• The Directo's Cut: Rexhep Ferri
The Director's Cut
The Director's Cut
Rexhep Ferri 

Curatorial by Albert Heta 

Opening: 5 April 2011, 19:00 hrs. 
5/4/2011 - 30/4/2011


This is an exhibition that is not supposed to happen. The Director's Cut: Rexhep Ferri is part of the project Back to the Future, a curatorial project by Albert Heta, produced for Stacion - Center for Contemporary Art Prishtina.

Since its begging in 2009, Back to the Future was shaped within the exhibition's program as: Petrit Halilaj: Back to the future (17/12/2009 - 6/2/2010), Back to the future: Agim Cavdarbasha (11/3/2010 - 2/4/2010), Back to the future: Nysret Salihamixhiqi (1/6/2010 - 22/6/2010) and Back to the future: Kader Pagarusha (4/9/2010 - 2/10/2010). The next stage of the project is the symposium Back to the future (7/4/2011) and the panel discussion with Zdenka Badovinac, Mehmet Behluli and Shyqri Nimani.
Looking in the past of this project, Back to the future as a project in the international scene also had a 'close encounter' with a larger 'object', Artissima art fair (5/11/2010 - 7/11/2010). The section Back to the future for this event was conceived by a Scientific Committee consisting of three curators of museum collections: Christine Macel, Curator Centre Pompidou, Paris - Jessica Morgan, Curator Contemporary Art, Tate Modern, London - Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Special Projects, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York and Artistic Director Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan. This section was created not only with the same name but also incredible similarities in the project that are more than only interesting to work with in the future. Back to the Future with Rexhep Ferri and Xhevdet Xhafa were parts of the initial structure of Back to the Future as a project. Both were cancelled in the late research phase of the project in mid 2010. The process of researching the work of Rexhep Ferri (1937) had reached the final phase and this exhibition will project the final meeting point reached in the working communication with this great artist and a complex personality. Rexhep Ferri is a painter, poet and writer, but above all he is a thinker.

The Director's Cut: Rexhep Ferri is again about showing one work created in the past, in another space, time and context. Two Figures and One Expectation was made in 1973. The director's cut, in this case, is a specially edited version of the project Back to the future. Director's cuts in film industry generally remain unreleased to the public because, as far as film is concerned, with most film studios the director does not have a final cut privilege. The studio (whose investment is at risk) can insist on changes that they feel will make the film more likely to succeed at the box office. This sometimes means a happier ending or less ambiguity, but more often means that the film is simply shortened to provide more screenings per day. The most common form of director's cut is therefore to have extra scenes added, often making the "new" film considerably longer than the "original". In our case, it is relevant to mention that there is was another real cut that had a role in this exhibition; a 18 cm cut was described as a damage on the upper section of the painting selected for this exhibition.

This painting is part of the collection of The Kosova Art Gallery. This collection is another component of the project Back to the Future and the central point of the partnership with the Kosova Art Gallery in this project.

The official request to have access to this paining was the second case when as apart of the project we initiated the administrative procedure of requesting a loan of works form the collection of the Kosova Art Gallery. But what is the (other) historical context that encircles this painting and the work of Rexhep Ferri? In 1973 was the year when Rexhep Ferri created more than one painting. In 1974 Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosova and Socialist Autonomous Province of Vojvodina gained an unique constitutional position in the Yugoslav Federation and The Socialist Republic of Serbia and their own self-governing institutions that were not only autonomous but were also served as tool for controlling the always existing Serbian colonizing aspirations through a unique constitutional solution that can be described only as a mutual dependency. To describe this solution only with one element: the decisions of the Parliament of Serbia that concerned Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosova and Socialist Autonomous Province of Vojvodina by the constitution of 1974 requested the approval of the Parliament of Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosova and Socialist Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. In 1977 Rexhep Ferri has a solo show at Galerie (Yvon? My question!) Lambert, Paris, France.
Alain Bosquet starts the text in the introduction of the catalogue of the exhibition with these lines: ''Salut for Rexhep Ferri Paying tribute to the talent of a painter you do not know and who comes from a distant country, is always a pleasant and a thrilling experience. This is exactly what I am experiencing before the work of this particular artist. I cannot say whether this painting has a significant root in the tradition of his country, of which, when it comes to painting, we do not know that much. I would rather judge, grasping the circumstances, Rexhep Ferri knew very well how to secure its universality, which clearly, made the deepest impression on me ...'

12 years after, the changes in the constitution of Serbia in 1989 that abolished the autonomy of Kosova were approved by the parliament of Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosova. This vote came in the time when the autonomy and the state apparatus of the self-governing Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosova in 1989 were seriously challenged. The biggest challenge and the first public re-appearance of the new colonial aspirations of Serbia in politics came in spring 1981, following the demonstrations of Albanian students of the University of Prishtina. The demonstrations of 1981 are nowadays called also 'The (Albanian) spring 1981'. Many publications or master dissertations are written by those, today in power, who claim to be the organizers or sponsors of the 'The (Albanian) spring 1981'.
In the media representation of 2011 on this event, there is one additional problem that is appearing: a color photograph of demonstrations organized in 1990, now appearing in black and white, is being used in media to document 1981. What happened to the image of Hydajet Hyseni with mustaches in 1981, up on a tree in the center of Prishtina speaking through a megaphone? And what is the difference between the demonstrations in 1981 and those in 1990? Albanians where again on the streets in 1981 and 1990. In the demonstrations of the spring of 1981 Albanians were both the demonstrators and the police. In 1981 the League of Communists of Kosova was the party running the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosova. In 1981 Mahmut Bakalli was still the Chairman of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Kosova. Mahmut Bakalli graduated from the University of Belgrade's Faculty of Political Science. Bakalli's political career started in the youth organization of the League of Communists of Kosovo, eventually becoming its leader in 1961. In 1967, he became head of the party's Prishtina committee. As he rose through the ranks, he was subsequently elected to the Central Committee of the Communist League of Serbia, and to the Presidium of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia's Central Committee. Bakalli led the Communist Party in Kosovo during the late 1970s until 1981. He resigned in 6 May 1981 after the demonstrations of the Albanian students. If you google Hydajet Hyseni 1981, one of the leaders of the demonstrations of the spring of 1981 you can also find this description bellow the real image of 1981 (now missing): 'Then Hydajet Hyseni, an activist, reputed founder of a Marxist-Leninist group and a journalist from the Kosovo Albanian daily paper Rilindja, who had recently been hiding, climbed a tree and spoke to the demonstrators in front of the Communist Party building and urged them not to stop. In this way he became known as the Che Guevara of Kosovo. (Daut) Dauti says: "People were saying we should be free from Serbian domination. There was a feeling that [despite autonomy] key positions were still held by Serbs and pro-Serb Albanians."' In the image from 1990, now displayed as the image of 1981, Albanians were only the demonstrators. The used image documents the demonstrations organized in August 1990 during the visit of the American delegation in Kosova headed by Bob Dole, and six other senators of the senate of the United States. In 1990 Kosova was under Serbian occupation. League of Communists of Kosova seized to exist. The police in the image from 1990 was the Serbian police part of the oppressive apparatus of the Serbian occupation. All this brings me to few questions, relevant for Back to the future.

What is the image of the work of Rexhep Ferri in all these years? How did this social complexity find a presence in the modernist paintings of Rexhep Ferri and other modernist painters and texts? And, what is the role of collections of art and the role of institutions that work with and collect art in the narratives of one country? Can these items, when collected randomly and without the contextualization of their creation, play any role in art of today? Is the missing (historical) context related to the missing department or art history that was never created as a part of any university or other education institutions in Kosova? Are attempts to erase contemporary art in Kosova connected with the attempt to erase modernism in this society? To quote from the study by Gezim Qendro, an art critic based in Tirana, for the Monograph on the work of Rexhep Ferri published recently by the The Academy of Sciences and Arts of Kosova: 'Modernism for a country like Kosova had a significance that went beyond the mere connection with art and literature. This is because, modernism in Europe undermined the foundations of the world Europeans were living in up to those times, though, in contradiction with what is commonly thought, the break with the tradition never happened to the scale it is commonly ascribed with. The essence of this novelty dwells in the self-criticism, an inexhaustible introspection when it comes to the discussion of the foundations of Western Civilization, which was openly introduced by the modern epoch. The majority of the Kosovar society reacted positively to modernism by accepting its initial reformist, social and cultural character. The attempt to incorporate the concept of self-critique in a conservative society as was Kosova in the '50 - '60, was with no doubt appraisable, though for my humble thinking, a positive reaction to modernism and novelty was merely reached by the cultural elite and a part of the middle class living in the major cities.'

My question is: What is the feeling between 'The (Albanian) Spring 1981', the destruction of the Kosovar society and state apparatus of Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosova (The Modernism in Kosova), the Serbian occupation of Kosova and the Newborn project state of Kosova? And how can we project (the missing) modernism as a reality in the age of Lady Gaga?

Back to the future by Stacion - Center for Contemporary Art Prishtina is a quest to capture time through selected art works and texts and work in contextualizing the time and geography connected with the outstanding works that are in the focus of these exhibitions and an investment in creating a space for future credible reflections on works of generations of artists for the next generation of artists.

Albert Heta
April 2011