26 Objekte n’ Kumpir (2009)
The installation 26 Objekte n’ Kumpir is presented as an imposing structure of branches and earth held in the air by slender supports. The interior is composed of hidden display cases resting on copper plates, which contain twenty-six commonly used objects. They are replicas of those made and customarily used by Halilaj’s paternal grandfather, all of which have been remodelled in different materials by the artist. He often uses natural, humble materials such as earth and wood, but also metal, to create organic ecosystems that symbolically store memories and objects linked to his personal history.
Similar in materiality and choice of colors, one of Haliaj’s most intimate works I’m hungry to keep you close. I want to find the words to resist but in the end there is a locked sphere. The funny thing is that you’re not here, nothing is was created in 2013 for the Kosovo pavilion at the Venice Biennale. This outsized nestlike structure was transformed into a secure space populated by two canaries: an intimate refuge with its interior only visible through a few openings into the structure. Both works are characterized by the relationship between interior and exterior, discovery and stratification, roughness and preciousness.
With the work 26 Objekte n’ Kumpir, Halilaj, who at the time was already living in Berlin, tackles the question of the distance separating him from his family. He replicated daily objects linked to his family customs from memory – including walking sticks, footwear and frames handmade by his grandfather – in an attempt to re-examine this form of non-verbal communication associated with making. Placed and illuminated in display cases as though in a museum, the objects are fixed and crystallized in time: «I do have the desire to dedicate my attention and be there in the middle of you. And not forget you. But you must not change anything in your life», Halilaj declared in a conversation with his sister Blerina. The work offers evidence of emotions linked to memory, as well as the potential, inevitable changes that time wreaks on reality and our affective and family dynamics.
This reflection is further highlighted in the text handwritten by the artist and hung alongside the work: Halilaj reflects on the lack of verbal communication between members of the family and the processes of creating a language that may also arise through the very production of objects. The sheets of paper on which the text is written seem to have been ripped out of a personal diary: grammatical mistakes and deleted words highlight the intimate nature of the text and the manner in which it was written, with a mix of languages and identities.
In the work Untitled (objects), close to the installation, Halilaj has combined a series of waste materials, such as wood, plastic and piping, taken from 26 Objekte n’ Kumpir.