The Isle of Thorns is the Albanian iteration of FUTURE ECOLOGIES, a programme from WE ARE HERE: Artists’ Moving Images from the British Council Collection and LUX. 

The exhibition imagines an alternative reality for the Island of Sazan − once a forbidden island and today a partly forgotten destination with an uncharted future, and explores themes as seen in artworks by five UK artists and artworks by five artists from Albania and Kosovo. Presented together in dialogue, the artworks present FUTURE ECOLOGIES as a manifesto for the semi-fictional, symbolic transformation of the Island of Sazan.

The artworks explore overdue and yet ever-pressing topics such as the environment, ecologies and cosmologies, climate change, the Anthropocene, colonisation and extractive industries, gentrification, urban futures and sustainability. 

Curator of the exhibition is Elian Stefa, an architectural researcher based in Tirana. You can read what Elian says about the programme in his curatorial statement here.

The exhibition took place from 7 July till 3 August 2021 and included a series of events. Find pictures from the exhibition here.

About the curator

Elian Stefa is an Albanian-Canadian interdisciplinary designer and curator currently based in Tirana. His work takes a approach in exploring ambiguous territories, and the revitalisation of abandoned spaces often through a collaboration of design and the arts. He has been a visiting professor at the Tirana Polytechnic University and is currently Director of Galeria e Bregdetit, an independent space in the south of Albania while continuing his research through CLiC, a territorial research NGO.

Artists' biographies

Anna Ehrenstein - a visual artist with German-Albanian roots and in her work, she generally reflects on a migration-related visual and material culture in the digital age. Her oeuvre ranges over many different media and is mainly centred around forms of installation and writing – through which she examines the crossings and divergences of ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures and their socio-economic and political entanglement.

Louis Henderson - a filmmaker and writer who experiments with different ways of working with people to address and question our current global condition defined by racial capitalism and ever-present histories of the European colonial project. Since 2017, Henderson has been working within the artist group The Living and the Dead Ensemble. Based between Haiti and France, they focus on theatre, song, slam, poetry and cinema, their first feature film Ouvertures was awarded a FIPRESCI special mention at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival 2020. His work has been shown in various international film festivals, art museums and biennials and is distributed by LUX and Video Data Bank. He lives and works in Paris.

Niku Alex Muçaj - lives and works between Switzerland and Albania. In his artistic practice he mainly comes to terms with social processes and systems; public space and social interaction that happens within it are important concerns. He tries to explore artistic and creative strategies in relation to public space, in both the physical and the abstract dimensions.

Uriel Orlow - lives and works between London, Lisbon and Zurich. Orlow’s practice is research-based, process-oriented and multi-disciplinary including film, photography, drawing and sound. He is known for single screen film works, lecture performances and modular, multi-media installations that focus on specific locations and micro-histories. His work is concerned with spatial manifestations of memory, blind spots of representation and forms of haunting. 

Charlotte Prodger - a Glasgow-based artist working with moving image, writing, sculpture and printmaking. She was the winner of the 2018 Turner Prize and represented Scotland at the 2019 Venice Biennale. She received the 2017 Paul Hamlyn Award and the 2014 Margaret Tait Award.

Ben Rivers - studied sculpture before moving into photography and super8 film. After his degree he taught himself 16mm filmmaking and hand-processing. His practice as a filmmaker treads a line between documentary and fiction.

Bedwyr Williams - lives and works in Caernarfon, Wales. Williams’ sculptures, painting, performances and video are influenced by his own life experiences. His work merges art and life with an idiosyncratic twist that is instantaneously sympathetic and relational, and he offers a sharp critique of our everyday world, and a celebration of the obscure and overlooked.

Driton Selmani - approaches the idea of perceived reality by deconstructing formations of social, political, and cultural topics that have been embodied around him. At a young age, he was told to worship a country that no longer existed, which caused him to form a basis of skepticism towards any supposedly given reality. He later used this as a beneficial tool to reconstruct his beliefs into visual artifacts.

Abi Shehu - studied photography in Berlin. Her work gives way to the multiple reflexes of the human figure in a constant attempt to investigate the depths of human emotions and existence. In her work we see a desire to present the unrepresentable and the unutterable, whether through portraits, photography and videos; all while maintaining the thematic unity that unifies her artistic activity: memory, death, humanness.

Driant Zeneli  - lives between Milan and Tirana. At the core of Zeneli’s research is the redefinition of the idea of failure, utopia and dream as the elements that open possible alternatives. Film is used by Zeneli to sculpt place and time. To play with architecture, history and the several stories that can be attached to them, is for his filmic works a constant necessity. Performance is used by Zeneli as a participative intervention, where the artist activates a meaning that is worked bottom-up with other spectators that become participants.

External links