Harabel Contemporary Art Platform invited contemporary visual artist Helidon Gjergji for a talk, on July 3rd, 2019, in the premises of Kino, Tirana. Helidon Gjergji is one of the artists who is always looking for a new medium (painting, media installation, urban art) to convey his point of view on issues of historical, political, social nature.
During the meeting, the artist focused on three of his exhibited projects, namely: “Trapa Natans Scutariensis”, “Spiced” and “Condimentos”, works whose essence lies in examining the features of fragility and penetration of borders; works dealing with the idea of living at the border, where ethnicities, cultures and religions divide and unite.
“Trap Natans Scutariensis” centers on Shkodra Lake as a geographical body that divides and unites two neighbouring countries; as a natural amphitheatre that proves contemporary danger, a danger that comes from failing to respect nature. (About 144 species of animals and plants in Shkodra Lake are endangered. The most symbolic of these is the Trapa Natans Scutariensis.) This is an ecological concern.
Along with it is the political line on the path of history. The alterations in historical photographs of political personalities, in government and dictatorial times, eradicating from the archives the participation of political opponents, constitute a separate concern, perhaps as important as the disappearance of elements in the natural chain. Both kinds of disappearances, however, are man’s work, thanks to his irresponsibility and ambition.
“Spiced” and “Condimentos” are works / exhibitions performed in different artistic spaces, in different physical conditions (light and dark), but they carry essentially the same meaning: placing a series of spices one after another: basil, black pepper, cloves, chamomile, cinnamon, dill, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, mint, paprika, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme, turmeric, white pepper etc. All of this is a set of aromatic landscapes, a strong mix of spice aromas used by different ethnic communities, but their use is a feature that connects us all, however different we might be.
All three projects point out that boundaries are false and, often, connecting bridges are attacked and their stones are used to build walls. These projects are a reflection of the clash between nationalism and cosmopolitanism, that is the core of today’s national and international politics.
* Helidon Gjergji has exhibited at: Venice Biennale 52; Manifesta 8 (Murcia, Spain); Tirana Biennale 1 and 4; The Festival of Ideas 1 – New Museum (NYC); Venice Biennale of Architecture 12; Project Biennial 3 (Konjic, Bosnia & Herzegovina) and many other countries such as Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, France, USA, Spain and Romania. His work has been reviewed and featured in Artforum, Art in America, Mousse Magazine, Sculpture, Contemporary, Flash Art, Domus, ect.Currently, he teaches at SUNY Old Westbury in NYC and in the past he has taught at Parsons New School of Design, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Northeastern Illinois University. He has lectured about his work at Harvard University, Teachers College – Columbia University, Parsons New School of Design, The School of Art Institute of Chicago, etc.