character on which this work is based is a man (from Sokol Ferizi’s “I will never forget”), whereas haveit’s performance is clearly executed by four women.

But also in the case of the work presented by Conny Karlsson Lundgren which consists of three elements: the video of a performance staged in the theater of the Pyramid (Bunny), a photograph of the interior of the Film Archive which in the center shows a portrait of the famous soprano Tefta Tashko Koço (Tefta), and facsimiles of several archival materials pertaining to the film Koncert në Vitin 1936 (Concert in the Year 1936) (1936). The video is a reenactment of a well-known scene of this film, where the characters played by the actor Margarita Xhepa and Manushe Qenani, two musicians – respectively a pianist and a soprano – interpret an improvised scene on the central town square of Myzeqe. Lundgren correctly suggests that these two characters symbolize a lesbian couple. This is especially visible in the aforementioned scene, where the separation between them and the local audience may easily be discerned, even though in this scene focuses specifically on the fact that the audience considers them fundamentally foreign. In Lundgren’s version, Manushaqe Qenani, or more precisely, the character that she interprets, has been replaced by a young boy in drag and the scene is diverted to an inside space, the theater of the Pyramid. What has not changed, however, are the poise and mannerisms kept by Bunny and Manushaqe Qenani alike while interpreting the registration of soprano Tefta Tashko Koço, although in Lundgren’s work we only hear one aria, the well-known Zare Trëndafile, a love song for a woman.

So what these two works emphasize is the porosity of the border between private and public space, genders and sexualities. In fact, the works are installed in such a way that this porosity is also put in perspective within the exhibition space. The videos are synchronized in such a way that they follow each other: while HAVEIT leave the “stage” of their performance on Skënderbeg Square, Bunny climbs the stairs to enter the stage of the theater in the Pyramid; while Bunny walks down the stairs after her performance, HAVEIT sits down on the chairs, and so on, ad infinitum. And all the while, the visitors trace their steps through the exhibition space.

A project by Elvis Hoxhaj for Aleanca Kundër Diskriminimit të LGBT, the Unstraight Museum, and The Department of Eagles. Curated by Jonida Gashi and Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei. ZETA Center for Contemporary Art, Tirana, Albania, 2014. Contributing artists: HAVEIT, Conny Karlsson Lundgren. With financial support of the Swedish Institute.