Conceptual Sculptor Petrit Halilaj will represent Kosovo’s national pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale with an exhibition which evokes Biennale curator Massimiliano Gioni’s theme of an Encyclopedic Palace. Halilaj brings together mementos from collaborators, family members and creates a shelter for them within the Pavilion, evoking both his personal anxieties and the fraught history of his homeland.
Given that Petrit Halilaj is a young artist who is just starting to establish himself on the international art scene, his appointment as the artist to represent Kosovo is testament to the unique qualities of his work. His work is particularly personal, and evokes the history and culture of Kosovo through a miscellaneous collection of personal objects. To this end Halilaj uses the idea of nostalgia to great effect in his works. He combines these resonant objects with surreal evocations of the natural world, which in the Kosovo Pavilion finds expression in a shelter made out of twigs and branches, which the organisers describe as ‘a foreign body migrated from some subconscious and forgotten era or territory into a vicinity that is nothing less than a renowned icon of the historic western world’s cultural and artistic achievements.’ The inclusion of two canaries, which at one point lived in the artist’s studio is another gesture of ambiguous symbolism, which is typical of Halilaj’s work.
In many ways Halilaj is a transcontinental drifter. His work frames his constant migrations between Kosovo, Berlin and Italy whilst his particular brand of nostalgia is restorative rather than reflective. We could go as far as saying for Halilaj, experience is a key word – it allows him to open up channels of communication with the public and to overcome the gaps in his link to the world of Runik, his home town, building bridges between different phases of his life.