When recently Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist made a last, desperate attempt to bank on the cultural capital generated by well-known artists such as German artist Joseph Beuys and Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, both known for their interventions into the realm of politics, he couldn’t resist including the name of Prime Minister Edi Rama (and “his close friend Anri Sala”), whose “program” we “must understand […] in the framework of Beuys’s social sculpture.”
He conveniently forgets that whereas both Beuys and Bruguera were part of countermovements opposing existing conservative regimes or dictatorships (Beuys was one of the co-founders of the German Green Party, and Bruguera a well-known critic of Cuban regime), Edi Rama is in fact part and parcel of a self-enriching class of politicians/oligarchs, who uses art to divert the attention of the international community by means of “useful idiots” such as Obrist.
That Obrist knows nothing of contemporary Albanian politics is clear from his reference to the nearly 20-years-old “cleaning and greening” project of when Rama was mayor. He conveniently ignores Rama’s actual policies as “artist-in-chief,” which include destroying natural treasures around the country, turning Albania into Europe’s narco-state, and redesigning Albania as a “profitable” dumping ground for other countries’ waste.
Rather than using art to rethink politics, Rama is actually an example, as I have stated many times before, of someone who uses the language of contemporary art in order to look “Western,” “cosmopolitan,” and “civilized”: harmless, colorful doodles to mask the ugly face of a predatory regime.
It would be good to remind Obrist here of the a review of the Venice Biennial, appearing on the same website as he published his recent platitudes: “To be perfectly frank, the works wouldn’t matter so much if they hadn’t been made by the prime minister of Albania.” We might need more artists in politics, but certainly less politicians in art.