Politics of installation as politics of the archive
three case studies
In this paper I discuss three recent exhibitions focusing on the communist era archives of the Ministry of Defense (Bunk’Art I), the Ministry of Interior Affairs (Bunk’Art II), and the Albanian communist regime’s secret police, namely, Sigurimi i Shtetit (House of Leaves). What is remarkable about the Bunk’Art I, Bunk’Art II, and House of Leaves exhibitions is the way in which they self-consciously appropriate and exploit the “language” or the conventions of contemporary artistic and curatorial installations, i.e., embodied perspective, immersion, theatricality, etc., to mediate the relationship between contemporary audiences and the communist past. The question, then, is whether the use of the “language” or conventions of contemporary artistic and curatorial installations in these exhibitions succeeds in making the communist past more readily accessible to contemporary audiences, or whether it makes it even harder to read.
Traditionally discussed in terms of being an especially democratic art form by virtue of opening up the space of the work of art to a community of visitors, more recently critics such as Boris Groys have drawn attention to the nondemocratic, violent act by which the space of the installation is created in the first place, namely, through the symbolic privatization of the public space of the exhibition over which the installation artist exerts absolute control. As such, artistic and curatorial installations reveal “the hidden sovereign dimension of the contemporary democratic order that politics, for the most part, tries to conceal”.2 I will show that the Bunk’Art I, Bunk’Art II, and House of Leaves exhibitions not only reveal the excess of sovereignty that underpins the contemporary Albanian political order, but also a vision of politics as installation art – or contemporary art exhibition – applied to an entire country.