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adrian paci

The Guardians

Kaufmann Repetto New York

[ Press Release ]
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kaufmann repetto New York is happy to announce Adrian Paci’s exhibition, The Guardians. Three different videos will coexist in the exhibition space: Paci’s latest video titled The Guardians; The Encounter, shot in occasion of a performance held by the artist in Sicily, and Albanian Stories, Adrian Paci’s very first video, dated 1997.

The three works are elaborations of the artist’s personal experience: born and raised in Albania, Paci experienced the limits of a totalitarian regime, and the consequent abandon of his native land. At the same time, the works open to a level of universal experience: the specific episodes lose their historical connotations, and become the occasion to reflect on wider topics like life and death, the vital power of storytelling, the potentiality of the gesture.

The Guardians takes place in the Catholic cemetery in the artist’s hometown, Shkodra, in Albania. Following a ban of religious symbols imposed by the Communist regime, the cemetery was abandoned for decades, and became a place where couples secretly met. After the fall of the regime in 1991, the cemetery was reopened and new construction of unauthorized tombs started to proliferate, recreating the chaotic architecture typical of post-communist Albania. Within the cemetery renaissance, groups of children were paid to clean and take care of the graves. Starting from these memories, Paci creates an ambiguous dialogue between the graves and the children’s presence. This image summarizes a central topic in Paci’s oeuvre: the tension between the liberating power of individual creativity and humor, against imposed constraints.

Albanian Stories, shot in 1997, uses a similar strategy: in the video Paci’s three-year-old daughter recounts a series of improvised fairy-tales, in which imaginary characters, such as a cow, a cat and a rooster, commingle with unexpected references to soldiers and “international forces”. The child’s creativity recounts through storytelling the horrors of civil war, in order to cope with the cruel logics of history.

The Encounter is the result of a performance that happened in Scicli, a small town in Sicily. Here, Paci gathered several hundreds people from all over the world, and greeted each of them with a simple hand shake. This humble and symbolical gesture is repeated in a rhythmic fashion, becoming a solemn and hieratic ritual. Freed by any subordination to other human activities (like celebrations, condolences, agreements) the gesture of hand shaking is made the subject of the celebration, and expresses all its potential through a sense of openness, that is one of the main feature of Adrian Paci’s work.