Friday, 21 April 2023, 24:00 | midnight

#130: Adrian Paci

The works of Adrian Paci grow out of a search for meaning guided by inner needs, as an active way of thinking about the contemporary world. They draw on a deep familiarity with art history, combining the observation of social dynamics in our time with an awareness of the symbolic depth of actions, and an interest in the interpretive potential of images. Key motifs in his oeuvre include travel, passage, waiting—which is above all a state of expectation—and ties to one’s time and place of origin, which are not dimensions to which anyone can return, but rather deep touchstones that individuals must carry with them, to give even the most ordinary actions their full range of meaning.

Adrian Paci will show:

A Real Game, 1997, 9:00 min
A Real Game is a fictional game like Albanian Stories in spite of its almost documentary style. I pretend to be the teacher while my daughter plays the part of the pupil that tells her personal story. Like A Real Game this video too was originated by a family game. Behind the two characters there is the hard reality of immigration. Compared to the first video, the child is more aware of expressions like Birth Certificate, The Banks and Italian Embassy that have already entered her vocabulary. There is just one moment in the video when her fantasy seems to be peaceful and it is when I ask: “But do you like Albania?” and she answers: “Yes, because there are not so much cars as here, I can go to visit my friends, they can bring their toys… and then I have a big garden… I can invite them home, it’s better like that, it’s better like that” 

Turn On, 2004, 3:50 min
“Turn on” shows close-ups of the faces of unemployed Albanian men, who are regularly found on the steps of the city square of Shkodra, where the artist was born. One after another starts a noisy electrical generator to make a large light bulb glow. As the camera withdraws further and further, the entire staircase becomes visible with all the men hired for the project. What remains invisible is that some of the local residents thought the action was a political protest against the government and assembled, some of them waving flags. The electrical generators that are necessary for survival become a metaphor for the unstable infrastructure of the country since the end of communism, which Lenin had already symbolically equated with electricity.
The videoinstallation “Turn on” has been shown at the 51st Venice Biennale, 2005.

Per Speculum, 2006, 6:53 min
Differently from Adrian Paciʼs earlier projects ʻPer Speculumʼ is not inspired by a real incident but seems suspended in an undetermined, archetypical dimension of time and space. The main characters of ʻPer Speculumʼ are children engaged in daring the sun with the segments of a mirror they had previously broken into pieces while it returned their image. The infants reflect the light from the branches of a tree they have climbed, thus infusing it with pulsing vitality. The breaking into pieces of the mirror is a dramatic, self- destructive act. It is followed unsuspectingly by the liberating gesture of a game. Simultaneously the perspective is inverted so that the sunrays are directed towards the spectator who is as if included in the work. The title of the work itself quotes an often commented-on passage from Saint Paulʼs First Letter to the Corinthians videmus nunc per speculum in aenigmate tunc autem facie ad faciem 13:12 (ʻWe see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to faceʼ).

Centro di Permanenza Temporanea, 2007, 4:34 min
The central setting of this video is an airport in San Jose, CA. A crowd of people moves toward an aircraft boarding staircase, in a silent, stoic manner. They form a queue while we can observe planes taking off and landing in the background. Slowly, the stairs fill up with migrant men and women. The people’s faces mirror their yearning for the fulfilment of a humane life without discrimination and cultural uprooting. The camera slowly circles around the free-standing staircase and, in doing so, elicits a subsequent perplexity: To where is this plane headed? In its title the video Centro di Permanenza Temporanea refers to the Italian name for the temporary camps for immigrants arriving on the Italian coasts illegally and on a weekly basis. Linguistically, it offers a paradox of meaning, a tension between a temporary and permanent existence, a tension that Paci maintains in this film, where men and women wait for a plane travelling no where. They remain trapped between the transitory and the fixed, a state that speaks to the dislocation of people migranting across the globe.

The Column, 2013, 25:40 min
“The Column came out of a story.[…] there is in this project a coexistence of something conflictual and something fabulous, something real and something fictional. […] there is a storytelling structure, and the chronicle of real facts mixes with legend and fairytale. Of course, one of the elements that I found stimulating with The Column was the production of a classical Western column model by a group of Asian workers on a voyage towards Europe. As you said, it is in a sense, for the column, a kind of “homecory I heard from a friend of mine, a restorer, who needed a new marble sculpture for a castle he was restoring. Somebody told him that it could be done in China, because they have good marble, good craftsmen, cheap labour, and they can be quick because they can actually do the work while the marble is being transported by boat. I found it terrific. It sounded so weird, simultaneously sick and fabulous, something mythological and at the same time in keeping with the capitalistic logic of profit—merging the time of production with the time of transport.” – Adrian Paci on “The Column”, Interview by Marie Fraser

Interregnum, 2017, 17:28 min
Interregnum collects and assembles fragments extracted from videos documenting the funerals of communist dictators of different nationalities and eras, recovered from
official state archives and national television broadcasts. The grainy images show endless rows of people moving in unison, seemingly without a purpose, their faces laden with expressions of grief. Shifting from close-ups to wider views of the masses, we become witnesses of a crescendo where the manipulation of these masses and the depersonalization

of individual identity become increasingly evident. The dissolution of the boundaries between private and public life, intrinsic to dictatorships, transforms individuals
into members of a “political body”, that thinks and acts in uniformity with the greater action imposed by the regime’s ideology. The death of a dictator marks a deep crack in a system in which power coincides with the figure of the leader. At the same time, it determines a moment when pain, hitherto absent in the forcefully optimistic rhetoric

of the regime, reappears in the public arena. Whether desperation and grief originate from a genuine feeling or a forced role, remains unanswered. Interregnum investigates the nature of this political body, ranging from Asia to Europe and covering almost the entirety of the twentieth century: from Lenin’s death to that of the Albanian dictator,

Enver Hoxha. The figure of the dead leader is missing, leaving the people to march in a paradoxical and absurd procession, imbued with the rhetoric of the regime’s language. Simultaneously, through meticulous editing, the representation of the people is redefined, and the individuality of each, the complexities of their unique emotions, is reaffirmed.

Prova, 2019, 10:16 min
In Prova Adrian Paci returns to the protagonists and a location of his videoperformance Turn On (2004). This earlier tableau vivant featured unemployed workers
from the artist’s hometown, Shkod r, sitting on the stairs of a city square and
performing simple activity of turning on the petrol-fueled generators that provide electricity to the lightbulbs. In Prova we are witnessing a nocturnal scenery of the
same cityscape, now filled up with the microphones and a sound system which replaced Turn On self-made electricity generators. The performance is about to begin as the performers are caught at the last minute act of rehearsing and testing the equipment quality; their voices will be and must be heard soon. Like in Turn On, here too, the texture of human faces in a close-up (and especially the proximity and intimacy,

evoked by them) constitutes formally and emotionally the main surface of action and experience, generating a sense of empathy and compassion. Paci consciously uses the face to depict the conflict and to literally visualize the drama of a singular but
also a collective fate. With Prova, Paci delineates a space of appearance where the process of constructing civility as well as the politics of recognition are rehearsed

and reenacted. Prova is an exercise – an attempt, a temptation, agency of desire and longing. Paci’s entire oeuvre is an anatomy of political desire: from an account
of dispossession and exile through a ritual of belonging and identification down to the mechanics of self-empowerment and emancipation. Prova is a trial – an act of mapping possibilities and chances, scouting potentialities and mastering the skills,

a promise of a successful performance to come.

The Wanderers, 2021, 8:44 min
The Wanderers, Paci’s most recent video installation, consists of two projections. One projection, in black and white, is based on videos filmed by Paci during his extensive travels in the rural areas of Albania late in 2020 and throughout most of 2021. Although far from being a documentary—being edited, cut, and slow-motioned—it serves as a diary of personal experiences during the “corona year,” which left many public roads deserted. The second film is in color, and was directed by Paci during the summer of 2021 in the village of Reç, north of his hometown Shkodër. As the camera moves back, it reveals residents of the village walking down the road. Each individual is seen walking alone, at times with a human or animal companion. There is even a small surprise towards the end, when the last wanderer, who brightens up the landscape with her white dress, wears a lavish wedding gown. Most of the solitary wanderers walk alone, driven to the path by their own initiative, but at the end of the film, as the camera pans up the road, it reveals that together the individuals form a group. We tend to think about societies forming around texts, laws, and written or oral histories, but the wanderers’ formation of a community is pre-lingual. The group in The Wanderers is formed without uttering a sound, by the language of the body alone.

In paragraph IX from Walter Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History, the Angel of History—regarded as the angel of written texts—does not say a word: he stares at a

catastrophe, opens his mouth in astonishment, spreads his wings and moves backwards.1 History, and especially its cruel aspects, is exemplified by the movement of the angelic body in space and his gestures. Benjamin’s conceptualization of history was provoked by his close observation of a visual image of a face. Moreover, chronology in this late text by Benjamin is fluid; past and future seem to replace one another: the Angel of History faces the past, and tries to move forward towards paradise, though apparently backwards in terms of time and space; but the storm of progress blowing from paradise propels him back to the future. Likewise, The Wanderers smoothly slides from the present to the past and future, with a certain timelessness embedded in it: it was filmed in specific places and times, yet could have easily taken place in a historical era. The camera’s back and forth movement in The Wanderers is also closely connected to time, to a past and a future reflected upon from the present. For Paci, the future does not consist of artificial intelligence, people interacting through computers or moving through space only with the help of machines; in fact, it is very similar to the past—it consists of mountains, animals, and people living by their side; it consists of brides and grooms, individuals who form new families; of people walking in public space who voluntarily come together to form groups. Throughout his career, Paci has explored the tension between the personal and the collective, between human individuality and politicized human society. Rather than opposed, however, he regards these two aspects as reciprocal and portrays this inherent social tension as a method of reaffirming both individuality and the universal human need for belonging. The motion of the camera in The Wanderers is well connected to conceptual perspective. The camera’s forward movement in the black and white film corresponds to the personal perspective of a single man walking outdoors—the same perspective of the individual wanderers walking in the color video. The backward movement of the camera in the color film is a literal zooming out from one’s personal perspective to a collective one, which sheds light on universal values. The zooming out creates a universal image of rebirth, of reconnecting to a space, and the possible creation of a community. Kobi Ben – Meir

Adrian Paci (b. 1969 in Shkoder, Albania) studied painting at the Academy of Art of Tirana. In 1997 he moved to Milan where he lives and works. Throughout his career he held numerous solo shows in various international institutions such as: Museum of arts, Haifa (2022); Kunsthalle, Krems (2019); Galleria Nazionale delle Arti, Tirana (2019); Chiostri di Sant’Eustorgio, Milan (2017) Museo Novecento, Florence (2017); MAC, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal (2014); Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea – PAC, Milan (2014); Jeu de Paume, Paris (2013); Bloomberg Space, London (2010); The Center for Contemporary Art – CCA, Tel Aviv (2009); MoMA PS1, New York (2006) and Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2005).  Amongst the various group shows, Adrian Paci’s work has also been featured in the 48th and the 51st edition of the International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia (respectively in 1999 and 2005); in the 15th Biennale of Sydney (2006); in the 15th Quadriennale di Roma, where he won first prize (2008). His works are in numerous public and private collections. Adrian Paci teaches painting at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti NABA, Milan. He has been a teaching art classes at Accademia Carrara di Belle Ari Bergamo, 2002-2006, IUAV, Venice 2003-2015 and EPFL Lausanne 2020-2021.