Believe me I am an artist
Adrian Paci, Italy, 2000, 7'
The video reconstructs an interrogation actually endured by the Albanian artist in an Italian police station. Because of a misunderstanding, Paci risked losing his residence visa. “One day I was called to the Police Station in Milan because of some photos that I made. In these photos, my daughters were represented with a stamp on their backs which is the stamp of exit that the Albanian police put on the passport when you leave. It was a work that I called Exit. The video shows the dialogue I had with the policeman who suspected that I am a person who abuses minors. I try to explain to him that I am an artist and I use this word like protection, but at the same time, you can see all the fragility of an artist. The dramaticity of the story, the reflection of the status of artists today, and a kind of auto-irony are mixed in this video.” (Adrian Paci)
Adrian Paci, Albania, 2002, 4'
As part of a solo show at Claudio Poleschi Arte Contemporanea, the artist presented two brand new works, both entitled Piktori. In the huge space of the church, the Albanian artist remembers a person he met in his hometown – a painter that earns his living by painting portraits and landscapes, and also false documents, diplomas, and certificates. Paci shows a video where the painter turns his back to the video camera while telling his story and posing a few critical questions: How can a doctor with a fake degree claim to be a real doctor? Can you call an artist someone who sells his manual ability to others? And who decides what is art and what is not? Adrian Paci tries to identify himself with the painter by setting up his own shop and massing there his artworks. The same questions possibly come to mind: who will decide if this is art or not? Who will decide if he is for real or not? And how? An official certification of his death – manufactured in the original shop – will question nothing less than the artist's existence.
Adrian Paci, Albania, 2002, 10'
This video which deals with themes of reflection on death and its possible aesthetic interpretation is entitled Vajtojca, the weeper. It documents and testifies the attempt of the artist to construct a live dialogue with the inevitable presence of death. Adrian Paci has drawn inspiration from an ancient custom of the Balcanic regions and is still in use in his village of birth which sees in the mourning of the dead a profession with very precise ritual norms. The video contemplates the co-existence of aesthetic thought and death, of a possible ʻhappy endingʼ and a tragic inevitable one. It is his own death that Adrian Paci sets up and for the occasion asks a woman to cry over his body. The professional mourner weeps for the dead for several minutes over the immobile artist who is forced to sustain the pain of his own death. When the rite draws to a close, the story begins anew and as if it were a miracle one is confronted with a resurrection. Adrian Paci rises and thanks the weeper with his own tears and leaves.
Adrian Paci, Albania, 2004, 4'
Turn on shows close-ups of the faces of unemployed Albanian men, who are regularly found on the steps of the city square of Shkodra, where the artist was born. One after another starts a noisy electrical generator to make a large light bulb glow. As the camera withdraws further and further, the entire staircase becomes visible with all the men hired for the project. What remains invisible is that some of the local residents thought the action was a political protest against the government and assembled, some of them waving flags. The electrical generators that are necessary for survival become a metaphor for the unstable infrastructure of the country since the end of communism, which Lenin had already symbolically equated with electricity.
Adrian Paci, Italy, 2006, 7'
Differently from Adrian Paciʼs earlier projects, Per Speculum is not inspired by a real incident but seems suspended in an undetermined, archetypical dimension of time and space. The main characters of ʻPer Speculumʼ are children engaged in daring the sun with the segments of a mirror they had previously broken into pieces while it returned their image. The infants reflect the light from the branches of a tree they have climbed, thus infusing it with pulsing vitality. The breaking into pieces of the mirror is a dramatic, self-destructive act. The title of the work itself quotes an often commented-on passage from Saint Paulʼs First Letter to the Corinthians videmus nunc per speculum in aenigmate tunc autem facie ad faciem 13:12 (“We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face”).
Centro di Permanenza temporanea
Adrian Paci, Switzerland, 2007, 5'
The central setting is an airport. A crowd of people is patiently moving towards an aircraft boarding staircase. They form a queue while we can observe planes taking off and landing in the background. Gradually, the stairs fill up with migrant men and women. They have to squeeze together in order to make space for the people moving up. The peoples’ faces mirror their yearning for the fulfillment of a humane life without discrimination and cultural uprooting. The camera slowly circles around the free-standing staircase. Where is this flight bound for? In its title, the video refers to the Italian name for the temporary camps for illegal immigrants arriving weekly on the Italian coasts.
Adrian Paci, Italy, 2013, 26'
“The Column came out of a story I heard from a friend of mine, a restorer, who needed a new marble sculpture for a castle he was restoring. Somebody told him that it could be done in China, because they have good marble, good craftsmen, cheap labor, and they can be quick because they can actually do the work while the marble is being transported by boat. I found it terrific. It sounded so weird, simultaneously sick and fabulous, something mythological and at the same time in keeping with the capitalistic logic of profit – merging the time of production with the time of transport. [...] there is in this project a coexistence of something conflictual and something fabulous, something real and something fictional. [...] there is a storytelling structure, and the chronicle of real facts mixes with legend and fairytale. Of course, one of the elements that I found stimulating with The Column was the production of a classical Western column model by a group of Asian workers on a voyage toward Europe. As you said, it is in a sense, for the column, a kind of “homecoming.” (Adrian Paci, interviewed by Marie Fraser)
Adrian Paci, Italy, 2017, 18'
Interregnum by Adrian Paci assembles fragments extracted from videos of official state archives and national television broadcasts documenting the funerals of communist dictators of different nationalities and eras. The grainy images show endless rows of people moving in unison, seemingly without a purpose, their faces laden with expressions of grief. Shifting from close-ups to wider views of the masses, we become witnesses of a crescendo where the manipulation of these masses and the depersonalization of individual identity become increasingly evident. The dissolution of the boundaries between private and public life, intrinsic to dictatorships, transforms individuals into members of a “political body,” that thinks and acts in uniformity with the greater action imposed by the regime’s ideology. The film investigates the nature of this political body, ranging from Asia to Europe and covering almost the entirety of the twentieth century from Lenin’s death to that of the Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha.
Adrian Paci, Albania, 2019, 11'
The complexity of expressing the narrative and its inmost being in words is reflected in Paci’s video work Prova. In this film, he takes his earlier work Turn On (2004) as a starting point and works with the same protagonists, job-seekers from Shkodër in Albania. The backdrop is the concrete spine of a building that was never completed, in the middle stands a group of men who seem to be silently waiting. It is dark and the only source of light is the town’s street lamps. A whole night long, from sunset to sunrise, the protagonists look at each other, smile, or fall asleep on their feet. The perceived silence is interrupted from time to time by the repeated call of the words “Prova, prova...” (“Test, test...”) spoken by the men into the microphones they hold as if at a soundcheck… As soon as one of the men stops talking the narration is continued with glances, poses, and gestures. Their body language and their faces marked by life tell a story that words cannot express…