Since the 60s Art in public spaces in Prishtina, has been practiced in different forms – starting with socialist monuments, urban interventions, performances, social activities, installations, graffiti, etc.
The existing deviation of public spaces in Prishtina is generating into the deficiency of the identity of a capital city. Not only its identity but has come to a point were we are merging into a confusion that gives the impression as unlimited.
This given impression is a result of a past that is shown through monuments, religions, now the present monuments and other contemporary practices in public spaces in Prishtina.
The last decade in Prishtina has marked a materialization of experimenting through art and architecture (There are locations that differ very much from each other, left behind places, which could be put to function as well)
Brotherhood and Unity
At the time of former Yugoslavia many socialist monumental sculptures were built in Kosova – “The Triangle” or Brotherhood and Unity is one of the first socialist monuments in public space in Prishtina (built on 1961) designed by Miodrag Zivkovic, symbolizes (a pure) socialistic ideology. Each pillar represents a member of the ”Brotherhood within Kosova, (Albanians, Serbs and Montenegrins). Close to monument is an abstract “monument” (anonymous) in which it was intervened after the war with flags of the countries that supported Kosova’s independence.
Some monuments have been destroyed after the war, because these monuments represent the communistic principles of the past, they should be also valued for their artistic importance.
Palace of Youth and sports
In the late 70s and early 80s the architecture has had an important impact in public space in Prishtina, with a tendency of creating something monumental, by building big complexes, big squares etc. The symbol of the Albanian-Serbian society at that time achieves to build a palace for sports, social, cultural and economic affairs. Building this structure, initially named after two WW2 heroes, it illustrates the notion when Boro and Ramiz fought together against the Nazi. The palace of Youth and Sports’ part where a numerous activities were held was partly burnt, now is not utilized, exploited and its future remains unclear.
It is indisputably factual that due to historical political circumstances public spaces have been transformed. With the transformation of politics, opinions differ by placing monuments of the fallen heroes.
During the after-war period, begins an intensive shift in the creation of art in public spaces, which is the focal point of this subject.
On one hand, the official political level turns to anti-modernist forms of monuments, an on the other hand, there progressive initiative and actions starting to emerge.
Shortly after the war the new generation of visual artists want to raise awareness of the population on the consumption of art, this is happening in various forms of Urban Interventions in the city.
(Art in public spaces brings art to the masses developing a formula which includes and makes the population a part of the public space, considering that Prishtina as a city is a blend of uncommon architecture (and only particular spaces are being used for a good purpose). The image of a city, its colors, the dynamics and people, create an cacophonous scene around.)
With the declaration of independence of Kosova in 2008, The New Born Monument was unveiled on that day. New Born characterized with capital letters was initially painted with bright yellow. The color epitomized the hope and future for a new born contemporary country. Even though its placement does not correspond with the surroundings, it was firstly planned to have a temporary position just in front of “The palace of youth”. The monument was designed by Fisnik Ismaili and Ogilvy Kosova, it is 3meters high and was revealed with the presence of the President and the Prime Minister. The designers’ realized idea was to be signed by the President and PM and then followed by the mass population. Even though the organizers’ primary suggestion was that the monument needed to be conserved, unfortunately their idea was not completed and it was not protected as it should have been. Being one the biggest monuments it should have been managed more wisely considering it holds a big division in public space in Prishtina. On the other hand, for the 5th anniversary of the independence of Kosova, the same team who designed it, repainted it with flags that recognized the independence of Kosova. Then again this year which marked the 6th anniversary it was repainted in tribute and remembrance of persons who sacrificed for this the achievement of this day, it was painted with camouflage patterns of armies that fought for peace and independence. Since the monument is very significant in public space, however it should have been directed in a different proposal idea, considering the last one raised many reactions from the artistic community, stating that it should have been painted differently or even repaint it originally. New Born’s value remains on the historical act of the declaration of independence in February 2008.
Urban interventions / street art
Certainly transformations not always occur for the best modification, varying of course from the cause of transformation, unquestionably the outlook to perform in public space has increased in Prishtina either artistically or by modification through street art and urban interventions.
“Evolving from graffiti and street art, urban interventions are the next generation of artwork to hit public space. Using any and all of the components that make up urban and rural landscapes, these mostly spatial interventions bring art to the masses. They turn the street into a studio, laboratory, club, and gallery” (Urban Interventions, Personal Projects in Public Spaces R. Klanten, M. Huebner)
The necessity to act in public place stimulated a group of visual artist operating in the modification of urban spaces in Prishtina by defining the phenomenon of marginalized areas. Urban intervention group formed to define these variations utilizing elements that will raise the social awareness and to stimulate the community involvement.
Urban Intervention Group since 2012 is developing concepts to achieve this transformation in the media concept regarding public spaces with a dynamic range of visual artists. The primary intervention project came to practice in the entrance of the city. Pipes are placed vertically in the concrete wall signing the first reaction of art in public spaces in Prishtina. Urban Intervention Group’s concept in this intervention is by using geometrical forms, triangles, circles which all of them have been put near the pipes.
In addition to urban interventions, street art has become a mainstream form of reaction in Prishtina from political graffiti to the most renowned international street artists, motivated to express their artwork in public space, including Hope Box Angels from the Netherlands that realized their artworks in Prishtina in collaboration with local street artists. Their concept of art and community activism inspires to explore new places and share communication.
In addition to street art, the initiative “KUDO, – art in public spaces” has implemented their activity of the world famous Monsieur Chat. Thoma Vuilla’s emblematic cat has been painted in one of the buildings of the Zahir Pajaziti Square. The main objective of this initiative in collaboration with the French Embassy in Prishtina, is to extend artin public spaces and to raise social awareness through activities regarding art in public spaces.
A place beyond belief – Nathan Coley
In 2012 The National Gallery has hosted the British artist Nathan Coley to exhibit his installations in light “A place beyond belief”, the artwork that was unveiled for the end of Kosova’s supervised independence, was inspired from the words of a 9/11 survivor. Its placement is what makes it even more appealing, positioned just between the Orthodox Church – which still is unfinished and unutilized without any purpose of its position, it is a reminder of the Milosevic regime and the National Library – which was completed in 1981 by the Croatian architect Andrija Mutnjakovic
Nathan Coley describes art as a connector, his work as a possibility for new things to happen. His work it is very peculiar and outstanding although its location is astonishing, Fisnik Ismaili declared that “A place beyond belief” should be changed to “A place beyond repair”.
Prishtinë mon amour
The summer of 2012 generated into a new cooperation for a transformation and a production of art in public space precisely performance art in the burnt part of “the Palace of Youth” The intention of putting to use this part of the palace was initiated from the local contemporary artist Astrit Ismaili and the Swiss artist Tobias Bienz, basically with an intent to find a solution for that part of THE BUILDING. The location, the memories and its futuristic architecture required a massive participation of people.
The idea of the event was to dedicate a night to performance art, which it lacked as a form of expression. To begin with they rented a house as a “Community Art House” which served as strategic form to realize their project. Named “Baustelle” operated for 3month period of time with performances, workshops, training, exhibitions etc., it was opened for everyone, providing preparations for performance art. The nature of the project was to return the love for the city, naming it “Prishtinë mon amour”. They placed stickers in the city with the phrase “Never stop loving” as a notice for the biggest performance event in Prishtina. Various of activities took place during these 3months, from cleaning the place to transforming it.
This performance included people from different ages (from 7-80) not only artists, and different nationalities. Each performer had his own place to perform with the topic “Repetition”, what’s more remarkable they started at the same time and the audience could walk through them as an Interactive performance. Another complementary element is the number of visitors – 2500 for one night, considering that it lasted that night only, it comprised of Video arts, installations, lighting etc.
The significance of “Prishtinë mon amour” is the achievement of cooperation to work together, as disciplinary platform where different works can function together. This performance influenced other activities LIKE fashion shows and concerts that were held in the burnt part of the Palace of of Youth and Sports and here lies the importance of this event. Furthermore it should be considered a fine example for art in public spaces in Prishtina and first of such kind.