Albanians have a saying that goes “If he beats you, it’s because he loves you”. Thanks to pressure organisations like Amnesty International and local groups like Platforma Gjinore (Platform for Equality), Albania has adequate laws to protect women from domestic violence. But they are not enforced, as domestic violence is considered a family and not a judicial affair. Sometimes, a raped woman fights back and kills her husband. She always ends up incarcerated, without any mitigating circumstances. Albanian artist Anila Rubiku (1970) organised workshops with these women in the Ali Demi Prison – prison 325 in Tirana, as a way of highlighting the absence of legal protection and revealing the women’s suffering. In addition, she gave the prisoners the chance to express their feelings in workshops with psychologist Dr Jeffrey Adams. Even though many women decided to join the sessions, only 12 kept coming until the end. For the others, it must have been too hard to share their pain.
Anila Rubiku also wanted to tell the story of each of these women in her own work. She created a ‘portrait’ in the form of a prison fence bent open or cut as if the prisoner had escaped. Each fence is made of three different materials: wrought iron, a realistic representation of the iron prison fence; painted in watercolours, thus softening the image; and embroidered – a very feminine activity that requires a lot of patience and time. “Albania: Women, Justice and the Law” is a particularly moving exhibition. It was presented to politicians, journalists and opinion leaders at the gallery of the Tirana Academy of Arts (FAB) in October 2013, resulting in the release of several female Albanian prisoners.
“Albania: Women, Justice and the Law” is Anila Rubiku’s second exhibition at the Brussels gallery Catherine Jozsa. The artist is committed to zooming in on the social and historic wounds caused by decades of hard totalitarian regimes. Every work is a critical manifesto, while underlining more human and intimate aspects. This dual dimension, this to-and-froing is what makes her work so interesting.
With “Bunker Mentality”, the artist denounces the 750,000 bunkers – one for every four Albanian inhabitants! – that are dotted throughout Albania’s landscape; along the coastline, along mountain ridges and in cemeteries. The bunkers were built during the dictatorship of communist leader Enver Hoxha (1945-1985), in order to defend the country against possible attacks from the enemy (NATO, Warsaw Pact). In reality, they are simply the product of Enver Hoxha’s paranoia. And although they were absolutely useless from a military point of view, the bunkers had and still have a very deep psychological impact on the citizens, especially on their children. When communism had fallen at the end of the 1980s, the bunkers were rehabilitated and became cafés, restaurants, utility rooms, etc. For Anila Rubiku, these weeded, sprawling urban objects symbolize the fear of the outside world. The concrete mushrooms look like scars in the landscape. The artist depicted the bunkers, in their new function, using watercolours, which makes them more poetic, lighter and more in line with their new, alternative purpose. In addition, Rubika reproduced the bunkers in wax for the Kiev biennale, creating a vast installation resembling a village inhabited by Smurfs – totally absurd and ridiculous.
Last but not least, Anila Rubiku exhibits a third series of artwork called “Effacing Memory”. The artist etched the portraits of 12 dictators (Ceausescu, Goebbels, Goering, Hitler, Hoxha, il Duce, Kim Jong, Mao, Marcos, Miloscevic, the Shah of Iran and Stalin) only to let art ‘rub them away’: when the portraits were ready she erased them, with all her power. ‘Effacing Memory’ is composed of the portraits themselves, the video documenting the process of erasure as well as the paper and eraser traces that she collected and put in a frame.
Always very politically inspired, the works of d’Anila Rubiku require an explanation to be appreciated and understood. Gallery owner Catherine Jozsa will happily provide you with the explanations you need. You have to hear to see!
24 rue Saint-Georges
Until 25 October 2014
Tuesday to Friday from 12:00 to 18:00