States of the Arts


Sensation Seekers

by Vénera Kastrati
Video art

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In 2009, an Argentinean mountaineer called Federico Campanini lost his life during an Aconcagua expedition. Those who reported his death said that he fell from a precipice after a snowstorm, but this was disproven by footage that later emerged. This video showed Campanini struggling for his life as others looked on with indifference. Sensation Seekers aims to depict the various states of mind experienced during this incident, both by Campanini and by the rescue team, through shadow puppetry. Disorientating images dominate, from girls on swings to Dervish whirling dancers.

Words by John Wadsworth

The Forgiveness of Blood

directed by Joshua Marston
Feature film

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When Nik’s father and uncle are accused of murdering a neighbour, the victim’s family threaten to take his life in retribution. Confined to the house at risk of death, Nik strives for a normal adolescence, pursuing a kindling romance and playing video games. His sister, Rudina, is left to take up the family’s bread delivery business in the absence of their father.  Tense and sensitive, The Forgiveness of Blood examines the lasting impact of the Kanun, a traditional Albanian code of behaviour, juxtaposing the eye-for-an-eye mentality of blood feuds with modern Albanian life.

Words by John Wadsworth

History Class

by Luljeta Lleshanaku

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A narrator recounts a room of students, organised in a tried-and-tested formation. The front row is empty. The second is ‘all smacking lips’ of those keen to learn. Shy note-takers stoop in the middle. At the back, boys are distracted by the ‘beauty marks’ on the blonde girls’ necks. A teacher spouts ‘battle dates, names, causes’, as he gesticulates with one arm. His other, a stump in a ‘hollow sleeve’, is more difficult to interpret. Sometimes, it seems to pick a ‘target’ from the pool of pupils. In warmer instances, it chooses a ‘hero’, searching for those ‘stained with innocence’. We are reminded that history often rhymes, even when the speaker’s words do not.

Words by John Wadsworth

The Boy and the Rain

by Vaçe Zela

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Vaçe Zela is widely considered to be one of Albania’s greatest singers. Her reputation has long outlived Enver Hoxha’s regime, in which she first found fame. Known as the ‘Nightingale of Myzeqe’, Zela won Albania’s Festivali i Këngës an unprecedented eleven times, switching effortlessly between balladry, swing music, and traditional forms. On the jittery, accordion-driven ‘The Boy and the Rain’, one of her signature songs, Zela captures the energy of the track’s boy-protagonist, running in the rain to his day of factory work and dodging puddles as he goes.

Words by John Wadsworth

More to discover

Sensation Seekers: You can find out more about the artwork on Vénera Kastrati's official website here. You can watch an interview with Kastrati by Distretti Culturali here. (Note that you will need to click 'CC' for English subtitles.)

The Forgiveness of Blood: You can watch the trailer here, and see an excerpt here. Oscar Moralde has written about the film for The Criterion Collection; Paul Mezey, the film's producer, has been interviewed about life in Albania for The Criterion Collection too. Gary Kramer has interviewed the director for Slant Magazine, as has Christina Radish for Collider.

History Class: You can read two poems by Luljeta Lleshanaku, including 'History Class', on the World Literature Today website, as translated by Ani Gjika. You can watch an interview with the poet here, and read further information on Bloodaxe Blogs. S.J. Fowler has also interviewed the poet for 3:AM Magazine.

The Boy and the Rain: You can listen to 'The Boy and the Rain' here, and read an obituary for Vaçe Zela by Edison Kurani on the website of the Independent Balkan News Agency.

Question of the day

Which Albanian artworks would you recommend, and why?
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Broken April by Ismail Kadare. A novel as long-lasting as human history, it turns my blood boiling and cold at the same time. (→)

– Yiyun Li, author of 'The Vagrants' and 'A Thousand Years of Good Prayers'  (via The Brief →)

Bota, a film directed by Iris Elezi & Thomas Logoreci. Bota brings its revelatory microcosm into focus: a swampland café, the name of which translates as ‘world’.

– Elizabeth Brown, Silent Frame's Deputy Editor (via Patreon →)

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