Adrian Paci

Adrian Paci’s first solo show in a public venue in Italy, organized by Angela Vettese, was entitled “Raccontare” (Storytelling). Through the voices of women and men from Albania, including the elderly and children, the artist expresses a sense of distance that is not only a feeling of geographic remove from his abandoned homeland but also a sense of loss inherent to the human condition. Some of the works in the show refer to the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini—Cappella Pasolini (Pasolini Chapel, 2005), Death of Pasolini, 2005, and Secondo Pasolini (Decameron) (According to Pasolini [Decameron]), 2006—conveying the broader nature of Paci’s theme by adhering affectively to the poetics of an artist who fully plumbed the sense of loss (of values, the past, the truth, the sacred) and its historical and human impact.

The exhibition begins, ideally, with Albanian Stories, 1997, a video of the artist’s three-year-old daughter talking about war through the innocent fictions of play. In an interview with Vettese, Paci explains that he is not interested in autobiography; still, family life and the condition of emigration, beginning with his own experience, are an important part of his journey. Self-portrayal thus becomes an element in works like Vajtojca (Weeper), 2002, a video in which the artist stages his own death with the help of a professional mourner; Home to go, 2001, a cast of his body with a roof on his back; Princess, 2003, an homage to one of the artist’s daughters, photographed as a fairy-tale princess; and The Wedding, 2003, gouaches that present “frames” of a home video of his wedding. His appropriation of a figurative language with narrative goals can be interpreted as an ironic exhumation of the socialist realism in which the artist was educated in art school in Albania and thereby of the past of an entire nation. The twelve small gouaches hung on the walls of the wooden shed that constitutes the installation Cappella Pasolini are white, black, and sepia-toned, like old photographs, as if the artist were searching for the sense of a language that is entrusted with the possibility of restoring memory and itself becomes memory—this is the shadow of that socialist realism.

Paci shares Pasolini’s affinity for popular language, oral tradition, and a narrative register that exists someplace between the private and the social, not to mention the realism and the intense humanity expressedin such early Pasolini films as Mamma Roma (1962) and The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)—the two sources for the imagery of Capella Pasolini’s gouaches. Like Pasolini’s, Paci’s realism corresponds to a desire to represent a true and fragile humanity in search of its own place in the world, which we encounter, for instance, in the painter/forger to whom the installation and video Piktori (Painter), 2002, is dedicated. We encounter the same humanity in Klodi, 2005, a video about an Albanian struggling to leave his country; and in the wrinkled faces of the men in Turn On, 2004. At times these stories have the lightness of fairy tales and the melancholy tenderness of a deliberately simple and disenchanted language, which transports the disarming artlessness of fragments of real life, elsewhere, to a universal level.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.