Petrit Halilaj “RU”

The New Museum of Contemporary Art

poster for Petrit Halilaj “RU”
[Image: Petrit Halilaj "Si Okarina e Runikut" (2014) (detail). © Petrit Halilaj. Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris/London. Photo: Fabrice Seixas & archives kamel mennour]

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South Galleries, Ground Floor

Petrit Halilaj (b. 1986, Kostërrc, Skenderaj-Kosovo) often uses his own biography as a point of departure, adopting exhibition processes to alter the course of private and collective histories. Encompassing sculpture, drawing, text, and video, many of Halilaj’s works incorporate materials from his native Kosovo and manifest as ambitious spatial installations through which the artist translates personal relationships into sculptural forms.

For his New Museum exhibition, Halilaj will present a major new project that begins in Runik, the city in which he was born and the site of one of the earliest Neolithic settlements in the region, where some of Kosovo’s most significant artifacts have been found. An archaeological dig in the town uncovered 505 objects that comprise part of the country’s most significant material history from the period, including the musical instrument known as the Runik Ocarina. Now spread across several countries as the result of the Kosovo War in the 1990s, the most valuable of these objects currently reside in storage at the Natural History Museum in Belgrade. Out of public reach and inaccessible to the people of Runik, these objects hold great symbolic value for a nation missing parts of its shared frame of reference, but also point to the condition of contradictory claims from several countries in the region made upon the same material heritage. In “Petrit Halilaj: RU,” Halilaj presents a number of new video works, several large fabric sculptures, and an extensive environment that will draw on his research on the flight patterns and habitats of migratory birds. The artist’s real and imagined narratives began from recollections by Runik’s own inhabitants of discoveries on this site. While their material proof has been lost, these narratives merge into complete stories of origin, shaped by Halilaj into large sculptural forms.

Halilaj has recreated the 505 found objects in the form of migratory birds who have temporarily taken residence in an imagined landscape, envisioning these artifacts as beings who live and thrive through movement, rather than belonging to any one site or context. Bringing these objects together for the first time, Halilaj leaves behind the idea that this collection should define one nation. With “RU,” he instead presents a history written through personal narratives, and understands collective histories as flexible entities defined through movement and temporary residence—ultimately proposing how objects could serve a very different purpose in the context of museums. The exhibition is curated by Helga Christoffersen, Assistant Curator.



from September 27, 2017 to January 07, 2018

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