Adrian Paci

galleria francesca kaufmann

Adrian Paci’s videos concern the emotional nature of origins. An Albanian, he has lived in Italy for five years but has maintained, both conceptually and sentimentally, his primary ties of family, friends, and culture. In his earlier works Albanian Stories, 1997, and Apparizione (Apparition), 2000, he focused on generational relationships. In the former his young daughter recited fairy tales, and allusions to real war were mixed with a battle played out by toys. In Piktori, 2002, Paci told the story of a painter friend who lives in Albania and reproduces famous paintings, forges diplomas and death certificates, and designs shop signs. We see him from the back, enveloped in cigarette smoke, while in a warm and confidential tone he tells about his life as a forger. As proof of their friendship, he drew up a death certificate for Paci.

Now, in Vajtojca (Mourner), 2002, projected on a large screen, Paci enacts his own death. He stages it where he was born, in the city of Shkodër, as if this appointment, which no one can avoid, has to be experienced in congruity with his origins. It happens when he arrives at the house of an Albanian woman who works as a professional mourner. Paci, wearing a dark suit, stretches out on a bed and becomes progressively rigid. The woman sits down next to him and chants a lament that incorporates the grief of his wife, the tears of his daughters, and the pain of exile. A handkerchief covers her face. Her sharp tones—part cry, part muttering—create a theatrical backdrop for the representation of death, both in the sense of something that really happens to a person and as a symbol of the extreme detachment that tests those who are forced to abandon their native lands.

The archaic ties of funerary rites interweave with the present, where the vision of death is almost always framed within a medical context or traumatically set on the front pages of war reportage. But in Mourner a certain sweetness pervades the scene as well. There is a difficult intimacy that must be achieved at high volume if it is to be seen even by the dead. Will Paci pull it off? He makes us perceive this spiritual emotion, and, marked as it is by his origins, it suggests a continuum between the artist’s birthplace and his subsequent experiences. The final embrace with the woman who has accompanied his “exit” from the world is a moment of authentic emotion, not only because there may be a promise of rebirth, but also because death is placed within an everyday emotional dimension. It is another way to relate the Albanian drama, without turning death into a media spectacle. The mellow, painterly use of color is in harmony with the suggestion of a possible resurrection; the moment when Paci’s face is reflected in the mirror next to the bed evokes that self-revelatory glance that we cannot evade even in the hour of our death.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.