About the Work “Wavelengths”
Taking the story of Abedin Beqir Destani as a starting point, the video-installation “Wavelengths” was born. A story, of the story of a man told by his family. The memories sometimes become vague in the testimonies of his relatives and are often over-depicted while they describe their grandfather in a heroic manner. Nevertheless, it is a story worth telling and a valuable testimony of a man who, thanks to his profession, managed to survive in difficult times.
The video-installation consists of a large altered neon light with graded lighting and a person who is trying to translate and convert visually through light the recording of the story of Abedin Beqir Destani. The story is being told by his son and his two grandchildren. I meet with his son and grandson in their apartment in Tirana while the other grandson joins the conversation via Skype from Germany. The story takes different perspectives depending on the person telling it, while all the various versions merge together to summarize how the experience of Abedin Beqir Destani is perceived 75 years later. The recording of the story is translated into electrical wavelengths dictated by the dialogue’s intensity. The light level increases or decreases based on the intensity of the dialogue.
video, 5:30 min.
Albania found itself under the fascist occupation of Benito Mussolini’s Italy at the beginning of the Second World War and then for a little over a year under Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
This period of time alternated various forms of occupation. In the first case by joining two crowns in a single one and in the second by the creation of an independent (at least on paper) collaborationist state.
The German occupation of Albania in the Second World War took place between 1943 and 1944.
Before the armistice between Italy and the Allied armed forces on 8th September 1943, Albania had been in a de jure personal union with and was de facto under the control of the Kingdom of Italy. After the armistice and the Italian exit from the Axis, German military forces entered Albania and it came under German occupation, creating the client-state, the Albanian Kingdom (Königreich Albanien) under Mehdi Frashëri.
The Germans favoured the Balli Kombëtar party over King Zog I’s Legalists and therefore put Balli Kombëtar in charge of Albania under German rule.
During the fascist occupation, some concentration camps (political prisons) were created in Tepelenë, Durrës, Kavajë, Berat, etc. Persons who were against the new government were imprisoned in these camps.
At this moment the camps opened by the fascists which will later be used by the communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha will be closed.
In his Texts and Documents of Albanian History about Labour Service in the Reich and the possibilities for Recruiting Workers Robert Elsie says;
“It would actually have been easy to hire a substantial number of workers for labor in the Reich since, with the rise of insecurity within the country, more and more people were applying to the Administration, hoping to escape the chaos. Despite the repeated suggestions of the Administration Group, it was not possible to set up such an organization for Old Albania”
A small number of individuals who were political enemies of the new Albanian collaborationist state were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps outside of Albania.
About Abedin Beqir Destani
Abedin Beqir Destani was born in Skopje in 1920 and during his childhood his family moved to Tirana. He studied at “Harry Fultz”, the only school that was preparing professional electricians in Tirana. For several years during the fascist occupation he worked at the Autoreparti Factory in Tirana. Later, he joined the partisans and moved with the war activities in Kosovo. During winter time, he got sick and was captured by the Nazis in the area of Prizren. He was immediately sent to a small concentration camp in Austria. His son and his grandsons recall that Destani mentioned a small camp between Slovenia and Austria, but in Austrian territory. This was most likely a sub-camp of Mauthausen, the “Loibl Pass North”. During this time, he suffered and observed the atrocities that were carried out in the camp. Thanks to his profession, he survived the camp by working as an electrician, and at the end of the war he escaped with other prisoners. For several months he was sheltered by a Croatian family in the then Yugoslavia. As soon as he was capable of moving, he returned to Albania.
The war in Albania ended on 29th November 1945, but on 29th September 1945 Abedin Beqir Destani was arrested and convicted by the Military Court of Tirana as a war criminal to 10 years of imprisonment. In the postwar period Albania began the electrification process and on 3rd January 1948 Abedin Beqir Destani was granted clemency for the only reason that he was one of the few professional electricians at that time. He got clemency with the only condition to work for the electrification process and take part in building the hydroelectric power stations throughout the country.
Remijon Pronja (b. Albania, 1984, lives in Tirana)
Pronja’s artwork is about the human condition. He has always been drawn toward the way in which different cultures have struggled to describe the attempts of human beings to become the owners of their existence. His MA in Fine Arts at the University of Milan led him to investigate cultural appropriation adopting an interdisciplinary method.
His installations, paintings and drawings encompass recurring themes taken from human existence and phobias. An interdisciplinary method, homesickness, migration and sense of loss are among the topics Pronja brings to life to shed light on social issues.
He is also a co-founder of the MIZA Galeri, an artist-run space in Tirana devoted (since 2012) to the promotion and support of emerging artists from Albania and abroad. Some of his solo exhibitions are: “Inno alla Gioia e Il Prezzo della Liberta”, Galleria Opere Scelte, Torino (2018), “Untitled in Allegro Moderato”, Zeta Gallery, Tirana (2017), and “rex anonymous”, Ku(rz)nthalle Bregenz, Austria (2014). He has taken part in numerous group exhibitions, among which are: “Executive (Dis)Order: Art, Displacement & the Ban” Queens Museum, NYC (2019), “Exgratia”, Collezione Giuseppe Iannaccone, Milan (2018); “Idromeno Award”, Shkodër (2017); Mediterranea 18 Young Artists Biennale, Tirana (2017); “The Whale That Was a Submarine”, Ludwig Museum, Budapest (2015); “Post Young Albanian Artists”, Fondazione Museo Pino Pascali (2013); Onufri XIX: “Perchance to Dream”, National Art Gallery, Tirana (2012). Pronja is the winner of the 2018 Ardhje Award and from early 2019 he has been working as a lector at Polis University.