Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Albanian Treat

Armando Lulaj: Time out of Joint
Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Pakuranga, Manukau City
17 November 2007 – 10 February 2008

This video installation was recently presented in last year’s Venice Biennale, and so lucky Aucklanders – who didn’t travel to Italy – now have an opportunity to check it out.

And they should. It is a wonderful work made by Lulaj, an Albanian artist living in Bologna. In a squalid, smoking rubbish dump found on the outskirts of the Albanian city of Tirana, he has positioned a large vertical block of ice and filmed over one day the activities of all those who discover it. Most that do are children and animals, with the occasional rag picker: a hunched up, arthritic old lady with a cane; or a rag-and-bone man with his horse and cart.

The dump is huge and very flat, with many distant smouldering fires, and roving dogs and goats - some of which come over to lick the ice. You can almost smell the rotting detritus and acrid, eye-watering haze. The site has an apocalyptic, Beckettian ambience, and reminds me of the absurdist Spike Milligan play, The Bed-sitting Room, set in a dump during the aftermath of a nuclear war.

Amidst all the filth and decay, the melting ice becomes an idealistic symbol for rapidly diminishing purity in a hostile world. In the stinking heat groups of transient children out scavenging, come to rub their hands and arms over its pellucid surface so they can lick off the water. The frozen obelisk seems to stand for ‘hope’, the artist’s faith in a future Albania free from corruption in a post-industrialised age. He sees a parallel with this situation and that of Hamlet who, after encountering his murdered father’s ghost, says: “the time is out of joint; O cursed spite!/ That ever I was born to set it right.”

No comments: