Sokol Beqiri

Sokol Beqiri, Fuck You (2001), inkjet print

Sokol Beqiri, Adonis, 2017, grafted oak tree, marble, Polytechnion, Athens, documenta 14, photo: Dimitris Parthimos

Sokol Beqiri, Pa titull (Untitled), 1997, acrylic on berboard, installation view, Neue Galerie, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

As visual reminiscences and artistic responses to the bestialities of war, the works of Sokol Beqiri from the early 2000s also speak to the omnipresence of crime in the city where he was born in 1964, Peja, Kosovo. Inspired by Theodor W. Adorno’s famous question about the (im)possibility of writing poetry after Auschwitz, Beqiri walks into a dark zone of ideas and images which a Platonist might call the mimesis of evil. Consider, for example, the performance carried out in the ruins of Peja’s Grand Bazaar (1999), his installation Kur engjëjt vonohen (When Angels Are Late, 2001), and, especially, the video Milka (2000), with its subject of the abattoir. A brutal parable recalling the massacre of civilians during the war in Kosovo, and earlier, during conflicts in former Yugoslavia, this time-based work has a deeper intention of confronting the perpetuation of evil.

The most radical in this cycle of works, Fundi i ekspresionizmit: pikturuar nga një i çmendur (The End of Expressionism: Painted by a Madman, 2001), takes up the genre of war documentary and treats it like a readymade. For this work, Beqiri lightly enhances three photographs of war victims from Peja: a stabbed boy, whose body was found in the troubled waters of the River Bistrica (now called Lumbardh), and of two other victims who were killed, doused in petrol and then set on fire. There is an extreme horror to these images, as Beqiri recognizes, and by accentuating them he draws attention to the “artistic” effect of documentary photographs, particularly when observed out of context. In this case, the expression on the boy’s face, floating in the clear waters of Peja’s river, radiates with the beauty of a sleeping angel; the two photographs of the burned bodies wrapped in blankets, also burned, become abstract “artistic compositions.” Is Beqiri suggesting, then, that there is an art of crime? Is such an idea even bearable? And how to think that, indeed, there is such a thing as a “signature” or “creation” in the extreme and macabre savagery performed by a criminal human being? Does this work denounce the crime itself, or rather, the ontological diabolism of art itself, becoming in this case a perfect crime of mimicry and deceit?

—Shkëlzen Maliqi

Posted in Public Exhibition
Excerpted from the documenta 14: Daybook