The exhibition “Neither Friend nor Enemy” marks the first personal exhibition of Sokol Beqiri in Albania, the exhibition opens on 22nd of March – 2nd of June 2019 at the National Art Gallery in Tirana. The exhibition was curated by Galil Eilat, while its design was carried out by Oren Sagiv. This exhibition takes place in accordance with the common Albanian-Kosovo cultural calendar for 2019, as well as the 20th anniversary of NATO’s humanitarian intervention, a movement that ended the war in Kosovo (1999).
The name of the exhibition foretells the neutrality of the artist’s attitude, yet the exhibition remains inevitably linked to politics. The angle from which he seeks to see and present social dramas, which are also a continuation of national and international policies, is socio-philosophical and artistic. Sokol Beqiri is based on his personal experience, his time and his own generation. However, relying on Shakespeare’s verses, childish toys, and further combination between simple everyday items with military weapons, or more, bringing his belongings – as a reflection of the war through photography – closely related to the emotional drama of the war in Kosovo (1998-1999), proves the overwhelmingly greedy intentions of man, with such dire consequences for society, whatever the time or nationality.
Photography is the dominant artistic approach through which Sokol Beqiri delivers horrendous, indisputable truths, bringing not so far memories to the Albanian public. Can these aesthetic-artistic shots make you a better person ? Similar pictures (and every possible art work) of the earlier wars have failed to achieve this goal. Naturally, the author did not expect this, but he could’t just do nothing and not play the role he was supposed to at the time and place in question, his birthplace.
The center stage in this exhibition belongs to the work entitled “Fluturon, fluturon” (Fly, fly), but if we can ascribe the culmination point, it will have to be the works entitled “Fundi i ekspresionizmit,” (The end of Expressionism) two pictures reflecting a thrilling experience, and ” Kur engjujt janë vonë ” (When the angels are late) the work ( basis of which is the sacrifice) that closely relates to the same experience, but in a very special way. It links Biblical era with the historical events, different art streams, by gaining philosophical meanings from authentic tragic events.
The entire exhibition is in itself a broad view of the Kosovo War seen through the eyes of an artist who is no longer sure of who is an enemy and who is a friend, noticing how, from time to time, the hero is so volatile. All in this socio-political-historical confusion, in the general manipulative hypocrisy where not so good intentions hide behind the unfolding of national marks, Sokol Beqiri sees inevitable his personal neutrality within the time in which he lives.
Starting out with war crimes, reflecting them and going further, creating art by being motivated and relying on them, sounds heavy but indispensable. Such tangle of circumstances, including postwar, follows a whole array of sensations, so that the artist himself feels caught up in the context of the impunity and the instability of friends and enemies, heroes and traitors. Him being at the crossroad of faith and action is a reflection of us. Can national heroes be affected and is it possible for dictators (who often claim to act on behalf of the people)to not be affected? But their definition by his contemporaries, even by the artist himself, seems somewhat impossible. Human vision seems to needs time to clear up..
* Sokol Beqiri was born in 1964 in Peja, Kosovo. He studied at the University of Ljubljana, at the Department of Graphics. Beqiri is one of the most renowned contemporary artists in Kosovo. His most prominent work is from the cycle “The end of Expressionism: painted by a madman” (2001), a cycle that includes the projects “Milka” (1999) and “When angels are late” (2001). Beqiri has exhibited at many European art institutions and has been part of important exhibitions, including “Document 14” in 2017.
* Galit Eilat was born in 1965 in Israel. She is an independent curator and writer residing in the Netherlands. She was the director / founder of the Israeli Center for Digital Arts in Holon (2001 – 2010). Galit Eilat is the creator of the Mobile Archive and co-creator of the on-line “Ma’arav” (“Ambush”). She is also one of the founding members of the World Academy of Arts, founded in 2012 in Cologne.