The Whale That Was A Submarine

Contemporary Positions from Albania and Kosovo
Curated by: Julia Fabényi – Ludwig Múzeum, Budapest 2016


Off, 2015
Custom-made concrete pots, metal parts, hand-crafted and plastered EPS buildings, soil, grass,
100 cm high, 300cm wide. Installation view: Modelariumi Prishtina


Off – reflects on the forced process of landscape transformation engendered by social and political motivations. As a poor province of former Yugoslavia, landscape developments and urban planning reached Kosovo quite late and did not last for long. Following the destruction caused by the war at the end of the 1990s, a new claim arose demanding to erase the leftovers of the past: at the same time, the construction of illusions within an ideological transition became tangible through architectural endeavors. This phenomenon created a mixture of kitsch, fordized buildings, and rather unsophisticated visual townscapes. Off combines this urban view with a personal reading of his environment by the artist, addressing the way individuals helped the rising of “ordinary utopias”. The Series can be seen as a personal investigation to decipher urban signs, schemes, and elements through memory uniting realistic and utopist elements: all drawing depicts a visual recalling of very specific places, cherished childhood- related locations of the artist, which are non-existing anymore, with a subtle focus on how the human mind remembers and selects details of houses, streets, or city landscapes through time. Driton Selmani was curious to see if memories could be produced and reproduce, and weather how the transformation of close surroundings manipulates our most intimate visual thoughts.

Untitled Drawing, 2015
30×27 cm mixed media on paper

Untitled Union, 2012
Collage textile cut from flags, handcrafted scythe tale
Dimensions: 300 x 250 cm, Installation view: Ludwig Múzeum, Budapest

Selmani’s collage flag addresses the feeling of being trapped between the concepts of identity and belonging. It is meant to be a sort of visual journey, questioning memory and the approach of nostalgia, bringing to the mind of the viewer the notions of national anthems, the meaning of colors within collective memory, the attempts of name territories, or the reminiscence of conflict and repression. A search for possible cultural and personal identity and its relation to the past and the present is what characterizes this and many other works by Selmani.

Utopia, The Place That Doesn’t Exist
Video Performance, unauthorized intervention on public space, color film with sound, 2’31′

Driton Selmani’s performance followed the 2008 Kosovo declaration of independence only by one year. The video was shot on the main motorway heading to Pristina. The artist quotes Thomas More’s Utopia through his work by addressing the way the new-born country was described in the official discourse at the time as a Paradise-like place, while the population had to deal with a rather different reality. These harsh times were characterized by isolation, a failing economy, and an unreliable political elite. Selmani’s unauthorized sign was left untouched for an entire week following the performance before the Police took it off.


Text: Kálmán Borbála

The Whale That Was A Submarine – Ludwig Múzeum, Curated by: Julia Fabényi
Kortárs Művészeti Múzeum, Budapest 2016