SISLEJ XHAFA "The Stillness of Thought"
23 January – 27 March 2016
Opening: Friday, 22 January 2016, at 6 pm
Curator: Anna Smolak
Co-ordinator: Monika Smyła
The exhibition The Stillness of Thought at BWA Sokół Contemporary Art Gallery in Nowy Sącz is the first individual presentation in Poland of works by the Kosovan artist Sislej Xhafa. It has brought together the artist’s earlier works, complementing them with a new site‑specific piece. Sislej Xhafa combines art with the experience of space; as a result, the energy of specific locations is activated in confrontation with his works. This is as true about physical places – we are in a small town whose historic character has had a considerable impact on its contemporary identity – as about the mental spaces that overlap with them.
“Identity is subject to continuous mutation”, the artist once said, pointing to movement and relocation as instrumental in the shaping of value systems. The hybridity revealed in seemingly random juxtaposition of materials, meanings and forms, independent of their original affinity, purpose, and the place and time of their creation is Xhafa’s trademark and it accounts for the power of his works. Provocative yet refraining from sensationalism, critical but not didactic, poignant yet rich in nuance – Xhafa’s works, which stretch from objectivity to performativity, generate incessant movement. Movement is a condition of transition, understood both literally as a change of location but also as a shift in meaning, emotion and thought. “And here you are, bewildered and lost in a new prosaicness, a perspective in which near and far coincide.” 1 the Belgian Situationist revolutionaryRaoul Vaneigem wrote in his The Revolution of Everyday Life. At first glance, the objects and images spread randomly in space seem poignantly familiar: a photocopier, a cigarette, a lump of asphalt. However, the rules of engagement are not defined by their setting in mundanity but in their detachment from it. And it is precisely this kind of transition, which apparently ignores all limitations and habits that generates an infinite number of combinations of overlapping experiences and meanings.
The artist conducts his semantic operations with panache. He manoeuvres between the trivial and what has been marked with pathos, between the official and the marginalised, escaping unambiguous labels and categories. And although he seeks to avoid compromise, he leaves space for poetics, imagination and humour.
The Stillness of Thought is an exhibition without a common denominator. It is both about void and about accumulation, about exclusion and about appropriation. About how thought materialises in an object and how the object itself becomes a conduit for thought. This is an exhibition that does not make any political statements, yet it is profoundly political – complemented as it is by the moment in which it occurs.
Sislej Xhafa, Whispering Ink, 2009
Courtesy GALLERIA CONTINUA, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana
Sislej Xhafa was born in Pejë, Kosova in 1970. He spent his early years in the socialist Yugoslavia. Since1990, he has kept changing his environment, living in turn in London, Italy and since 2000, in New York. The experience of displacement and the complexity of the requirements of his changing social environment have become the key themes in his artistic practice. His work spans a wide range of media, from sculpture and drawing to performance and photography.
Xhafa has exhibited widely, including solo shows: I forgot that I started (harrova që fillova), curated by Ema Andrea and Klod Dedja, at M.A.M Foundation, Tirana (2014); Assymetric Désir at Blain Southern Gallery, London (2013); Unpoetic Bride, at Galleria Continua, Le Moulin, Boissy-le-Châtel (2012); NON Unplugged 2012 at Non Gallery, Istanbul (2012); Oblique Motionless at Christine König Galerie, Vienna (2011), still untitled, curated by Mario Codognato, MADRE Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina, Naples (2011); 2705 Baci…, curated by Edi Muka, Röda Sten, Göteborg (2010); Giuseppe, curated by Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, GAMeC Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Bergamo (2007); Opportunistisch Naturalistisch, SKUC Galerija, Ljubljana (2006) and Motion in Paradise, Deitch Projects, New York (2002).
He has participated in international art biennials and festivals: the Medellin International Art Encounter, MDE15, Medellin (2015); Sconfinamenti, 56th Festival Dei Due Mundi, Spoleto (2013); Italian Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, Venice (2015); Modern Biennale of Gwangju, Gwangju (2008); PERFORMA 05, New York (2005); Egofugal, 7th International Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2001); Manifesta III, Ljubljana (2000); Clandestine Albanian Pavilion, 47th Venice Biennale, Venice (1997). He has also contributed to numerous group exhibitions such as Liberi tutti! Arte e società in Italia tra il 1989 e il 2001, curated by Luca Beatrice, Cristiana Perrella, Museo Ettore Fico, Turin (2015); TIME:CODE, curated by Raul Zamudio and Juan Puntes, White Box Center, New York (2014); Borderline: Collection Exhibition II, curated by Yoneda Seiko, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (2013); Rearview Mirror, curated by Christopher Eamon, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton (2012); The world Belongs to You, curated by Caroline Bourgeois, Palazzo Grassi, François Pinault collection, Venice, (2011); Business As Usual, curated by Jacob Proctor, MOCAD Museum of Contemporary Art of Detroit Business, Detroit (2008); Time Present, Time Past, co-curated by David Elliott and Rosa Martínez, Istanbul Museum Of Modern Art, Istanbul (2007); New Video, New Europe, The Kitchen, travelling exhibition curated by Hamza Walzer, New York (2006) and Santa María de las Cuervas, curated by Harald Szeemann, Sevilla (2004).