Curated by Roberta Tenconi, this exhibition of large-scale sculptures, drawings, performances, videos and installations takes over the indoor and outdoor areas of Pirelli HangarBicocca to take the audience on a journey through the artist’s constructed universe. Comprising recent works, the exhibition explores themes such as memory, identity and cultural heritage, and the concept of home as both a personal and shared community space.
Much of the work is influenced by the artist’s own experience of the Kosovo-Serbia conflict in the late 1990s, and so the idea of revolution – historic and contemporary – is rife, moving into refugeedom, rebirth and the fight for the ‘European dream’. Now living between Italy and Germany, having left Kosovo, Halilaj represents a new generation of artists who inhabit a multicultural identity, and take a global rather than location-specific view of the world and of history.
Works include They are Lucky to be Bourgeois Hens II (2009), a blue rocketship inhabited by chickens as a bizarre microcosm that audiences can look upon with a bird’s eye view themselves as if viewing from outer space. Meanwhile vast metal sculptures and oversized baubles rest upon the gallery floor as enormous reconstructions of the artist’s mother’s jewellery, which was buried along with her son’s drawings for safekeeping during the war in Kosovo. Set into the works rather than stones are pieces of pulverized rubble from the artist’s first family home in Kostërrc, destroyed in the conflict.
Deeply personal, the works tell a private story and yet are relatable – leading into a broader discussion of the ravages of war, affecting even the simplest ephemera of daily life. Also strewn across the floor are hand-sculpted works inspired by the ocarina – a Neolithic wind instrument found in Runik, Kosovo, where Halilaj spent part of his youth – which conjure up ideas of magic and mysticism, and childhood exploration.
Elsewhere, the artist’s new home in Prishtina appears reconstructed at Pirelli HangarBicocca in The places I’m looking for, my dear, are utopian places, they are boring and I don’t know how to make them real (2010-2015). The house is not fully formed as it once appeared at Berlin Biennial, but instead is fragmented to evoke the shattered lives of those that have shared the artist’s personal history.
Petrit Halilaj: Space Shuttle in the Garden, 3 December 2015 – 13 March 2016, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Via Chiese, 2, 20126 Milan.
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1. Petrit Halilaj, 26 Objekte n’ Kumpir, 2009. Courtesy the Artist and Pirelli HangarBicocca. Photo: Agostino Osio.