Ëndri Dani

Ëndri
Dani

Ëndri
Dani is fascinated with Marina Abramovic. He was recently involved in
organizing a screening of her work, The
Artist is Present
, in Tirana, and tried as hard as he could to have the
artist herself present, first by asking her to record a video message to the
audience, and second by inviting the artist’s brother to attend. In the end,
neither event came to pass, but the screening did, and it brought Abramovic,
albeit briefly, back to her Balkan origins.

 

It comes as no surprise that Ëndri is interested in Abramovic. Like her, he is also focused on
the deep symbology present in human history, the layering of tradition and
experience, and the passage of time and its influence on our visual landscape.
When I met with Ëndri
he showed me a series of work entitled Palimpsest.
The reference is to Derrida’s writing about the palimpsest, which informs Ëndri’s use of the word. In the Palimpsest series, the artist is
interested in objects that represent both the present and the past, or the past
and the future. For example, he takes an ordinary cement mixer and covers it
with traditional Albanian designs, commonly seen in textiles and carpets. The
cement mixer, an ever-present site in a city dotted with building projects,
represents the building of the future, but becomes grounded in the land on
which it, and the buildings it helps to create, stands. The artist transforms
an object of the future into an object of the past. He does the same with a
souvenir, only by reversing the process – scraping away the kitschy paint job
adorning the souvenir terra cotta vases, cups and bowls, revealing the earthen
material beneath. Losing the décor was no loss at all; the Albanian eagle that
had been painted on the surface of one of the objects didn’t even have the correct
number of feathers to be considered the true symbol of Albania – it was cheap
souvenir in every way.

 

In another piece in the series, the artist removed the
colored dye from a traditional Albanian carpet. While the design remained (the
weave), the color was lost, which forced the viewer to rely on memory to recreate
the pattern, or to create one anew for himself. His work presents a close
examination of the symbols, patterns and icons that surround us everyday, which
are part of our visual heritage. While he does pay attention to the cultural
objects and heritage of Albania, he does not limit himself to only the local
context. A found object – a crushed soda can found in the forest, whose color
had been bleached out by the sun – presents an opportunity for the artist to
remake, by hand, this mass-produced object, by drawing the original label back
on the can in pencil. Finally, in a very personal work, he examined the layers
of paint found on the walls of his family’s apartment, identifying each color
by the associations of his relatives – the color of melon, peas, etc. – and
asking them why they chose those colors of paint and what they meant to them at
the time. In each work, Ëndri
seems to be interested in the significance of the various visual markers that
surround us on a personal, local and global level, and the way that they
permeate each of those layers of our experience of the world.

 

One more project that Ëndri showed me focused on the human presence in the physical
landscape. The artist had himself photographed in the doorways or entryways to
buildings across Albania. These doorways were made to a particular height – the
legend has it that it was the same height as the country’s long-time dictator, Enver
Hoxha. It is also the height of Ëndri
Dani. The artist isn’t interested in the political connotations of the height
of these doorways, but rather the symbolic meaning of that goes with standing
in a door or apartment that frames your body precisely – almost too precisely –
so that you can’t outgrow it, or move beyond these physical limitations. It is
interesting to consider this idea of limits not only in terms of Hoxja, who
placed strict limits on his people, but also of Le Corbusier, the modernist
architect who sought to design houses as “machines for living.” He, too, aimed
to rigorously design homes around human needs, and came up with an ideal
proportion – based on the height of the average British police officer (he had
wanted to use a French one, but decided that their average height was too
short) – and designed all of his buildings around that height.

 

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This idea of limitations is thwarted by the
palimpsest, which allows for a layering of experience. What
Ëndri’s work shows is that though the world may try
to fix meanings, symbols, and dimensions, those things or concepts will only be
part of the puzzle, just one layer on the many strata of human history. Peeling
back the paint, we can uncover them all.