What is taking place on the contemporary art scene in the Balkan countries today? Can we find shared opinions and common trends? How do we see the “future” of art can and we talk about a shared narrative following the legacy of the major Balkan exhibitions?

This is a part of the questions that the NEXT Balkan platform attempts to ask and elaborate on. The A for Unapologetic exhibition is a comment on these questions. It is conceived by the curator as a departure from the legacy of the 1990s of the Albanian scene and the dominating presence of socially and politically engaged art. In Vaska Emanouilova Gallery and DOZA Gallery, on display are the works of a mixed group of Albanian artists educated in Albania and outside the country, who work with a vast range of mediums and artistic expressions. The exhibition includes paintings, installations, videos, sound and light, as the curator sought to emphasize the freedom of artistic conception.

In her own words, “A for Unapologetic is an exhibition concept and a motto, inspired by the artistic and curatorial approach that tries to escape a sense of identification with what can be seen as limiting. A, as the first letter of the alphabet, symbolises every beginning and in this exhibition the starting point is the concept of Unapology. Unapologetic: as an important aspect that every artist or curator can possess and make use of when pursuing their purpose, in order to be as honest to their inner higher reality as possible. Unapologetic for choosing not to represent or testify for the cultural, political and economic issues or to document the post-communist condition or to elaborate on trauma and collective experience, as has been the case with many exhibitions and projects with artists from South East Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall”.

On 21.04., at 17:00, in DOZA Gallery – A talk of curator Vladiya Mihaylova with Adela Demetja and Bora Baboçi about the curatorial concept, the motivation and the selection of the artists. What is the meaning of artist’s freedom today and what are its dimensions against the backdrop of art traditions, the current social existence of the authors and the visions they have about the future.

The event will be held with a limited number of seats in compliance with anti-epidemic measures. It will be broadcast online as well.

The exhibition is supported by the Visual Arts programme of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Bulgaria.

Adela Demetja – the curator of the exhibition, shares:

“A for Unapologetic is conceived as a poetic journey intended to lead the viewer, through a sensory access into an elevated and expanded awareness. The exhibition creates its own reality, which in its core does not give any specific instructions, solutions or answers, but presents zones of mental and sense amplification, while not renouncing the physical and the aesthetical by surpassing them. The artworks and the way they come together in the exhibition embody and transmit vibrations. At times these vibrations convey a sense of calmness, a sense of light, a sense of freedom and expansion. While each of the works is a portal to a broad and uplifting perception, the exhibition functions as an extended habitat, in which the viewer is offered the possibility to be more present rather than to escape.
A for Unapologetic brings together a mixed group of Albanian artists composed of artists who were educated in Albania and outside of the country and is at the same time a presentation of their artistic practices and propositions. The curatorial approach is based on an ongoing interest in creating time-based exhibitions that bind together artworks of different mediums like video, installation, sound, objects and text, which come together to create an entity and can be experienced by the viewer in terms of time, space and sense.
A for Unapologetic is an exhibition concept and a motto, inspired by the artistic and curatorial approach that tries to escape a sense of identification with what can be seen as limiting. A, as the first letter of the alphabet, symbolises every beginning and in this exhibition the starting point is the concept of Unapology. Unapologetic: as an important aspect that every artist or curator can possess and make use of, when pursuing their purpose, in order to be as honest to their inner higher reality as possible. Unapologetic for choosing not to represent or testify for the cultural, political and economic issues or to document the post-communist condition or to elaborate on trauma and collective experience, as has been the case with many exhibitions and projects with artists from South East Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall in the West and in the region itself.
Since the 90s, the Albanian contemporary art scene has been as well dominated almost exclusively by engaged art, reflecting on political, economic and social changes. Many of the artists have led an activist practice while often depriving their works from individual and inner explorations. Nevertheless, in the last years, the younger generation of artists have developed a more individualised practice that enables them to deal with a subjective perception of existence, inner exploration and universal awareness rather than just identify and respond to the given reality. By doing so, they have found ways to transcend and overcome reality, gaining a certain freedom from conditions that would otherwise limit or influence them and their work.”

Biographies of artists:

Bora Baboçi (b, 1988 in Tirana, Albania) lives and works in Tirana. She studied architecture in the University of Toronto and holds a Master’s Degree in the same field from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. In 2015, she was a researcher and academic assistant in the Technical University of Berlin for a period of two years. During this time, she started to work on architecture and space also through artistic disciplines. Since 2017, she has worked as a freelance professional in the fields of architecture and art. Residencies: ZK/U Zentrum fur Kunst und Urbanistik, Berlin; Art House School, Shkodra; ArtePollino Cultural Association, Latronico; Eva International Biennial, Liberick. Shows include: Ambitions, National Gallery of Arts, Albania; Del Tempo Fossile – Mula Museo di Latronico, Latronico, Italy; Mur mur murmurim, Bazament Art Space Tirana; Ex-Gratia, Collezione Giusseppe Iannacone. Her current research focuses on space crafting, migratory constructive behaviours, dwelling-in-travel and other essential forms of spatial expression. She is increasingly interested in the instances when these expressions of matter are the most fragile in their form, yet the most telling in their intentions. Through spatial performances, invented behaviours, real and fictional places and scenarios, she works with the loose relationship between behaviour and trace. She attempts to articulate through her practice the sense of belonging that manifests at the shift of extending space through the body.

Diomen Boriçi (b, 1991 in Shkodra, Albania) lives and works in Shkodra. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana, at the Painting Department, in 2014. He has participated in group shows including: Autumn Salon, Gallery of Arts, Shkodra; architecture, Mole Vanvitelliana, Ancona; Imago Mundi – Biennale Arcipelago Mediterraneo, Palermo; PIRAMIDA, Tirana Ekspres, Tirana; Clash, Splash, Trash, FAB Gallery, Tirana. His works in painting, drawing, animation and video result from observing the public space and the everyday life. Interested in the combination of the absurd and the poetical, his works capture a collective reality from a non-judgmental and rather detached position. Boriçi’s works aim to create – through repetition, fragmentation, seriality and interval – their own temporality, outside the chronological order. In his works, time or any feeling of urgency is suspended while the potentiality of meditation arises.

Eni Derhemi (b, 1992 in Tirana, Albania) is an artist and art historian. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Design & Arts from the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano and a Master’s Degree in Visual Arts from the University of Bologna where she graduates with a research thesis on post-1990 contemporary Albanian art and the influence migration and post-dictatorship had on it; two phenomena which have marked also her own life and artistic research. Since 2010, she has lived, studied and worked in the creative sphere between Albania, Italy and Germany. She has participated in the following events as: artist, 6th & 9th International Video Poetry Festival, The Institute for Experimental Arts, Athens; artist, organizer & curator, Not a Single Diary – a virtual residency during the pandemic, online residency by Ecumene Project; artist & organizer, Performative Exhibition – Centre for Integration, Tirana Art Lab – Centre for Contemporary Art, Tirana; co-curator, Double Feature #7: Donika Çina & Hanna Hildebrand, Tirana Art Lab – Centre for Contemporary Art, Tirana; artist, Balkan Beyond Borders – Short Film Festival, Art Base, Brussels; artist, “CRATere Festival d’Arte NoN, Palazzo Imperiale, Passo della Mendola; artist, LIVE ART – New Contemporary Albanian Artists, National Gallery of Arts, Tirana.
Taking as a starting point her own life, her research is based in thematics such as memory, identity, belonging and at the same time nomadic existence, highlighting a form of expression coherent to our position in the world as human beings: always looking for the identification and the definition of who we are. Her approach is at core poetic: an essence she likes to attribute to all the things around us as an infinite exploration. She uses these little discoveries as the basis for different forms of artistic expression such as poetry, photography, video and painting.

Fatlum Doçi (b, 1991 in Shkodër, Albania) lives and works in Shkodra. He studied Multimedia Arts at the University of Arts in Tirana, from where he graduated in 2015.
His most recent solo exhibitions include: Puzzle, Museum Stanze della Memoria, Siena; Words, Galerija Flora, Dubrovnik; Signs, Galerija Podroom, Kulturni Centar Beograda, Belgrade; Signs, Galerija VN, Zagreb; The Presence of Absence, Tulla Cultural Centre, Tirana. His works have been shown in group exhibitions, such as: Heteropias of Resistance, ZETA Gallery, Tirana; Autumn Salon of Albanian Artists, Art Gallery, Shkodra; Ex Gratia, Collezione Giuseppe Iannaccone, Milano; A five-pointed star, ZETA Gallery, Tirana; ARDHJE Award for Young Visual Artists, ZETA Gallery, Tirana; The Biennial of Humour and Satire, Gabrovo; Mediterranea – 18 Young Artists Biennale, Tirana; It Looks Like, Zeta Gallery, Tirana; Inside-Out, Tirana Art Lab – Centre for Contemporary Art, Tirana; Idromeno Award, Art Gallery, Shkodra; arTVision – A Live Art Channel, M’ARS Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow, among others. He has developed a body of work that encompasses painting, drawing, watercolour, sculpture, video and installation. Regardless of the medium, Doçi envisions his creative process as a departure from the ordinary and a journey inward, in order to experience what appears to be obvious to the human eye and, also, what does not.

Aurora Kalemi (b, 1993 in Tirana, Albania) lives and works in Tirana. She pursued her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees at the University of Arts in Tirana, where she graduated in 2016 from the Multimedia Department. She has participated in local and international exhibitions, such as: Centre of Integration, Tirana Art Lab – Centre for Contemporary Art, Tirana; Eight Layers, Art House, Shkodra; Schermo a schermo, Black Box, Tirana; Focus: Ex-Yugoslavia and Albania, viennacontemporary, Vienna; Inside Out, Tirana Art Lab – Centre for Contemporary Art, Tirana; Tirana Open Festival of Art and Literature; Multicultural Festival, Berat; Art Vision Project, Venice and Puglia; Balkans Beyond Borders Film Festival, Thessaloniki. Her practice develops between the medium of painting, installation and video art and tends to address personal issues and deal with meaningful universal topics that shape her human experience. Her practice is characterized by the individual approach toward the medium and the way the work process makes it possible to deal with individual perception of existence and reality. Ideas emerge from the infinity of the inner world, through the painting process they receive their appearance and become a way of communication with the reality. It is inside this existential and individual discourse, between Being and Appearing, that her practice emerges and it is to be understood, both in content and form.

Ledia Kostandini (b, 1983 in Pogradec, Albania) lives and works in Tirana. A graduate of the University of Arts, Tirana, her practice spans over diverse media, including photography, painting, installation, public interventions, and illustration. Her work has been exhibited internationally and locally. Her solo shows include: Çentro Estetike, Miza Gallery, Tirana; Blockwork, Tulla Culture Centre, Tirana; Let Us Meet in Between, Bazament Art Space, Tirana; I Look at Them They Look Back at Me, Private Print Studio, Skopje. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions in Albania, Germany, France, Austria, etc. She was awarded the “Ardhje Award” in 2012. She has attended AiR programs in New York and Croatia. She has been a freelance illustrator since 2008. Currently, she works as an Art Professor at the Polis University. Her works refer to social transformations, the inherited or lost culture. She is interested in contemporary habits by associating them to archaic, obsolete objects, places or venues. “Identity on transition” is her focal subject. She uses parallelism, comparison and juxtapositions in order to reveal paradoxical situations. Her works try to provoke ambiguous emotions, mingling imagination, curiosity and humour.

Olson Lamaj (b. 1985 in Tirana, Albanian) lives and works in Tirana. He graduated as a painter from the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence in 2008, and received his Master’s Degree in Photography from the Academy of Fine Arts Brera in Milan in 2010. His solo exhibitions include: The Cat Above and the Mouse Below, Bazamant Art Space, Tirana; Holy muscle, Hoast Project, Vienna; (Over)Identification, Tulla Culture Centre, Tirana. Group exhibitions include: Post – Young Albanian Artists, Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Polignano a Mare; The Whale That Was a Submarine, Ludwig Museum, Budapest; Dark Chapters, , Graz; Nationless, Centre of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki. He was awarded the “Ardhje Award” in 2012. His work investigates social and political issues related both to contemporary life in Albania and to more universal and timeless systems of meaning extending beyond immediate conditions. Lamaj’s projects emphasize the semiotic oversaturation – and the mysterious, almost mystical qualities – of objects and images related to political ideologies of various kinds. His artworks function as a collective mythography of the present, laying the groundwork for the projection and creation of new myths.

Ilir Lluka (b, 1984 in Tirana, Albania) is an audio-visual artist, electronic music composer and software author based in Tirana, active in the field of drone/avant garde electronic music and multimedia art. While his academic studies were developed outside of Arts (majored in Political Sciences and International Relations), he studied as an autodidact for several years the techniques of audio and visual programming / design, composition and synthesis in their academic and practical level. Besides the albums/EPs, Lluka has also composed music for installations and experimental cinema and performed live in cultural spaces as: The National History Museum in Tirana; Niños Consentidos Wien Festival, Vienna; International Sound Art Festivals Poesia Carnosa, Rome; MainOFF Festival, Palermo; Kinisi Festival, Santorini, etc. His audio-visual works have been presented in international exhibitions such as: Double Feature, Tirana Art Lab – Centrе for Contemporary Art, Tirana, Remembering in Form, Galerie Heike Strelow, Frankfurt/Main; Muslim Mulliqi Prize 2016, National Gallery of Kosovo; Onufri XXII, National Gallery of Arts of Albania; Mediterranea 18: Young Artists Biennale, Tirana. Ilir Lluka was the winner of the “Onufri XXII” International Prize for Contemporary Art in 2016.
Lluka’s works are surrealistic depictions of daily-life moments through psychological/emotional associations with memory in relation to the present, in an overall dreamlike atmosphere. His technical approach comes mainly through custom software crafted specifically for each work, and the combination of field-recordings, electronic sounds, as well as acoustic instruments (cello, double bass, piano, etc., often heavily distorted), and also poetry.

Mirjana Meçaj (b, 1992 in Durrës, Albania) lives and works in Tirana. She graduated in 2014 from the Painting Department of the University of Arts, Tiranaat the. She has been part of several group exhibitions and workshops, such as: 30YEARSOLD, FAB Gallery, Tirana; Inside Out, Tirana Art Lab – Centre for Contemporary Art, Tirana; Pieces From Another Reality, Nikolet Vasia, Gallery Durrës, among others. She works with the mediums of painting, video art, photography and experimental sound. Mirjana’s paintings try to convey an almost metaphysical figuration, dream-like, with symbolic elements, leading toward abstraction. Mostly, they refer to an inner reality and relate to a layer of consciousness which captures a level of instinctive perception. She is interested in images that are fixated in memory, while the painting process becomes an attempt to bring them into the present in terms of feelings rather than facts. Instead of getting trapped in melancholy, she transforms these feelings into power manifested as an expression, in colours, in intensity and graphically sharp lines. This expressiveness in painting refers to a fragment or moment which is not afraid to direct the process towards a path which should be experimented.

Greta Pllana (b, 1992 Durrës, Albania) moved with her family to Italy when she was five years old and currently lives and works between Treviso and Milan, Italy. She studied at Venice Academy of Fine Arts, from where she graduated in 2020, and at AVU Fine Arts Academy of Prague. Pllana has taken part in, among others, several solo and group exhibitions: Ambitions, National Gallery of Arts, Tirana; 20th Cairo Prize, Royal Palace, Milan; La Giarina Arte Contemporanea, Verona; 100-ma collettiva, Bevilaqua la Masa, Venice; Combat Prize, Livorno where she won the Painting Prize. In Pllana’s practice, painting and drawing combine to define a suspended universe, oil, graphite, and charcoal alternate and overlap to create dream scenarios, which stimulate the search for a narrative thread and then deny it. The starting point are images found on the Web or photographs taken from family albums, with relatives and friends. In her early works it was the colour to prevail, spreading a slightly lysergic tone on the subjects. But the most recent phase marks a turning point: design and research of images on the Web has become essential, while photographs belonging to the intimate sphere are set aside. This creates anonymous and archetypal memories rather than specific moments belonging to a single individual. The dispersion of memory, the partial randomness of the mass of images that circulate on the Web find a human-sized dimension in the scenes represented on canvas.

Alketa Ramaj (b, 1983 in Përmet, Albania) lives and works between Tirana and Berlin. She graduated in 2006 from the University of Arts in Tirana. She received the 2012 ”Onufri Prize” and the 2013 ”Ardhje Award”. Her solo shows include: About a Tree, Ministry of Culture, Tirana; Lust, Zeta Gallery, Tirana; Salon, ISCP – International Studio & Curatorial Program, New York; No Title, Stacion – Centre for Contemporary Art, Prishtina and Where I End You Begin (together with Dritan Hyska), La Fenice Gallery, Venice. Group exhibitions include: Ambitions, National Gallery of Arts, Tirana; Déjeuner avec Marubi, Vienna; Ex-Gratia, Collezione Giuseppe Iannaccone, Milano; Bienal de Curitiba ’17, Curitiba; Expressive Gestures, Galerie Heike Strelow, Frankfurt/Main; Focus: Ex-Yugoslavia and Albania, viennacontemporary, Vienna; Art D-0 ARK Underground, 3rd Edition of Project Biennial of Contemporary, Konjic; Bienal del Fin del Mundo, Mar Del Plata, Valparaiso; Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali, Bari. Her work is marked by an incessant curiosity and permanent study of new forms of expression, which reveal a striking independence in terms of applying her own critical and personal working methods. The emotional relationship the artist builds with the environment she lives in, in terms of social connection, historical and the political context, are reflected in her practice that develops in different mediums.

Curator Bio:

Adela Demetja is a curator, artist and author born in 1984 in Tirana, Albania. She holds a Master’s Degree in “Curatorial and Critical Studies” from Städelschule and Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main. Demetja was firstly trained as a painter and studied from 2002 to 2006 at the Academy of Art in Tirana, Albania. She is the director of Tirana Art Lab – Centre for Contemporary Art, an independent art institution which she established in 2010. As an independent curator, she has organized and curated numerous international exhibitions in, among others, institutions such as National Gallery of Arts Tirana, Maxim Gorki Theatre Berlin, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Project Biennale D-0 Ark Underground Konjic, Action Field Kodra Thessaloniki, Lothringer 13 Kunsthalle Munich, Villa Romana Florence, Haus am Lützowplatz Berlin.

The Object, 2018, installation; neon light, clay

Rites of Spring, 2020, drawing and montage on cardboard

Soulshape, 2020, poetry on digital photography

Dear Balcony, 2020, 14 drawings

White Rings, 2021, light installation