Adrian Paci
Albania, 1969
Following the professional footsteps of his father, Adrian Paci began to study painting at the Akademia e Arteve (currently the University of Arts) in the Albanian capital of Tirana two years after the death of the Neo-Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha. His successor, Ramiz Alia, was overthrown in the early nineties, and the uniformity of Socialist realism came down with him as the first exhibitions of abstract art took place in the country. Around this time, Adrian Paci became a professor at the University of Shkoder, his traditionally Catholic hometown, and began producing abstract, metaphysical paintings. In 1997, he and his family fled to Milan when revolts began to break out, eventually culminating in the Albanian civil war. This marked the beginning of his work’s mature period: in response to the difficulty of telling certain kinds of stories in painting, he began creating video and film pieces for exhibition spaces. His work is rooted in the experience of exile, in social issues that transform the autobiographical into something collective, universal. In a concise language of immense formal austerity, his work extrapolates personal experience to fictional stories that reveal reality in a much starker, harsher way than a documentary ever could, conveying the trauma in his narrative through existential metaphors. In his films, he works with non-professional actors who stage social representations like symbolic rituals that demonstrate the absurdity of everyday life. In 2007, he made Centro di Permanenza Temporanea, named after the immigrant detention camps in Italy. Filmed in California, it shows a group of Hispanic workers walking up the steps to an airplane only to discover, in a calculated combination of shots, that there is no plane. They are standing on the steps, waiting to travel to nowhere: a poignant representation of exile in our day and age and of the unstoppable sophistication of the southern borders. Whereas his film projects display a certain pictorial condition, his paintings—gouaches—are based on cinematic material, such as his in-depth studies of Passolini films, television news programmes or the iconographies of family albums. The success of his work is reflected by his solo exhibitions at Jeu de Paume (2013) or the Centre Pompidou (2010) in Paris, the Albanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1999) or group exhibitions at the biennials of Seville (2004) and Busan, South Korea (2006).
Manuel Segade