20.07.2021 – 13:53
Prime Minister Edi Rama spoke in a different interview for the Italian magazine “Arte”, which dedicated a long article to the head of the Albanian government.
In this story, Rama talks about everything, from children, relationships with his father, painting to governance.
“Scribbles in three dimensions that I do when normally my fellow politicians play golf or go to the pool: I form them in a friend’s studio some Saturdays or quiet Sundays”, says Rama.
He also talks about his ideas about the relationship with citizens and the relationship of politics with art and culture.
Edi Rama, where does he find the time to draw his doodles, those colorful “scribbles” as defined by himself that gather at his table as Prime Minister of Albania?
His response is immediate: “Every day, always. Even during formal meetings: listen, discuss and draw. They are self-made drawings. “I start in the morning and continue as long as I sit at my desk.” “Instinctive” drawings, almost a kind of automatic surreal writing, which in the meantime have been transformed into ceramic sculptures: Scribbles in three dimensions that I do when normally my political colleagues play golf or go to the pool: I shape them in a friend’s studio my few Saturdays or quiet Sundays ”. Over time, “scribbles” have become the trademark of the work of the artist, his, which is constantly intertwined with that of the politician who in recent years has radically changed the face of Albania.
ROOM OF WONDER
Entering his prime minister’s office in Tirana, a large and bright living room completely lined with wallpaper that endlessly reproduces his drawings, he plunges into a kind of wonder room that pushes you to imagine him as the place where the nation is governed .
A giant table, that of his official meetings, is flooded with an unprecedented amount of pens of all colors with which Edi Rama automatically covers every sheet in his hand: from the pages of his work agenda to the drafting of an official document.
Wherever you look, even on a pendant full of brightly colored ties and intended for some lucky guests, one can perceive the unceasing work of the hand and his thoughts. Realized and layered in the “land of state power”, his signs have to do with a kind of psychological liberation, they are an elaborate abstract diary of his daily political engagements, and certainly not a trace, as can be seen in at first glance, of an oniric shift of a psychedelic brand, which does not belong to its artistic and political history.
LIFE AND FATE
His is a story that starts far away. Born in Tirana on July 4, 1964, Edi Rama comes from a family of artists: such was his father, one of the most authoritative sculptors of the period of socialist realism, was his grandfather’s brother, an important Albanian painter of the last century : “I was born in a space where art was very present. I had great divergences with my father, but he always respected my freedom. “He worried about the problems I might have because of my ideas, but he never hindered my freedom.” After graduating in visual arts in 1986, he began his teaching career at the University of Arts in Tirana: we are in the most difficult and disturbing period of a communist regime that had separated Albania from the world. While in other countries of the Soviet bloc something was filtering from the outside, in Albania the artistic silence, and not only wide, was deadly: the only line to follow was the one imposed by the regime.
“In Belgrade, Budapest or Warsaw there was a creative underground life that was not drowned and somehow tolerated by the authorities, it was non-existent here: we suffered from a total lack of information and cultural spaces. At the academy, to give an example, art history and art books stopped at the villagers of Courbet.
Anything to do with modernity was forbidden. Teachers taught without showing the images: from the Impressionists onwards, what was for them a degenerate art began. “Art books were seized and a special edition of the Albanian Communist Party newspaper was published with recycled paper.” Something was happening that in the last century had tragically happened already in another country in Europe, with books and paintings burned in Nazi Germany.
A NEED FOR FREEDOM
Edi Rama begins to weave a canvas made of political and artistic resistance and opposition with his students, among them Anri Sala with whom he will form a friendly relationship and intensive uninterrupted work. “When I started teaching, before the fall of the communist regime, I was involved in a movement that was emerging within the academy of arts: it was the first cell of that larger movement that came into conflict with the regime. We had an absolute and inalienable need for freedom and official art did not give space to free thought.
From that moment my life and my artistic and cultural interests are intertwined with politics.
After the fall of the regime I moved to Paris for a residence in the Cité des arts, where there were studios of artists from all over the world, and stayed there for a long time. Then, developments decided differently for me. While returning to Albania for my father’s funeral, I was asked to be the new government’s Minister of Culture. In October 2000, I was elected mayor of Tirana: an exciting work that at the time was considered the highest form of “conceptual art”.
I realized we had to build from scratch. After many years of savage transition the city was completely lost, it was a matter of moving from the totalitarian collectivism of the previous regime and the consequent lack of a state, institutions and legitimacy in building a free world in which everyone could participate. in political and social life.
I was elected by a very strong popular vote and as a first, symbolic, but also very concrete action, with my artist friends we painted the streets and facades of buildings built in the communist era now destroyed by degradation: I wanted to open my eyes towards a public space now in total abandonment and, at the same time, I wanted to start building a bridge between citizens and municipal authorities. “It worked very well.”
A strange coincidence: when in 1986 Edi Rama began teaching at the Tirana academy in 1986, Joseph Beuys died in Germany. The two had never met before, but, thinking about it today, if it had ever happened they would surely have liked each other. In a way, Rama made concrete a central concept in the theories of the great German shaman: social sculpture, considered by Beuys as “the most beautiful art form”, the practice that holds at the same time the creativity of the individual, of all individuals and politics understood as the organization of the lives of individuals themselves.
Beuys had theorized him with his discipline and works, Edi Rama was somehow understanding him in his role as an artist and politician. “What I did in the beginning was not art. It was politics with colors. It was not an aesthetic act, but a political gesture to awaken the city and a way to create a new communication structure between people. This meant restoring respect for the common space and an equal dialogue with the authorities. For years we have lived in the absence of a relationship between people and authorities. “The ruins of the regime had left a void in which everyone, for better or worse, was worried only about their own survival.”
CITY OF ALL COLORS
After the fall of the regime, the projects of redevelopment of the urban structure and public spaces that Rama sets in motion heal the discord between the citizens and the state authority. He includes several artists – including Olafur Eliasson and his “disciple” and friend Anri Sala – in transforming the gray buildings of the communist era, enlivening the entire capital with colors, as if to underline the opening of the new government for new perspectives. “The operation produced fantastic effects: I invited the artists to make our weakness our strength. After I became prime minister, I had the idea to share the same government building with the citizens. The ground floor became the Center for Openness and Dialogue (COD), a public space dedicated to art, culture and debates, where many people come and go every day, while on the second floor are the “rooms of power”.
“I think politics should deal with art and culture in a subtle way, helping, but without interfering. The pre-existing relationship between political power and art has been devastating. Sure art gives to a lot of people, but I don’t think there is that much to give to politics. Politics is the art of the possible while art is the politics of the impossible. In Albania we have lived a very long period in which politics and art were the same thing and it was terrible. During the regime it was said that the artists were Labor Party soldiers.
Art has a great power to open our eyes to worlds other than those that are normally shown and guided by politics. The wide opening of these endless windows to other worlds has made that in certain periods of history, art has been able to influence society, style, the way of seeing the body, the way of seeing human relationships with neighbor and nature. “I am talking about a very different level from what is usually used and run by politics.”
FROM SUMMITS TO GALLERIES
Today the politician and the artist do not live separately at home: Edi Rama speaks and is heard by the powerful of Europe and the East, while his works as a painter and sculptor are presented in prestigious galleries and major international art events. When in 2016 he was invited by gallery owner Marian Goodman to hold his first solo exhibition in the United States, he was convinced it was a joke orchestrated by his fellow artists. But it was all true. Between a political summit and the daily commitments of the head of government, Edi Rama never stops drawing and shaping his “scribbles”. He did this only at the time he wanted to dedicate to our meeting.