The Republic of Kosovo is taking part for the fourth time in the 58th Venice Biennale with a major solo exhibition of new work by Alban Muja.
Muja’s work, which takes the form of video installation, short films and documentaries, drawing, painting and performance, is largely influenced by the ongoing processes of social, political and economic transformation in his native Kosovo and across the wider region of the Balkans. Through his practice, he investigates history and socio-political themes, and links them to his position in Kosovo today.
For the Kosovo Pavilion, Muja will present a new video installation that digs deep into personal and collective memories of the Kosovo War (1998-1999) and interrogates the role that images and the media have in constructing and shaping narrative, identity and history, especially in times of conflict.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the end of the armed conflict in Kosovo, the last war to have been fought on European soil in the 20th century and in the continent’s youngest country, which saw 90% of its population displaced during the fighting. At the starting point of Muja’s project lies a selection of photographs of child refugees taken during the war, images that were published in newspapers and on news sites around the world, and which became synonymous with the war, emblematic of the chaos, trauma and pain communicated to the public by the global media. 20 years on, Muja tracks down the individuals, now adults, captured in these frames to delve both into the way in which the ensuing images act as carriers of personal memory and in how they helped craft a wider political and media story beyond the control of the subjects represented.
Given that two decades later, the world faces new and ever-growing hotspots of conflict and an acute refugee crisis, whose experience and reality are contingent on the proliferation and dissemination of accompanying documentary images, Muja’s project for the Kosovo Pavilion opens up a wider field of questioning about the relationship between aesthetics and politics, between subject and narrator.