French photographer Michel Setboun brings to the COD center a photographic documentary , perhaps, of the most prominent decade in the developmental history of the Albanian society: transition from dictatorial to democratic system.
Under the name “The End. The Begining . Albania 1981-1991”, altogether there are 99 photographs of medium and large size, they represent the Albania of 1981-1991 in a multi-layered plan, displaying moments of extreme poverty, mass exodus across borders, naive hope for freedom and change, revival of worship places, without missing out on the moments from the three most important events in human life: birth, marriage and death.
But even these three life occurrences come in line with the all-embracing theme of the exhibition: living within a society in developmental difficulties.
The series recalling the images of extreme poverty also convey the state of complete submission and compelling belief to ideologies, predetermined by the political force in power.
The cycle dedicated to the massive exodus of Albanians in the ’90s , beyond borders, has in itself a strong sense of survival and a need for prosperity, driven more by the instinctive hunger for freedom of thought, speech, and action.
In the 90s photography cycle, one can distinguish those shots reflecting the martyrs of democracy (Besnik Ceka); the prisoners (At Zef Pllumi) and the unwanted by the regime (Mother Teresa – today St. Teresa), praying in the ruins of a church.There is a crowd behind them; perhaps, more or less, with the same zeal of the crowd who helped pull down the churches to later transform them into warehouses, cinemas, theaters or places where physical activity is exercised (gym).
In the exhibition there is no lack of : photographs that show the inner-call for the destruction of everything surrounding, as a desperate and primitive reactionto the oppression of the former regime;pictures showing the miserable conditions of centers for children with mental problems caused by “appropriation of income from local administrators” (part in quotes according to curatorial text); photographs that convey the return to religious rites according to the respective faith;pictures with festive expressions from the dissolution of state cooperatives; pictures of industrial buildings, before and after their destruction. (The destroyed coal factory in Vallias.)
The exhibition does not lack the reflection of the everyday life of the civic or rural environment, where the space of ecclesiastical murals has been occupied by murals of ideological slogans (before the ’90s); there are also images of the election campaign moments (after the 1990s).
There’s also irony and grotesque: in pictures shot in the ateliers; while enjoying the sun between the bunker and the sea; among the vitality of “1 May” marches; in the projection of a picture showing a strolling ice cream vendor on the background of Enver Hoxha’s masive photograph at the Palace of Culture;in photographing a shepherd and his herd on the background of an ecclesiastical mural painting; in organizing a wedding in the ruins of a church. All this as a form of coexistence with evil and its memory.
In the exhibition there are also photos of the “Enver Hoxha”,museum, a museum in an attempt to look like a pharaonic grave, which, unlike Pharaoh’s tactics, was not built by the dictator himself but by his successors.
Sparks of joy in this exhibition come across in pictures: of volunteers building a railway line; of the youth in military training; of the untouched natural spaces of Albania; fans in a football match; of instrumentalist children; of the kindergarten children walking under the shadow of the statue of Enver Hoxha.
The images selected by photographer Michel Setboun at the exhibition, today, 37-27 years later, resemble to unreal cinematic productions. They are images that belong to the Albanian reality 1981-1991.
The exhibition will remain open at the COD Center premises from 6 July to 2 September 2018.