Petrit Halilaj Interview: I Don't Want an Enemy



“I grew up in a country where you had an enemy in everyday life.” Meet the extraordinary Kosovo-born artist Petrit Halilaj. In this video, he talks about his past as a refugee, and how his spellbinding installation RU – inhabited by bird-like shapes made from Neolithic artefacts found in the small town he grew up in – explores myth, identity, and our perception of reality.

When he moved to Italy after having lived in an Albanian refugee camp, Halilaj realised that he no longer had an enemy. He started to become scared that he would no longer be able to love because he had been used to an existence, where things were so complicated that “finding your own space and being able to love was almost a luxury…” This made Halilaj decide that no matter the cost, he never wanted an enemy again.

Bird-like creatures occupy the landscape of Halilaj’s installation RU, which takes its name after the small town Runik in Kosovo, in which Neolithic objects were found in the 1960s. Migratory birds, Halilaj explains, become a metaphor of our history, “of humans trying to move from a place to another, of people being manipulated… or finding a way out or people being isolated …or trying to move away…” Halilaj was fascinated by how you could compare the migration of birds to that of humans, and how to merge the two.

Petrit Halilaj (b. 1986 in Kosovo) is an artist who often uses his own biography (Halilaj’s family fled the Kosovo War, and he grew up in a refugee camp) as a point of departure, adopting exhibition processes to alter the course of private and collective histories. Halilaj works with sculpture, drawing, text, and video, and often incorporates materials from his native Kosovo. Solo exhibitions include Kölnischer Kunstverein in Cologne, Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn, National Gallery of Kosovo and Fondation d’Enterprise Galeries Lafayette in Paris. His work has been presented at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2917, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, New Museum in New York, the 6th Berlin Biennale in 2010 and many more. In 2013, Halilaj represented the Republic of Kosovo in the country’s first national pavilion in the 55th Venice Biennale. He has been awarded a special mention by the Jury at the 57th Venice Biennale and is the winner of the Mario Merz Prize 2017. He lives in Berlin.

Petrit Halilaj was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in June 2019 in connection with the exhibition ‘Homeless Souls’.

Camera: Klaus Elmer

Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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