born 1975, in Tirana, Albania, currently based in Milan, Italy
HB V Pankow
Vénera Kastrati is an albanian contemporary multimedia artist naturalized as italian. She was born in Tirana by parents of Kosovar origin that remained in Albania following the forced closure of the border with ex - Yugoslavia Republic. In the Albanian capital she received most of her school education. She graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana and at Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. The artist is particularly sensitive to issues of the human condition in a state of emergency caused by totalitarianism or social discrimination, as well as recovery of the collective memory. Her identity suspended between Albania and Kosovo is source of inspiration for different works.
The arrival in Milan has represented a turning point in her career, thanks to the fertile academic environment that allowed her to get in touch with the stimulating international artistic reality and to experiment with new media such as photography, performance, video, sound and installation. In 1999 she debuted with a solo artist exhibition at Spazio Umano presenting the video performance "I heard her voice on the telephone". In the same year she returned to Tirana to attend "Onufri 99". In 2000 she’s been included in the first collective show ever outside of Albania, at Palazzo Farnese in Ortona, "We love Italy, Italy loves us", curated by Edi Muka. In 2003 she’s been invited by the curator Harald Szeemann to participate in one of his memorable collective exhibition "Blut & Honig - Zukunft ist am Balkan" at Sammlung Essl in Klosterneuberg (Austria) and in Bologna Art Fair as part of the special event "The Balkans, a Crossroad to the future". In 2009 participated in "Krossing", collateral event of the 53rd Venice Biennale and in the same year represented Albania at the 25th Biennale of Alexandria in Egypt dedicated to the Mediterranean countries. In 2014 she took part in the "Artists for Guri i Zi", project that materialized with a charity auction at Sotheby's to raise funds for the construction of a social enterprise run entirely by women of that same Albanian village. She has participated in several editions of MiArt and Arte Fiera Bologna in collaboration with various galleries. Her works have been exhibited in galleries and museums as the Museum of Modern Art in Ascona (CH), Palazzo Rospigliosi in Rome, Palazzo della Penna in Perugia, Casa Masaccio in San Giovanni Valdarno, Marino Marini Museum in Firenze, the Triennale in Milan, Center of Contemporary Art “Domaine de Kerguehennec” (FR), and XXL Gallery in Sofia (BL).
Description of work created at HB V Pankow
THE UTOPIAN BLANK SLATE The utopian blank slate, in architecture is used to determine the conception and construction of a new building, free from compromises or complications after the demolition of what previously stood onto that same location. According to the Aristotelian vision, each human being represents a "blank slate" that the society can mold into any needed form and shape. "Blank slate" is the basic idea that individual human beings are born "blank" (with no built-in mental content), and that his or her identity is defined overwhelmingly by events after birth, therefore by the individual sensorial experience in the social context. This theory has taken up by many utopian schemes that rely on changing human nature in order to achieve their goals through the creation of the new man.
"The utopian blank slate" is a video installation with a double projection that talks about the utopian memories, where the vision of two new anonymous worlds, built as the result of the demolition of entire cities, is interrupted from time to time by the images of the main characters: two wine producers with totally different experiences, in a surrealistic cross-border virtual face to face.
The images are not fully intelligible as they are realized with a specific technique in order to remind a sort of living fresco.
The first character, Mr Cobo, is a winemaker in Berat, one of the oldest cities of Albania, land rich of history and tradition sacrificed on the altar of the “new man”. The second one is Giuseppe Bertolino, an Italian wine producer in Montegrosso d'Asti, Piemonte, which had the chance to continue the job that his family handed down with naturalness through generations and that few years ago passed on to his son Fabrizio.
The idea came out when I met both Mr.Cobo and Mr.Bertolino in the spring of 2009 at Verona’s “Vinitaly”, the well known international wine trade fair. My cross-border experience is represented by the research of the memory preserved within these people through many generations. My role is to stimulate, collect and sift their memories going backwards in the past with the purpose to condense decades of oral tradition handed down from father to son in something capable to provide an identity to their present.
Memory is an immaterial heritage, not as a consumer value but as a practice and awareness one. Sometimes, when we have difficulties to remind events of our past, we have the feeling that a part of ourselves has gone forever.
Generations are a country fresco, a silent vision that becomes an intense tale, alive history in the present tense. Something that becomes “listening”. "The vineyards belong to the people" said a slogan coined by the Albanian's Communist Party in the fifties. Here’s the beginning of the story for Cobo and of the “new man”.
The party ordered to explant all the vineyards, leaving only few hectares under the direct control of the state itself, which produced a minimum quantity right enough to satisfy the need of a single day as the citizens were allowed to drink wine only on the new year’s day. It was a wine without name and without history, used to celebrate the arrival of new year, among forbidden stories around a table and illegal commemorations of ancient traditions fading away with the time passing by. A wine without memory, the wine of the "the utopian blank slate" city. In this state of things, at least two generations have been deprived of the possibility to perceive the changes in the rest of the world, locked as they were in a sort of cocoon, committed with the only objective to survive. Today Cobo works hard to recover that memory and fill up the generation gap created by the dictatorship.
"The memory of the past must be practiced in the present, otherwise it’s dust" on the contrary say the voices coming from the faraway generations over the distant lands of astigiano where Bertolino’s family is still working. To tell the truth, nobody here uses to waste words, so as the stories. The real memory is the land itself; it's the handing over of the acquired knowledges from generation to generation by means of simple gestures day after day. But there’s also the downside: the tradition was obligation and coercion as well, with the male child who, whether he liked it or not, had in his destiny to look after the family farm without any possibility to choose for any different option.
"The utopian blank slate" is a journey through time. It’s the revealing of lost identities, of new lands, of idealized and mythicized dreams.