“Other Countries. Other Citizenships” presented in the the Albanian Pavilion @ the 54th Venice Biennale “ILLUMINATIONS”
With the installation “Other countries, other citizenships”, a work presented for the first time in the Biennale, Anila Rubiku (b. 1970) goes straight to the heart of those delicate questions that touch upon the problems of people who leave their country, and what this means when they encounter other cultures and customs. Of behaviour and habitus speaks the great writing that is offered and spread on dozens of hangers, on each of them engraved a single letter, part of the whole sentence. The object is an explicit reference to the dress, what to wear to be part of the society in which we live in. Hanging the clothes we wear is a daily, concrete gesture of stripping off the identity we wear in public. It refers to the private dimension of one being at home, but also to the thin, delicate line that separates what we are and what we outwardly represent. People who leave their country of origin pushed by circumstance and necessity are forced to wear another dress, that is to comply with a new condition, in some way to conform. So the push to integrate is the loss of the individual story, a difficult and often disappointing process of transformation, especially for the so-called first-generation immigrants. Here, as in other works, the question Anila Rubiku deals with in reality is more subtle: it is not only to consider the origin and the starting point of the journey as if they represented something more authentic than the end point. There is no nostalgia for Heimat in her work. The adaptation process changes not only the understanding of the place of arrival but also of the original point of departure. The problematic nature of assuming a uniform one does not own, such as the citizenship of the new nation, does not allow one to simply look back and imagine a possible return to ‘the roots’. The public identity, our interface with the others, the uniform we wear where we were born and raised, is no less illusory than the new one we take in another country. Indeed, the process of adaptation it is likely to change the way we perceive even our home country. The dynamics of the power relations between people and gender – in its complexity the work of Rubiku is also an intense interrogation of the fact that every human relationship contains the ghost of a projection of power – can be altered following a change of latitude, but nonetheless they never become lesser. As a result, identity and disappointment are two aspects closely related. The adaptation process those who leave their country have to go through, while preparing to take on more clothes and habits, redefines the realm of sensibilities no less than the public projection of oneself to the others. As a result, between what we communicate and what we actually think and imagine opens up subtle fracture lines. This is beautifully illustrated in the second key component of Rubiku’s installation, made of drawings and phrases that appear on the top surface of a number of men’s hats, carefully embroidered by hand. Here too an element of clothing becomes the subject of particularly intense reading. The men’s hats symbolize a certain idea of masculinity, decor and representation to the others. The hat is part of the apparel eminently wearable in public, put on to protect and draw attention to the head. But what lies under the hat, that is, under its public performance? What if for a moment on the outside of the hat, this par excellent accessory of man’s fashion, crop up thoughts and imaginations of the person wearing it, emerging like mold on a surface? The reflection on the condition of belonging (our country may be considered so), and on the question of citizenship moves now from the ethical and political to the existential and symbolic.
Text by Riccardo Caldura