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Pavilion of the Republic of Albania at the 57th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia

12 May - 26 November, 2017


Occurrence in Present Tense



Artist     Leonard Qylafi

Leonard Qylafi lives and works in Tirana, where he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. One of Albania’s leading young contemporary artists, he has shown at MuCEM, in Marseilles, and Izolyatsia, in Kiev (2016); the 55th October Salon, in Belgrade (2014); Künstlerhaus Bethanien, in Berlin (2012); MODEM Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts, in Debrecen, Hungary (2011); and the TICAB-Tirana International Biennial Contemporary Art (2009), among other places.

Curator  Vanessa Joan Müller

Vanessa Joan Müller is Head of Dramaturgy at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna. From 2000 to 2006, she was Curator at the Frankfurter Kunstverein in Frankfurt am Main, and from 2006 to 2007 Head of Research of the European Kunsthalle in Cologne, which examined perspectives of institutions of contemporary art in theory and practice. From 2007 to 2011, she was Director of the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen in Düsseldorf. In 2014, together with Nicolaus Schafhausen, she curated the 55th October Salon in Belgrade. In addition, she regularly writes on contemporary art.

Commissioner  Mirela Kumbaro  Minister of Culture 


        Eleanor Taylor, Assistant Curator

        Alketa Kurrizo, Project Manager

        Lorena Stamo, Press Officer

        Luigi D’Oro, Exhibition Set-up

Venue Arsenale, Sale d’Armi, first floor, building A

13 May – 26 November, 2017

Opening times: 10 am – 6 pm

Friday / Saturday 10 am – 8 pm until 30 September, 2017

Closed on Mondays (except 15 May, 14 August, 4 September, 30 October, 20 November)


The Albanian participation at the 57th International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia is realized on behalf of the Ministry of Culture of Republic of Albania



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An occurrence is a fact of something happening. It also connotes an event of some sort that has occurred, an experience, or matter of circumstance. The title for the exhibition of the Albanian Pavilion implies that something is continuous, happening right now, and in more ways than one, the exhibition verifies this.

For the Republic of Albania, 26 years after the collapse of the communist regime, instances of the past continue to be lodged in the present. How are certain circumstances or events recalled in the present moment? Recollection often involves an image, whether described, documented, or imagined. Personal memory, on one level, and social, collective memory on another. Material supports of remembrance such as magazines, books, films and photographs, contribute to the shaping and our understanding of history.

Drawing from his own experience, and archival relics of the past, Leonard Qylafi’s practice is inflected by remembrance. Intimate, individual references meet—reflect upon, and point to—broader notions of identity, ritual and tradition. Often exploring conceptions and constructions of the self, much of his work also deals with the transformation that former times encounter and how this continues in the present: for the individual and society at large. Qylafi’s observations on everyday life, culture, the political processes shaping his country—and the wider world—are of as much importance as his examinations of, and experimentation with, the nature of representation.

Qylafi’s work speculates on the status of the image, the relations between photography and painting, and how our memories are often based on blurry images of the past. His video’s are poetic evocations of occurrences. A symphony of ideas arise that relate to his artistic practice, to the political and social histories of Albania, as well as to universal themes that raise questions on how we understand ourselves, how we perceive history today, and how we grasp daily life itself. The subtle tensions that underscore the mise-en-scène, doused in dark light and illuminated by spotlights, come together as a metaphor for the workings of the human mind. The elements that compose the presentation coalesce to expand on perceptions of the past to be considered in the present: in present tense.      

                                                              Vanessa Joan Müller



On the occasion of Leonard Qylafi’s representation of Albania at the 57th Venice Biennale, the publication—Leonard Qylafi: Occurrence in Present Tense—was  released. Designed by Norm, Zurich, the catalogue includes a foreword by curator Vanessa Joan Müller, and an essay by Cathryn Drake.

Sternberg Press, Berlin, ISBN 978-3-95679-332-5

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