13.09.2014 – 25.10.2014
Fearful Intentions, Gallery Jozsa.
Anila Rubiku transports us in Albania landscapes, with three different projects, in order to discover the communist past through bunkers, she also approaches the issue of domestic violence in her country and the topic of dictators love for art trying to make art fight back.
In Albania, military bunkers are everywhere: on the beach, in the mountains, even in cemeteries but mostly in the country near the coasts and the borders. Approximately 750,000 have been built during the dictatorship of the communist Enver Hoxha (1945-1985), that means one for every four inhabitants. But for what use? The answer is quite simple: to defend against the country’s supposed enemies: NATO and the WARSAW PACT. They are simply the result of the Dictator’s paranoia.
Tactically useless from a military point of view, these bunkers had a profound psychological effect on the citizens and especially on Albanian children growing up. After the fall of communism at the end of the 80’s these bunkers were used in various ways: as cafes, restaurants, storages, etc. For Anila Rubiku, who grew up with those bunkers, they are a constant reminder of « the futility and nihilism of totalitarianism » especially the fear they generated in her and her friends of both the outside world and the culture of her country at that time. They are also a concrete corruption of one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe.
In her series Bunker Mentality: Landscape Legacy Anila Rubiku created a water-colour series representing these bunkers. She also made a beeswax installation of bunkers presented at the Kiev Biennale. Her artistic interpretation of these concrete mushrooms is at once a reminder of the horrible past and a message to future generations.
Domestic violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon. In Albania the saying goes: « If he beats you; he loves you ». Because of international pressure from such organisations as Amnesty International and domestic groups such as Platforma Gjinore (Platform for Gender), Albania has adequate laws to protect women from domestic violence. But in Albania these crimes are seen as « family matters »; they are not a matter for the justice system. According to Amnesty International, a woman who was a witness at a trial told the judge: « You know, sir, that all women in our country are beaten by their husbands. It’s normal…Your husband comes home in a bad mood, or tired from work, and when he isn’t pleased, he beats you ».
Some women fought back, they killed their husbands, they were incarcerated. Extenuating circumstances are generally not recognised in Albania. Anila Rubiku organised workshops with those women in prison Ali Demi – Prison 325 in Tirana. The idea behind this was to use art to reveal the suffering of these women and the fact that they had no legal protection. The work Albania: Women, Justice and the Law was presented to politicians, journalists and opinion formers at the gallery of the Tirana Academy of Arts (FAB) in October 2013. Through these workshops, in association with psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Adams, she wanted to let women prisoners express themselves in art and through narratives about their ordeal. Many prisoners applied to participate in the workshops but 12 attended through to the end.
The grills of Anila Rubiku are the artistic contribution from the project. They represent Rubiku’s insight into each personality informed by the women’s art and narratives. In Spring 2014, she discovered that the women had been freed. Of course, this is not entirely due to the project but it helped. The colourful grills that are embroidered are a representation of the women Portrait of a Freed Woman. These embroidered grills are sewn by hand. Anila Rubiku likes to think that the labour time represents the time that these women have spent locked up in prison. Of course, there still remains a lot of work to do concerning attitudes to domestic violence. The project is a sign that Albania is gradually moving in the right direction where citizens can protest injustices without repercussions. Women especially are finding their voices and fighting for their rights. There is a long way to go, however.
It’s a fact that many dictators collected art, mostly by stealing it. There are various reasons for this but one of the messages they were sending was « that they weren’t simply murdering psychopaths, they had –taste– as well ».
But it is odd that there are so many totalitarian collectors of art in history.
The project Effacing Memory was born of Rubiku’s mind when she was resident at the Hammer Museum in winter 2013: What if art could fight back against these dictators by erasing them from our collective memories? Subsequently, when this idea was put to a curator to give Rubiku a perspective, she discovered that there was one famous case of erasure in recent art history, Rauschenberg erasing a de Kooning drawing. So, through twelve portraits of dictators, Rubiku allows art to fight back by effacing these dictators: Ceausescu, Goebbels, Goring, Hitler, Hoxha, Il Duce, Kim Jong, Mao, Marcos, Miloscevic, Shah Iran and Stalin. This project consists of a video and the erased etchings paper work.