Courtesy the artist, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Kaufmann Repetto, Milan / New York and Fondazione In Between Art Film
Vedo Rosso (2020) is a recent video made during the pandemic, where recurring themes such as oppression and exclusion flow into the accompanying increase of domestic violence. Paci tackles the weight of the problem through the eyes and words of women whose access to representation – hence justice – is both emblematically and physically blocked by a thumb resting on the camera lens of the artist. At times, the thumb lets the viewer glance at a close-up image of the eyes of Syrian migrant women that Paci met in Beirut in 2018. However, this brief epiphany only reveals tears and bewilderment. The overlaying sound, instead, is the voice of an actress loaned to a woman who excruciatingly recounts the growing episodes of violence perpetuated by her partner, as she oscillates between awareness and despair. In a claustrophobic cycle of aggression and escape, the only temporary relief, in her own words, comes when she closes her eyes and she sees red; an image that explicitly references the title and the thumb, yet could also allude to the fresh blood of her many wounds. As in many other works by the artist, language and images explore personal trauma that cannot be fully grasped or understood by the viewer, who is often left trapped in the awkward position of the voyeur. Yet, Paci refuses to surrender to the element of guilt that re-establishes the social order in most media, documentaries and movies. In Vedo Rosso, the obstructive thumb – which denies identity to the victims and confines them to a limbo of invisibility – cannot be dismissed. It is a physical barrier which has grown thicker since the beginning of the pandemic, as victims are more secluded and out of sight, and it somehow contains all the shades of violence entangled in our society.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Adrian Paci’s ordeal of forsaking his own country reverberates profoundly in his work. The artist experienced displacement with his young family in 1997, when he fled Albania for Italy amidst a civil war that brought political chaos and violence in the long void left by Enver Hoxha’s regime. Trained as a painter at the Academy of Arts in Tirana, Paci did not have a choice but to learn the ideologically charged style of socialist realism. Once in Italy, he was puzzled by the values and contradictions of Western society and art, and decided to challenge himself to find new references. His resolution was to embrace both old and new media, from mosaic to photography, video and sculpture, in order to investigate biopolitics from the perspective of the dispossessed, touching the moral fiber of a distracted society which seemed to have forgotten its humanity. He started by looking at his closest experience, turning the camera on his daughter in Albanian Stories (1997), or casting his own body carrying a roof turned upside down to resemble a pair of wings in his renowned sculpture Home to Go (2001). Later, Paci extended his interest to individuals in transit, to their sorrow and the story between the lines, which he turns into archetypes by removing the unnecessary and focusing the attention of the viewer on simple interactions, rituals, or humble events. The process reveals an underlying intimacy between the artist and his subjects. It is an intimacy that is rooted in empathy, and aims at restoring the dignity of both as they attempt to express universal experiences such as loss, survival, precarity, or the need to find an anchor in ideologies that leave little space for the individual. Their testimony often transcends words, as Paci himself demonstrates by choosing to disrupt the continuity between images and sound.