Anita Beckers

Shahram Entekhabi, Anila Rubiku

16 Mar - 06 May 2006

Shahram Entekhabi, Anila Rubiku
„Something in common“
16 March - 06 May 2006

The starting point for the exhibition „Something in common“ is the dialogue between its protagonists. In the dialogue initiated by the artists Shahram Entekhabi (born 1957 / Iran) and Anila Rubiku (born 1970 / Albania) the discussion about the construction and constitution of cultural identity(ies) takes centre stage. Both artists, who today live far away from their original homeland, oscillate between the cultures in a kind of hybrid condition which does not know any explicit ascription of identity anymore. Though, despite a similar initial position both broach and interpret this status completely different.

Shahram Entekhabi stages himself in his video works as a mirror of the surrounding society. He thereby formulates the general point of view that identities always exclusively develop in conflict with the so-called “other”. Neither the “typus” of a migrant, performed by Entekhabi, nor the spectator himself can elude from the permanent play of reception and projection.
In his space installation „hayat“ (the Persian word for ‚inner courtyard‘) shown in the videospace of the gallery the artist lets the spectator spatially experience this reciprocal reflection. Passing a long glaringly illuminated gangway at whose end a mirror is situated the spectator enters the inner space where a series of videos is shown. In these he finds himself opposed to the figure of a ‘migrant’ which has been developed by Entekhabi since 2004 in different video performances. Equipped with all the attributes of the “guest-worker” in Germany, Entekhabi in this figure reflects the, often self-experienced, cliché-associations of the surrounding society.
While the early video „i?“ (2004) is more an expression for the own powerlessness facing this kind of heteronomy, this conflict in the later works like „Mladen“, „Islamic star“, „Mehmet“ and „Miguel“ (all 2005) leads to a rather provocative and aggressive attitude of the personated ‚migrant‘. The cliché -associations in western societies regarding the – visually different – male foreigners as a potential danger – in the sense of criminals and terrorists – is overdrawn and thrown back onto the spectator. The image in the mirror begins a life of its own.
The video installation „Walkout“ (2004) shown at the ground floor likewise has to be situated in this context of work and topic, though finding a different formal solution. The figure of the lonesome migrant, with a suitcase in each hand, is being projected on a painting showing an abandoned fabric building in the background. The projection displays a figure moving towards the building, but the more he is approaching the background of the image the more he is dissolving to finally totally disappear from the painting. The medially generated mirage exemplifies in one single gesture the migrants’ isolation in the guest-worker country Germany. The painting shows – in medium and content – the place of attraction and absorption alike.

Further at the ground floor we show a selection of works by Entekhabi in which he provides female pin-up-figures on found printmaterials – like magazines, posters or playing cards – with a tschador, that means he is veiling them. On the one hand he therewith aludes to the widespread practice of censuring female bodies in books and magazines of public libraries in islamic countries. On the other hand he reflects the western image of female muslims by ironically “islamisising” the media landscape.

While Entekahbi’s work leads to the conclusion that migrating between the cultures results in a general strangeness between the inner and the outer world, these worlds seem to form a unity in the work of Anila Rubiku. In her embroidered works, installations and drawings it is not so much the conflict with the foreign cultures she met during her long journey from Albania to Italy that emerges, but rather the confrontation with her own culture and its traditions, which was initiated only by the forced contact with the strange and the loss of her own roots.
The work „Does real balance exist???“ (2004) which developed in a performance with her mother and which we are showing on the ground floor, embodies this process of migrating and the re-discovering of one’s own culture in foreign environments. The used tambour frame has been passed on from one generation to the next amongst the women of Rubiku’s family. They used to embroider veils for the brides-to-be on this frame. During the performance this frame became the space of communication between two generations, between mother and daughter, between tradition and the present. Embroidering as a traditional activity developed to a dialogue, which became eternalised in the cloth in the form of yarn. The spectator who is invited to sit down on the tambour frame – according to the customs in Albania on cushions – is incorporated into the cultural space of communication provided by the frame and the embroidery.

The installation „Houses of the rising sun“ (2005) exhibited in the video space also draws on this experience of one’s own roots. The inner life of homes, normally hidden from the spectator, is made visible by Rubiku with the help of the embroideries and perforations applied to the surface of these paper houses. The inner illumination of the houses which makes these messages readable in the first place, convey the impression of shelter while at the same time make the spectator aware of the intimacy of the stories told on the walls. Rubiku in this work reflects not only the role of women in Albanian society, but conveys at the same time a part of her own biography: the fragility as well as the ephemeral character of the houses are at once an expression for constant movement, the movement which has led the artist from the well-known into the foreign.

On the ground floor of the gallery we are showing more embroidery on paper by the artist, which questions the established role models of women, as well as the moral concepts of western societies. The scenes often portray domestic situations. Their pretended idyll is caricatured in the often emblematically reduced works and is exposed to the spectator’s gaze.

In the common performance, “Something in common“ which is being shown at the opening and thereafter will be part of the exhibition in the form of a video show, the different approaches of the artists towards the topic are fused. Anila Rubiku and Shahram Entekhabi will be dressed in folkloristic and clichéd exaggerated outfits, mirroring our image of the Romanies and Sinti. As a reminder of the proverbial hospitality of these people, the visitors will be served the typical Balkan drink, ‘Rakija’. With their performance, the artists continue their reflection on self-perception and on other peoples’ perception of themselves. At the same time they cite the image of the Romanies as an unbound traveller who moves beyond the borders of cultures.

Tasja Langenbach (in collaboration with the artists)

Tags: Shahram Entekhabi, Anila Rubiku