SOUVENIR OF MY HOMELAND
EXHIBITIONS / PROJECTS
TEXTS AND REVIEWS
Installation, variable dimensions, 4 metal tubes, 2 copper wire skeins, 12 panels in raw clay, each 20x20 cm
Over the course of the millennia, copper has been the raw material used to produce an enormous quantity of craft manufactures for domestic and decorative use. Drawing on a centuries-old tradition of mining copper ore in the Balkans (the first traces date back to the Illyrian age, 6th-5th c. B.C.), the rapid expansion of the Albanian industry in the early 20th Century led to a decisive development of the production processes, with a consequent increase in the commercialisation and exportation of copper products, including the traditional filigree ornamental ware created through the weaving and soldering of thin metal wires.
The extensive dissemination of filigree cups and pendants, particularly on the western European and the Asian markets, slowed dramatically in the early ’90s with the fall of the communist dictatorship and the closing of the state factories. A phenomenon that inevitably implied the sudden collapse of manufacturing activities and massive job losses. Within a few years, however, new self-managed groups of craftspersons previously active in the copper industry began to organize themselves independently, acquiring small quantities of raw material, firstly from the French and German factories. Filigree production slowly began to revive in a wholly new form: great skeins of electrical wiring are stripped by burning the plastic insulation in open-air ovens; the wire thus obtained is subsequently pressed and then woven following the traditional methods and models, albeit at great expense in terms of time and energy.
Copper, the first solo show in Italy by Endri Dani, recounts the story of this unusual metamorphosis of modern production processes. A reversal from the industrial to the craft model; the slow, necessary rediscovery of work capable of constantly regenerating knowledge and identity.
The sudden closure of the factories, entailing a brusque return to individual ingenuity, led to the overcoming of a state of depersonalisation and alienation in favour of rapidly regained awareness and a new spirit of collective organization. The new status of homo faber and the overcoming of the condition of animal laborans – to borrow the celebrated terms by Hannah Arendt (2001) – is explicated through a process of productive downsizing, to the benefit of a new human dimension, that of a rediscovered uomo artigiano (R. Sennett, 2008) willing to learn from his error and from the constant tension towards the perfecting of the creative gesture. A story which the artist encapsulates by evoking the personal and family vicissitudes that during his infancy marked the lives of his own mother and many workers who almost overnight became new, free craftspersons. Through the exposition of two skeins of electrical wiring, partially stripped in order to obtain the raw material for the production of filigree work, Endri Dani recounts the journey of the copper from the Franco-German factories to the Albanian craft workshops. Pressed by mechanical rollers until it takes the form of slim copper strips, the wire is suspended at the observer’s eye level, displaying in detail the beginning of the meticulous weaving that will lead to the production of the precious filigree ware. On the walls are moulds taken from the filigree, panels of raw clay on which can be read the decorative traces of the manufactures. The decision not to exhibit directly the commercial objects underlines, lastly, the radical separation between ornament and surface, object and goods: a separation that again distinguishes the industrial process from creative invention and the inestimable wisdom of gestures.