"Archives as untold stories" for dialogue and new cultural spaces

Actors Ilire Vinca and Enver Petrovci

Actors Ilire Vinca and Enver Petrovci in "Archives as untold stories", on Friday at Kino "Armata", shared their stories about the years of resistance with art

The dialogue between the artistic community and researchers in the field of culture has been the focus of the two-day interdisciplinary seminar held at the Cinema "Armata" in Pristina as an initiative of four institutions based in the Western Balkans and in France. 

"Archives as unspoken stories" was the theme of this organization for which the "Oral History Initiative" in Pristina, "Art Explora", École Nationale Supérieure d'Arts de Paris-Cergy and Museum of Contemporary Art of Skopje. 

The seminar for circles in the field of culture and not only works under the "EU Balkans" program and is supported by "The Creative Europe" program. The primary aim is to encourage interaction between artists, researchers and cultural actors of the Western Balkans and the EU as a way to spread different research practices. 

"Armata" hosting the activities has been the first example of its role as a space, which functions as a cultural institution that promotes alternative culture since 2018. 

Saturday, the second and final day, started with a book fair from alternative publishing houses in Kosovo and the region. "BERK Botime" from Tirana, "Zine Collective", "Potpuri", "Lirindja", "Pykë-presje" and others were presented with their titles. The workshop was also organized by "Termokiss", which offered the opportunity to the attendees to engage in the process of creating an unofficial magazine "fanzine" created by enthusiasts. This 'wokrshop' followed a conference on the performance "An Icon Never Dies" by French artist Eden Tinto Collin, which deals with the multidimensional fictional character of Jane Dark. 

The first discussion panel was dedicated to the power of publishing houses from different geographies and social contexts. In the topic "Publishing, a political tool" Donika Çapriqi from "Space SyntaKS", Blerta Haziraj from "ATO fanzine", Lura Limani from "Lirindja" and Theo Robine - Langlois presented their works. publicist from France. The next panel was dedicated to the discussion of the importance of oral histories and their archiving, where various researchers from Kosovo and the world were presented, including the sociologist Linda Gusia with the project for "School Houses" by Arbë Selmani, with the project of archive of the LGBTQ+ community in Kosovo. 
"Peach stories" was the central event of the second day, which at the same time marked the end of this two-day seminar. The discussion, organized by the initiative aimed at creating a space where women can tell their stories, brought together six women who have shared their stories on the topic of shame.

The overall goal of this project under the title "Archives as unspoken stories" is to strengthen the network of artists, artistic practice and research between the Western Balkans, the European Union and other parts of the world. In addition, the project aims to raise capacities and transmit knowledge in the field of art and culture in dialogue with other disciplines, towards art students, artists, creative sector professionals and the general public. 

Jeta Rexha, director of the "Oral History Initiative", when she spoke about the goals of this year's seminar, said that they are trying to create a project that includes artists and cultural researchers in Kosovo. "And the program comes as an overview of the ambitions of the cultural scene in Kosovo", said Rexha in the introductory speech, at the opening ceremony of the "Archive..." modest opening ceremony on Friday. The project is characterized by the organization of seminars like "Archives..." comes with a three-year deadline. The seminar in Pristina was preceded by a similar one in Paris. 

Camille Kingué, head of the career development office at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Arts de Paris-Cergy–ENSAPC, Paris, shared the motive behind the participation of this partner institution in this event. 

"Even the title itself shows that we are dealing with a seminar which tries to create cooperation relationships between different researchers and artists. This seminar here in Pristina comes as a continuation of the one in Paris, since there have been many developments in art and culture, so we have continued now", said Kingué.

For Ivana Vaseva, the curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje, visits to Pristina are always welcome. According to her, the destinies of Kosovo and North Macedonia are connected and can be translated as such also in cultural initiatives. 

"It is always a pleasure to be in Pristina, especially when we meet artists and researchers from many countries. Our fates are connected with Kosovo, especially these last decades, so it is a pleasure to participate in this initiative and to address how contemporary art can be a space of collaboration between artists and researchers from both countries", she expressed. 

Alexandra Goullier Lhomme, head of residency programs at "Art Explora", present at the opening ceremony, spoke about the initiative she represents in this symposium as well as the future plans that will also extend to Albania, namely Tirana. 

"'Art Explora' is a foundation that strongly believes that art can create connections in communities but also through different artists, and all our foundation projects move towards this idea. Through our artist residency programs we believe that the artist should be at the center, we should protect creativity. We had our first residency in 2021 in Paris and since then we accept from 20 artists, providing them with income and work for a period of two to six months. We attach importance to the participation of artists from different geographies and cultures, and this year we will launch a similar program both in Paris and in Tirana", she said, adding that this initiative will welcome 30 artists, but also serve as a multifunctional space.

The rest of the program of the first day was realized by a presentation of the work of the Oral History Initiative over the years in Kosovo, whose main commitment is the informal documentation of the history of Kosovo, trying to recover the interaction of individual and collective memories. Three short films such as "Mardhe" by Flaka Kokolli, "Those Who Drown Cling to Foam" by Urtina Hoxha and "Pashtriku" by Ana Morina were shown there. In the meantime, visits were also made to various alternative spaces dedicated to culture in the capital, such as the "Fifteenth Foundation", "Centre for Narrative Practice" and "Termokiss". 

The evening was reserved for a discussion with two subjects which for the foreign participants, who were many in number, offered an overview of the cultural context of Kosovo in the 80's and 90's. 
It was preceded by a video-collage with inserts from interviews conducted by OHI, with different personalities from the cultural scene of Kosovo. The actor Adem Mikullovci appeared, showing how much importance Kosovars paid to the premieres of theatrical performances in the 70s. 

The artist Lirije Bulliqi, a long-term employee of the National Gallery of Kosovo, has shown how Picasso's work reached GKK. Politician Kaqusha Jashari has shared details from the Monday and Thursday proms in the former Pristina through the video material. 

All these were interesting details for the audience that served as a prelude to the discussion with the actors Enver Petrovci and Ilire Vinca. This discussion came as an attempt to map the artistic scene as resistance in Kosovo during the years of the regime. 

Petrovci has shared details from his beginnings as director of the "Dodona" theater and the difficulties that the artistic community had encountered during that period. "I received my salary in marks and my salary was 2 marks and 75 cents. We sold tickets from 1 mark per viewer and believe it or not, we also paid the actors. It means that we are talking about a very difficult period, both politically and economically", said Petrovci. 

Ilire Vinca also shared details from the beginnings and vicissitudes of her career. 
"I learned every old Albanian song during that time and when there was a performance in 'Dodona' we entered the theater with bread under our armpits, cheese or something, everyone brought something because we had to sleep there until the next morning because of the time police. So the theater in Kosovo developed under these conditions", said Vinca. 

"Archives as unspoken stories" for the coming year has Skopje as the host and epilogue of the three-year project.