Protesters gathered Sunday morning at the now-demolished Albanian National Theater (Teatri Kombëtar) in Tirana before being dispersed by police. (photo by Wendy Morava)

Albanian police dispersed dozens of protesters who gathered Sunday morning at the National Theater in the capital city of Tirana in an attempt to stop the demolition of the 80-year-old structure, despite a nationwide ban on group gatherings. The Teatri Kombëtar, built in 1939 during the Italian occupation, has been at the center of controversy for years since Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama shuttered the building and proposed its replacement with a €30 million (~$32.8 million) design by the Danish architecture firm the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).

In an open letter released this week, a group of artists and cultural workers are not only condemning the theater’s destruction but bringing attention to what they deem the “artwashing” of Rama’s politics. The prime minister, who ascended to power in 2013, is also a practicing artist who has achieved status and visibility in the contemporary art circuit, with exhibitions at venues including Marian Goodman Gallery in New York City.

The letter’s authors, cultural theorist Jonida Gashi and journalist and publisher Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, express concern that mediagenic portrayals of Rama as an artist-politician have served to obfuscate abuses of power by the Albanian government he helms, citing among them the state repression of free press, which has also been flagged by watchdog organizations such as Reporters Without Borders.

The German artist Wolfgang Staehle and Elidor Mëhilli, an associate professor at the City University of New York (CUNY), are among the 36 signatories of the letter so far. Van Gerven Oei told Hyperallergic that many people they approached hesitated to sign for fear of retribution, as they or their family members are employed by the state.

“The rise of Edi Rama’s profile as a practicing artist on the international art scene, aided by a select group of artists, curators, and collectors, instead of drawing more attention to his politics has, paradoxically enough, completely eclipsed them,” the letter reads. The authors go on to censure Rama’s policies, in particular the prime minister’s decision to demolish cultural monuments in Tirana to make way for government-sponsored construction projects.

The demolished theater (courtesy of Exit News)

“The ‘values’ and ‘colors’ of Edi Rama’s work as an artist, his speeches and interviews on the international art scene, and the promotional machinery that surrounds his career differ like day and night from the policies his regime is implementing in Albania,” they write. 

Rama arguably first gained widespread recognition in the art world when he undertook colorful renovations of communist-era buildings in Tirana while serving as the city’s mayor in the early 2000s. The project, described by Rama in a TED Talk as “not just an artistic act” but instead “a forum of political action,” is the subject of Albanian artist Anri Sala’s video “Dammi i Colori” (2003), which now resides in Tate Modern’s collection.

But Gashi and van Gerven Oei argue that it is time to “look beyond Edi Rama’s ubiquitous painting of the façades in 2001 and turn our attention instead to his actual, recent policies, in particular in the context of his response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.”

In a phone conversation with Hyperallergic, they noted that the demolition of the theater, which had been in the plans for years, finally took place while the country was in lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, on the weekend before the most severe measures were lifted.

“Rama knew people would come out to protest,” said van Gerven Oei. “He forced people to sacrifice their health for the protection of a cultural heritage and endangered the health of his own police force.”

Completed during World War II whilst Albania was under control of the Italian Fascist regime, the Teatri Kombëtar building was until now an enduring icon of Italian modernist architecture. It also hosted the first high-profile political show trials by the Albanian Communists, functioning as a reminder of the nation’s long period of Communist rule. Though the structure was officially shuttered by Rama two years ago, members of the Alliance for the Theater Protection continued to stage performances there until recently.

A video shared by Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary General of the pan-European cultural heritage organization Europa Nostra, depicts a bulldozer amongst the National Theater’s ruins. (Europa Nostra included the building in its recent list of Europe’s seven most endangered heritage sites and has since condemned its demolition in a letter to the EU Council of Ministers.)

During Rama’s two mandates as mayor, Gashi says, Tirana saw a boom in construction accompanied by the transformation of inexpensive apartment blocks into costly, flashy skyscrapers unaffordable to most except for “an oligarchic sliver of the country.”

According to the letter, a large part of the publicly held land on which the National Theater stood will be used for privately owned high-rise buildings and shopping malls. Though Rama touted the design for a new theater produced by BIG on his Facebook page as recently as last night, a definitive timeline for its construction has reportedly been stalled due to funding conflicts“The government has publicly admitted that it has no budget to rebuild the theater,” reads the letter. 

Neither the Albanian Ministry of Culture nor BIG have yet responded to Hyperallergic’s immediate request for comment.

“Certainly his neoliberal policies and rampant privatizations are high up on the reasons as to why he has stubbornly pursued this project,” Gashi told Hyperallergic when asked about the prime minister’s motivations. “But I think there’s also an element of Rama wanting to leave a mark on the city. If you want to leave a mark on a country, what better way to do it than urban design?”

Eriola Pira, an art historian and critic who has closely followed and written about Rama’s interventions in Tirana since 2003, believes the demolition of the National Theater is just one blatant example in Rama’s long track record of co-opting art and “the empty promise of progress” to further the interests of private companies.

“Contrary to Rama’s — and Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj — assurances to their international friends, this was never about building a new and better theater for actors by Bjarke Ingels, a darling of technocrats the world over, which they could have built anywhere in town, but about clearing the way for commercial high-rises that would be built alongside it, on prime city real estate. This overreach of power will no doubt be followed by further demolitions or redevelopment of historic buildings in the city center, among them the National Gallery of Art,” Pira told Hyperallergic.

“The 27-month public resistance was as much about preserving this building, full of theater and Albanian history, as it was about protesting the corrupt and autocratic ways in which his vision has come to define the city and who it is for. Last Sunday morning, under the cover of darkness, it became clear to all that it is not for its citizens, activists, artists and that Rama is willing to muzzle, beat, jail, and kill them,” she added, citing reports that protesters were still inside the building as it was being demolished. 

Rama has reportedly denied that state police used violence to deter the demonstrators. According to the Washington Post, officers used pepper spray on protesters and some television reports showed a bloodied citizen. Two policemen were also injured in the scuffle.

“For too long, his art world supporters and enablers have been willfully ignorant or looked the other way,” said Pira. “As of this Sunday, they no longer can ignore his record and anyone who continues to legitimize his political actions as artistic interventions is an accomplice to the suppression of civil rights and democracy in Albania.”

Gashi says the letter will continue to circulate in the weeks to come, and they hope it will garner wider support.

“When you speak about as an ‘artist politician,’ you should know his policies,” said van Gerven Oei. “As far as we are concerned, the discussion about Rama has been completely one-sided, predicated on a single work that he made with other artists in the early 2000s. We need to reassess the relationship between art and politics in his work.”

Read Gashi and van Gerven Oei’s open letter, reproduced in full, below:

* * *

An Open Letter to the International Art Community: Stop Artwashing Edi Rama’s Politics

For years we have witnessed how Edi Rama’s ascent to power in his own country has facilitated and enabled the rise of his profile as a practicing artist on the international art scene, especially since becoming Prime Minister in 2013. We are not immune to how attractive the idea of an artist-politician is at a time when mainstream politics has severe difficulties imagining any future at all. The artist-politician sells — both his work and his policies. Our concern then is that the rise of Edi Rama’s profile as a practicing artist on the international art scene, aided by a select group of artists, curators, and collectors, instead of drawing more attention to his politics has, paradoxically enough, completely eclipsed them. The time has come to look beyond Edi Rama’s ubiquitous painting of the façades in 2001 and turn our attention instead to his actual, recent policies, in particular in the context of his response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Edi Rama’s government has systematically undermined freedom of speech and expression. Journalists are systematically attacked — both verbally and physically, threatened and blackmailed, and laid off for reporting on corruption and organized crime, or simply for criticising the Rama government. Television programs can and have been shut down abruptly, including Públicus in 2016 just as it was about to air an exposé on the death of Ardit Gjoklaj, a child laborer killed in a work accident on a government owned landfill site. Indeed, entire television channels have been shut down, the latest being Ora News this month for allegedly violating social distancing measures but in fact because it is virtually the only remaining TV station critical of the government. All other major news stations are owned by businessmen close to Edi Rama’s government, while he communicates mainly through social media, including his Facebook video channel ERTV, whose extensive funding sources remain unknown and unaccounted for. 

Media watchdog organizations like the European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have repeatedly called out the deterioration of free press in Albania. Their condemnation reached momentum at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, when the Albanian government repeatedly tried to push through parliament the so-called “Anti-Defamation” bill, which gives an agency answering to the Council of Ministers the power to fine and even shut down online media with minimal evidence and without any oversight from the judiciary. Around the same time, the Albanian Parliament actually passed an even more disturbing piece of legislation, the so-called “Anti-KÇK” bill, thereby paving the way for the creation of an “elite” police force that, among other things, can conduct electronic surveillance and home searches, as well as stop and detain “suspects” without a court order.

While the violation of human rights by and under Edi Rama’s government is not new, the creation of a legal framework for the abolition or suspension of the fundamental rights and freedoms of Albanian citizens by the executive in toto is exceptionally alarming. Edi Rama has ruthlessly exploited four key moments in order to achieve this. Namely, the institutional and power vacuum created by the so-called “Justice Reform” since 2016, as a result of which Albania has neither a fully functional Constitutional Court nor a functional Supreme Court; the decision of the MPs of the two main opposition parties to rescind their mandates in early 2019, as a result of which Albania does not have a functional parliament; the one-party local elections held in June 2019, enabling the Socialist Party to gain control of virtually all municipalities across the country; and, finally, the catastrophic earthquake of November 26, 2019, and the Covid-19 pandemic as a result of which Albania has been under a state of emergency that is continually extended, sometimes legally and sometimes not, and has seen the ushering in of a slew of draconian emergency measures.

It should come as no surprise then that, in stark contrast with Edi Rama’s own artistic career, cultural life in Albania has become increasingly precarious. Sources of funding for independent cultural producers are scarce and what non-state funding there is gets mostly channeled into the government’s vanity projects. Thus, whereas unaccounted sums of money were spent on the contemporary art center inside Edi Rama’s offices, all other national cultural institutions are systematically underfunded and mismanaged. Cultural heritage is threatened too, especially the Roman and Byzantine archeological heritage of Albania. Similarly, most of the cultural monuments in Tirana dating to the Ottoman period have already been destroyed in order to make room for government sponsored construction projects, and plans are currently underway to demolish the National Gallery of Arts, another architectural landmark and cultural heritage site. 

The demolition of the historic National Theatre building on 17 May 2020, only two days before Albania’s severe COVID-19 lockdown was lifted marks a point of no return. Completed by the Italian fascists in 1939, it also functioned as an important reminder of communist rule in Albania, with the first high profile Albanian communist show trial being held inside it in 1945. The theater’s recent demolition came after two years of resistance by actors, writers, artists, and activists, only weeks after the building was nominated one of the seven most endangered cultural heritage sites in Europe by Europa Nostra, and after the European Commission called for dialogue about its preservation. This action was preceded by several unconstitutional and illegal acts at various levels of government, while a constitutional court complaint and an anti-corruption investigation against the ownership transfer of the theater from the national to local government was still pending. A large part of the publicly held land on which the National Theater stood is slated to be turned into privately owned highrise-buildings and shopping malls on the most expensive piece of real-estate in Tirana. The government has publicly admitted that it has no budget to rebuild the theater. This building, and everything that was inside — costumes, props, and archives of more than eighty years of Albanian theater history — was demolished in the middle of the night on Sunday May 17, 2020, accompanied by wanton police violence, shutting down of all electronic communications in the area, and random arrests.

The “values” and “colors” of Edi Rama’s work as an artist, his speeches and interviews on the international art scene, and the promotional machinery that surrounds his career differ like day and night from the policies his regime is implementing in Albania. Therefore, we, the undersigned, strongly call upon those in the international art community whose practices align with progressive politics, ethical work practices, and a critical engagement with civil society, to rethink their commitments – and the validity and honesty of these commitments — when collaborating with and promoting the work of an artist–politician whose practice goes against these commitments and who has shown to be an opponent of progressive, democratic, and inclusive ideals in his own country.

We call for solidarity from the international art world with the citizens, activists, and artists of Albania in condemning the actions of the government of Edi Rama, and a thorough reflection on the ethical and artistic implications of exhibiting and supporting his work and by extension his politics.

Original Signatories

Jonida Gashi, academic, cultural theorist, co-founder of DebatikCenter of Contemporary Art, Tirana
Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, journalist and publisher, The Hague/Tirana/Santa Barbara
Armando Lulaj, artist and filmmaker, co-founder of DebatikCenter of Contemporary Art, Tirana
Adela Halo, public policy analyst and anti-corruption expert, researcher in 18th century history of ideas at Queen Mary’s, London
Elvis Hoxhaj, LGBT human rights activist, The Hague/Tirana
Raino Isto, editor, ARTMargins Online
Dritan Hyska, artist, Tirana/Berlin
Alketa Ramaj, artist, Tirana
Ergin Zaloshnja, artist and founder of SPUTNIK fanzine, Tirana
Pleurad Xhafa, artist and co-founder of DebatikCenter of Contemporary Art, Tirana
Wendy Morava, scriptwriter and editor, Tirana
Xheni Karaj, LGBT activist and director of Aleanca LGBT, Tirana
Eriola Pira, curator, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School, New York
Sonila Meço, producer, journalist and TV anchor, Tirana
Adi Krasta, producer, journalist and TV anchor, Tirana/Prishtina
Wolfgang Staehle, artist, New York
Katerina Kolozova, Director of the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities Skopje, Professor of Philosophy, Epistemology and Gender Studies at ISSH and University American College, Skopje
Elvira Dones, novelist and documentary filmmaker, Switzerland
Vasco Dones, journalist, Switzerland
Marco Mazzi, photographer and painter, Florence
Neritan Sejamini, editor-in-chief, Exit Albania, Tirana
Elidor Mëhilli, Associate Professor, City University of New York, New York
Silvana Toska, Assistant Professor, Davidson College, North Carolina
Adrian Paci, artist, director of Art House, Shkodër/Milan
Eni Derhemi, artist, art historian, and researcher in post-dictatorship Albanian art, Bologna/ Tirana
Alice Elizabeth Taylor, journalist and media freedom activist, Tirana
Vjosa Musliu, postdoctoral fellow, Free University of Brussels, Belgium
Barbara Halla, assistant editor, Asymptote Journal, Tirana/Paris
Fatos Lubonja, writer and journalist, Tirana
Diana Malaj, writer and co-founder of activist group ATA, Kamza
Vasilika Laçi, civil rights activist and feminist, Tirana
Lori Lako, visual artist, Florence
Besar Likmeta, editor, BIRN Albania
Gjergji Erëbara, journalist, BIRN Albania
Hana Qena, artist and co-founder of HAVEIT, Tirana
Alketa Sylaj, artist and co-founder of HAVEIT, Prishtina
Arbërore Sylaj, artist and co-founder of HAVEIT, Prishtina
Sofia Kalo, anthropologist and researcher, Chicago

Also signed by:

Erion Gjatolli, translator, Tirana
Sonja Lau, curator and writer, Berlin
Isuf Alla, interreligious dialogue, Rome
Jonas Staal, artist, Athens/Rotterdam
Drita Alla, Fashion Studies, Rome
Lorena Kalaja, artist, New York
Iva Lulashi, artist, Milan
Vesa Qena, artist and co-founder of HAVEIT, Prishtina
Marsela Dauti, researcher, Uppsala University, Sweden
Federica Pompejano, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Genova, Italy
Klodiana Millona, architect and researcher, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Rigels Metolli, Engineer, Hamburg, Germany
Yuan Chun Liu, artist/architect, Rotterdam/Taipei
Besfort Idrizi, actor and director, Albanian theater for children and youth, Skopje, RN Macedonia
Jora Kasapi, Architect, Tirana, Albania
Stuart Munro, writer, Tokyo
Ricardo Dominguez, Associate Professor, UCSD
Chun-chi Wang, curator and researcher, Berlin/Taipei
Ervin Qafmolla, journalist, Tirana
Dan Rudmann, publisher, US
Andi Tepelena, cultural manager, activist, Albania
Taulant Muka, Research Group Leader, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Bern, Switzerland
Donald Merizaj, software engineer, Albania
Hana Halilaj, co-founder of Hajde! Foundation, Prishtinë
Doruntina Kastrati, artist, Prishtina, Kosovo
Andreas Petrossiants, independent scholar, NYC
Blerta Hoçia, artist and curator, Tirana/Prishtina
Emiljano Kaziaj, Media Researcher, Human Rights Activist, Albania
Carrie Ann Morgan, anthropologist and linguist, Tirana/Ann Arbor
Fatlum Doci, artist, Albania
Entela Bineri, art journalist, Tirana
Arba Bekteshi, urban anthropologist, Tirana
Endri Dani, artist, Tirana
Remijon Pronja, artist and lecturer, Polis University, Tirana
Olson Lamaj, artist, Tirana, Albania
Celik Rruplli, journalist, Tirana
Enriketa Papa, historian, University of Tirana
Genta Nishku, literary scholar, writer and translator, Tirana/NYC
Boštjan Bugarič, architect , lecturer and senior editor at Architectuul, Berlin
Alban Muja, artist, Prishtina, Kosovo
Boris Budini, systems architect, Albania
Sonia Budini, architect, Albania
Matteo Pizzolante, Artist, Milan
Gentian Shkurti, artist, Tirana, Albania
Lorina Bekteshi, consultant, Tirana, Albania
Orinda Malltezi, lecturer, University of Tirana, Albania
Petrit Pula, Music Curator & Producer, New York City
Sashenka Lleshaj, PhD student, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec
Dushko Petrovich, Chair of New Arts Journalism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Carin Kuoni, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New York City
Chelsea Haines, art historian, New York
Koloreto Cukali, scriptwriter and producer, Tirana
Besnik Pula, Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg
Claire Bishop, Professor, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Hrisina Ivanoska, artist and co-founder of Press to Exit Project Space, Skopje
Yane Calovski, artist and co-founder of Press to Exit Project Space, Skopje
Saisha Grayson, contemporary curator, New York/DC
Sadie Mlika, writer and activist, Boston, MA
Kristale Ivezaj Rama, journalist, founder of The Balkan Artists’ Guild, London
Donika Çina, artist, Tirana
Dorina Pllumbi, architect and researcher, TU Delft, Netherlands
Brunilda Pali, researcher, KU Leuven, Belgium
Ornela Zani, activist, Tirana, Albania
Ilir Kaso, artist, Tirana
Pezana Rexha, architect, Tirana, Albania
Elvia Wilk, writer/editor, New York City
Valentina Koça, gallerist and founder of Zeta Center for Contemporary Art, Tirana
Esmeralda Kallollari, semiotics student, University of Passau, Germany
Ergys Mita, musician, Tirana
Parid Cefa, artist, New York
Angelo Careri, writer and theoretician, Paris
Gerta Xhelo, Director of Production, TED-Ed –TED Conferences, New York
Nina Power, writer and philosopher, London
Merita Smaja, actress at Teatri Migjeni, Shkodër
Stefan Çapaliku, writer, Tirana
Eros Dibra, artist, Albania
Virion Graçi, writer, Tirana-Albania
Kastriot Çipi, theatre director, Albania
María Novas Ferradás, architect and researcher, Galicia, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain and
Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
Kamela Guza, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Florence, Italy
Borana Kullolli, Civil Eng. PhD candidate, TU Berlin, Germany
Saimir Kristo, architect and Vice-Dean of POLIS University, Tirana
Kristina Millona, human rights defender, Belgrade, Serbia
Tancrède Rivière, writer and researcher, Paris
Robert Aliaj Dragot, visual artist and activist, Tirana/Brussels
Stefano Romano, artist and lecturer at Polis University, Tirana
Elsa Demo, culture journalist, Tirana
Anila Dedaj, journalist, Tirana
Elian Stefa, architect and curator, Tirana
Rita Gjeka, actress at Teatri Migjeni, Shkodër
Durim Taçi, writer and translator, Italy
Ag Apolloni, playwright, Prishtina
Irsida Bejo, architectural theorist & educator, USA
Caterina Preda, art and politics theoretician, Romania
Anxhela Çikopano, theater director, translator and scholar in cultural anthropology, Tirana
Nada Gurashi, translator
Rezarta Caushaj, activist and journalist, Tirana
Pietro Gaglianò, art critic and pedagogist, Florence
Daria Filardo, curator and educator, Palermo/Florence
Kristina Gjini, architect, Chicago IL
Melina Kotsia, architect and critical writer, Tirana/Seattle
Hashim Baftiari, publisher, Tetova, North Macedonia
Kailey Rocker, Cultural Anthropologist and PhD Candidate, University of North Carolina-Chapel
Hill, USA
Suela Bako, film and theatre actress / director, Tirana
Romir Zalla, actor, Tirana, Albania
Dasara Xhangolli, theater director/actress, Tirana
Dhimitraq Kote, artist, Florence/Korçë
Ermela Teli, film director, Albania
Josseline Black, choreographer and curator
Edmond Dingu, electrical engineer, Tirana, Albania
Driant Zeneli, visual artist, Milan and Tirana
Parid Teferiçi, writer, Tirana
Shilton Rica, Senior Design Engineer, Luxembourg
Irhan Jubica, writer & journalist, “ARS” Albanian literary magazine
Flora Camaj, journalist, Prishtinë
Alban Gjata, art & architecture, Bergamo, Italy
Corrado Gugliotta, Laveronica Gallery, Modica Italy
Aida Baro, translator and editor, Tirana
Lea Ademi, human rights defender
Gladiola Harizaj, actress at National Theater of Albania
Ervin Bejleri, actor at National Experimental Theater of Albania
Simone Harrill, artist, UK
Emi Furxhi, human rights activist, Tiranë
Blerti Murataj, visual artist and filmmaker, New York
Jonida Xherri, visual artist, Durrës/Modica
Ilire Zajmi, writer and journalist, Prishtinë
Chiara Enzo, artist, Venice, Italy
Ludovico Riviera, Italy
Elton Caushi, tour operator and media producer, Albania
Artan Haxhi, professor, Shkodra University
Albien Alushaj, visual artist, Florence
Serena Becagli, art coordinator and co-founder of Estuario Project Space, Florence/Prato
Rozi Kostani, theatre director, actress and professor
Driada Dervishi, theatre director, Albania
Eltjana Shkreli, urban planner, GO2_Sustainable Urban Planning Organization
Rosella Pellicciotti, choreographer, dancer, performer, Tirana (AL)
Elona Pira, founding editor, Peizazhe të fjalës magazine, Tirana/New York
Dalina Gashi, architect, London
Agata Rogoś, curator, Institut für Slawistik Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Matilda Odobashi, visual artist, Tirana
Abderrahim Kassou, Architect, Casablanca
Erla Gjinishi, social scientist, Sweden
Valentina Bonizzi, artist, Glasgow/Tirana
Nicola Pedrazzi, Bologna, journalist Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa
Mikaela Minga, musicologist, Tirana
Teuta Toska, linguist, Elbasan
Su Tomesen, artist, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Driton Selmani, visual artist, Prishtina, Kosovo
Miran Mohar, artist, Ljubljana
Maltin Grabivaj, structural engineer, Tirana
Martino Baldi, poet and librarian, Pistoia, Italy
Lorena Kalaja, artist, New York
Pasko Kisic, political scientist, Stockholm
Richard van den Brink, publisher, Skanderbeg Books, Tirana, Utrecht/the Netherlands
Majkell Veizaj, web developer, Tirana
Ataol Kaso, publisher, Pika pa sipërfaqe, Tirana
Eyal Weizman, professor, Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of
London, founder and director of Forensic Architecture, London
Dr. Mateja Bučar, choreographer, president of DUM-Association of Artists, Slovenia
Gerda Mulder, photo-editor Skanderbeg Books, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Mondi Denelli, violinist, Shkodër, Albania
Ares Shporta, Director of Lumbardhi Foundation, Prizren, Kosovo
Rok Vevar, dance historian and curator, Ljubljana
Pia Brezavšček, editor of Maska journal, Ljubljana
Alban Nimani, artist, director of TULLA – Culture Center, Tirana/Prishtina
Vittoria Ciolini, President of the culture association Dryphoto Arte Contemporanea, Prato, Italy
Mirna Pedalo, visiting lecturer, Royal College of Art, London, UK
Endi Tupja, artist, filmmaker, Tirana/Berlin
Jiří Němec, International Relations Student and Balkanologist, Brno, Czech Republic
Sislej Xhafa, artist, New York, USA
Daniel Languré, architect, Mexico City, Mexico
Miloš Kosec, architect, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Sanja Horvatinčić, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute of Art History, Zagreb, Croatia
Carolina Gómez Pérez, Architect & Strategic Urban Planner
Irena Šentevska, researcher and curator, Belgrade, Serbia
Davide Marchetti, architect & visiting professor, Rome, Italy
Jelica Jovanović, architect & researcher, Belgrade, Serbia
Rena Raedle, artist, Belgrade
Vladan Jeremić, artist, Belgrade
Alessandra Briganti, journalist, Rome
Ana Jovanović, architect, Belgrade, Serbia
Tiago Mota Saraiva, architect, Lisbon
Mladen Jadric, Architect, Ass.Prof.Dr.DI Vienna
Odeta Çunaj Stabenow, Filmmaker, Berlin
Stefan Stabenow, Film Editor, Berlin
Flutura Açka, writer/publisher, Tirana, Utrecht/the Netherlands
Amelida Celepija, Photographer & Artist, London,UK
Daniele Capra, art critic and independent curator, Venice
Ana Džokić, architect, Belgrade/Rotterdam
Marc Neelen, architect, Rotterdam/Belgrade
Xhorxhina Bami, correspondent for Kosovo, Balkan Insight/BIRN, Tirana/Prishtina
Aleš Vodopivec, Professor, Faculty of Architecture, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Rosanna Cieri, director of the MOTUS Company (Italy)
Simona Cieri, choreographer of the MOTUS Company (Italy)
Ena Bavčić, human rights activist and documentarist (Sarajevo, BiH)
Nevenka Koprivšek, director Bunker, Mladi levi festival (Ljubljana, Slovenia)
Martina Agricoli, dancer of the MOTUS Company (Italy)
Anisa Kushta, economist, Tirana
Vjollca Rica, ingénieur d’études, France
Rune Ottosen, Professor Emeritus journalism, Oslo Metropolitan University (Norway)
Mamica Burda, architect, researcher, TU Wien, Vienna, Tirana
Marson Korbi, architecture PhD, Polytechnic of Bari (Italy)
Lejla Huremović, activist, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ilaria Fratantuono, dancer of the MOTUS Company (Italy)
Lara Fresko, art historian, New York/Istanbul
Gentiola Madhi, researcher & OBCT correspondent, Tirana / Verona (Italy)
Maria Briganti, architect, Taranto
Micol Viti, organizational staff of the MOTUS Company (Italy)
Mattia Solano, dancer of the MOTUS Company (Italy)
Ledio Allkja, urban planner, researcher Co-plan/Polis University
Bruno Di Blasi, musician and photographer
Judoris Merkaj, marketing student
Realda Abdija, art historian, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Lorena Gjana, Chief Operating Officer, INNVEST
Gabriele Salvaterra, curator and museum professional, Trento, Italy
jonathan lahey dronsfield, philosopher/artist, UK
Clara Scola, art director of AnonimaKunsthalle, Milan, Italy
Roberta Morello, dancer of the MOTUS Company (Italy)
Armando Guçe, political analyst, Tirana, Albania
Claudio Rossi, Italy
Gorana Mlinarević, human rights lawyer, Sarajevo
Beatrice Fleischlin, performer, Basel, Switzerland
Marcella Stefanoni, gallerist, ARTRA Gallery, Milan
Lorenzo Tiberio, student, Italy
Anja Zorko, Slovenia
Alexandros Tsakos, University of Bergen, Norway
Yannis Papadopoulos, University of Brasília, Brazil
Evan Panagopoulos, architecture tour guide, UK
Sonja Dragović, researcher in urban studies, Podgorica / Lisbon
Erion Hinaj, theater director and actor, Tirana
Marilena Cammarota, teacher & researcher, Siena (Italy)
Bernhard Studlar, playwright, Austria
Ylber Marku, research fellow in World History, Xiamen University, China
Paola Martina Petrocelli, student, University of Siena
Giulia Dongilli, artist, Italy
Katharina Stadler, artist, Tbilisi
Herman Zonderland, photographer, Delft, the Netherlands
Nina Galić, visual artist, Belgrade
Arbër Elezi, visual artist, Florence
Ivana Němec, nurse and midwife, Brno, Czech Republic
Elidjon Grembi, artist, Düsseldorf, Germany
Darko Vukić, artist, Serbia
Lisandri Kola, poet, researcher and lecturer University of Michigan, Ann Arbor/Michigan
Aristea Kola, Kêns (critical journal) publisher, researcher and Graduate Student, University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor/Michigan
Amy Zion, curator and writer, Faculty, CCS Bard College, New York
Arben Prendi, poet, researcher and lecturer University of Shkodra “Luigj Gurakuqi”, Albania
Danilo Correale, independent artist and researcher, New York
Jonathan Eaton, Anthropologist and PhD student, University of British Columbia, Canada
Arta Arifi, Cultural Anthropologist & Archaeologist, Pristina, Kosovo
Kleidi Eski, visual storyteller, Tirana, Albania
David Quezada, architecture MSc, structural engineer; lecturer Universidad de Santiago de
Chile, Escuela de Arquitectura; founder of ARCADA, Santiago de Chile.
Marko Peterlin, Director at IPoP – Institute for Spatial Policies, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Tadej Glažar, professor, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Clarence Tsui, film critic, lecturer and programmer, Hong Kong
Susann Kreplin, research assistant – constructionLab/perceptionLab, TH OWL, Germany
Shpëtim Selmani, actor and writer.
Petra Čeferin, assoc. professor, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Giulia Morucchio, curator, Venice (IT)
Arne Vehovar, architect, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Iris Sojli, writer and translator
Magdalena Prus, architect
Yvonne van Osch, writer, Amsterdam, Holland
Maja Vardjan, curator, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Jeff Bickert, writer/editor, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Jernej Prijon, architect, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Anna de Manincor | ZimmerFrei collective, artist and filmmaker, Bologna, Italy
Uršula Berlot Pompe, assoc. prof., University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Leda Lunghi, curator, Milan, Italy
Regina Longo, media archivist and lecturer, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
Fatmira Nikolli, culture journalist, Tirana
Reto Kromer, film conservator and restorer, Lausanne, Switzerland
Andrea Abati, photographer and founder of Dryphoto Arte Contemporanea, Prato, Italy
Barbara Predan, assistant prof., University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Simon Hewitt, art historian and journalist, Switzerland
Stefan Haas, musician & graphic designer, Lucerne, Switzerland
Sesilja Plasari, director, France
Dritan Laçi, journalist, Tirana
Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, writer, philosopher, and activist, Bologna
Andrea Pagnes, artist at VestAndPage, Italy/Germany
Fatos Dingo, Psychologist and Cultural Anthropologist, Florence
Nikola Slavevski, artist, Macedonia
Kaja Lipnik Vehovar, architect, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Fioralba Duma, human & civil rights activist and cultural promoter, Rome, Italy
Ilir Qyrana, Albanian architect, Tirana, Albania
Ana Grgić, lecturer in Film and Screen Studies, Monash University Malaysia
Ervin Goci, activist and lecturer in journalism, University of Tirana
Despina Zefkili, art critic, Athens, Greece
Ismete Selmanaj Leba, journalist, writer and construction engineer, Italy
Adele Budina, producer, Rome, Italy
Nicole Davi, actor & director, Coach & Therapist, Lucerne, Switzerland
Heligonka, Handcrafted New Folk Pop Band, Emmenbronx, Switzerland
Ivi Petja, Freiburg im Breisgau
Dorota Horodyska, interpreter, Poland
Anne-Marie Tangen, Niayesh Travel, Norway
John Dale, historian, Norway
Dens Dimiņš, translator, Latvia
Arjon Muarremi, Architect – Founder MAS – Muarremi Architecture Studio, Milano, Italy
Ilda Mara, director of Art & Heritage Publication
Mauro Geraci, Professore di Antropologia Culturale all’Università degli Studi di Messina. Cantastorie e Antifascista. Italia.
Doris Xhaferi, resident intern, Bielefeld, Germany
Michelle Millar Fisher, curator, MFA Boston
Avni Delvina, artist, Cesena, Italy.
Anxhelo Matrangolo, teacher, Italy.
Louis Seiller, independent journalist, Western Balkans/Paris.
Hans Peter Jost, photographer. Zurich, Switzerland.
Barbad Golshiri, artist and critic, Iran
Maryam Ashrafi, social documentary photographer, Paris
Małgorzata Margo Rejmer, writer, Tirana/Warsaw
Jan Jansen, human rights activist, Zutphen, The Netherlands.
Jonila Godole, writer and director of IDMC, Tirana
Leo Platvoet, writer, former member Dutch Senate, The Netherlands
Loreta Nikolli, translator and fair & events organizer, Bologna, Italy
Endri Rexhepaj, IT auditor KPMG, Switzerland
Viktor Misiano, “Moscow Art Magazine” chief-editor, Moscow, Russia
Ilda Papajani, artist & DOP, Tirana, Albania
Fabian Kati, documentary film director & sociologist, Manchester, UK
Elgoni Nikolla, American Studies, PhD candidate at Sofia University “St.Kliment Ohridski”, Sofia, Bulgaria
Alessandra Ghinato, journalist and communications expert, Milano, Italy
Lindita Komani, writer and translator, Tirana, Albania
Elvin Nuri, advertiser, writer and communication expert, Tirana, AL
Edmond Budina, director, scriptwriter and actor, Rome/Tirana
Effi Weiss, artist, Filmmaker, Brussels, Belgium
Jasmina Topić, writer and teacher, Pančevo, Serbia
Prof. Waldemar Kuligowski, academic, editor and activist, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland
Alina Kubiak, producer and curator, Berlin, Germany
Ewa Tracz, student, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland
Gazmend Bakalli, artist, Connecticut, US
Davide Quadrio, curator and producer Art Hub, Hong Kong
Andrej Strehovec, architect, critic, independent custos, member of Management Board at Association of Architects Novi Sad, Serbia
Albi Cela, lawyer, human rights activist, LLM, Arizona State University, Washington D.C
Ariglon Pali, journalist, Top Channel, Albania
Norbert Tobolski, student, Mikołaj Kopernik University, Toruń, Poland
Edona Bala, visual artist, Tirana, Albania
Erid Katroshi, medical doctor, Germany
Irena Sawicka, Institute of Slavic Studies, Warsaw, Poland
Jean-Arnault Dérens, rédacteur en chef du Courrier des Balkans (France)
Amaël Cattaruzza, Université Paris-VIII (France)
Yoko Sawada, editor and publisher, Tokyo, Japan
Sandra Krizic Roban, Institute of Art History, Zagreb, Croatia
Florian Daka, architect, Tirana, Albania
Lori E. Amy, Professor, Georgia Southern University
Denis Esakov, artist, Berlin
Magdalena Rekść, academic, University of Lodz, Poland
Dana Kopel, writer and editor, New York
Elsa Skënderi Rakipllari, linguist and lecturer, Tirana
Vjeran Pavlaković, historian, University of Rijeka, Croatia
Jeanne Lakits, dancer, France
Viltė Migonytė-Petrulienė, Kaunas, Lithuania
Edi Muka, curator, Sweden/Albania
Samuel Gonçalves, architect, Portugal
Philippa Driest, artist and janitor, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Kristian Zara, visual artist, Curator, Art critic, UK, AL, GR
Davide Sgambaro, artist, Turin, IT
Amos Cappuccio, Turin, IT
Nela Gubic, Institute of Art History, Croatia
Eleonora Castagna, curator, Vipiteno, IT
Mariana León, Art Historian, Actress, México
Emma Tagliacollo, Adjunct Professor Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, IT
Ugo Carughi, President Docomomo Italia, IT
Beatrice Marchi, artist, Berlin, Germany
Alice Pedroletti, artist and art worker, Italy
Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti, curator, Italy
Alessio Mazzaro, artist, Italy
Caterina Erica Shanta, artist, Italy
Eugenia Delfini, 2019-2020 Guggenheim Hilla Rebay International Fellow, Italy
Simona Barbera, artist, Italy/Norway
Beatrice Sacco, artist, Italy
Maximiliano Siñani, artist, Bolivia
Rachele D’Osualdo, Udine, Italy
Jovan Minic, architect, SRB, IT
Bertin Christelbauer, musician, Linz, Austria
Dardana Berdyna, actor, Italy
Ruth Beraha, artist, Italy
Marta Papini, curator, Italy
Rebecca Moccia, artist, Italy
Irene Bagnara, curator and journalist, Italy
Melpomeni Nelaj, multidisciplinary storyteller, Serbia
Denis Ymeri, artist, Spain
Enisa Selmanaj, architect, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Carlo Sala, curator, Italy
Naeem Mohaiemen, Society of Fellows, Columbia University, New York, US
Hiroko Komatsu, artist, Japan
Osamu Kanemura, artist, Japan
Chiara Trivelli, artist, Italy
Alessandra Saviotti, curator/educator, PhD fellow Liverpool John Moores University, UK
Giorgio Verzotti, art critic, Milan
Marco Scotini, curator, Milan
Andris Brinkmanis, curator, Milan
Valerio Deho, curator, Bologna
Leah Whitman-Salkin, Tirana
Yusuke Inoue, artist, Japan
Gemma Medina Estupiñán, curator, art historian and educator, Netherlands.
Marko Stamenkoviq, curator, art historian and writer, Albania.
Fabiola Fiocco, curator/art worker, Italy
G. Olmo Stuppia, artist, researcher, Italy
Paola Pietronave, Italy
Sara Molho, Italy
Henri Kergomard, musician, Greece
Kiyoshiro Tatekawa, artist, Japan
Marta Orsola Sironi, curator/art worker, Italy
Ilaria Conti, Italy/USA
Alessia Certo, visual artist (collettivo Didymos), Italy
Giulia Vannucci, visual artist (collettivo Didymos), Italy
Riitta Nikula, Professor Emerita in Art History, Helsinki, Finland
Jiewen Xiao, philosopher, Italy
Francesca Blandino, art historian, Italy
Mona Vatamanu, artist, Romania
Florin Tudor, artist, Romania
Joanna Minksztym, ethnologist, Poznań, Poland
John Tilbury, pianist, England
Eric van Hove, artist, Brussels/Marrakech
Jon Campbell, artist, Berlin, Germany
Tim Shaw, artist and academic, Newcastle, UK
Braden Phillips, journalist and screenwriter, Barcelona, Spain
Aaron Levy, Slought Foundation, Philadelphia/USA
Marina Tkalčić, curator, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Croatia
Corinne Mazzoli, Artist, Italy
Art Workers Italia, Italy
Eva Basso, curator and museum educator, Italy
Virginia Lupo, gallery assistant, Italy
Jacopo Belloni, artist, Italy
Anna Stoppa, curator and educator, Curatorial Studies at KASK, Belgium
Filippo Minelli, artist, Italy
Klaus Schafler, artist, Austria
Irene Guandalini, art mediator, MUSEION, Italy
Silvia Jánošková, Slovakia
Giovanni De Donà, artist and producer, Italy
Dario Alì, editor-in-chief, KABUL magazine, Italy
Dr Mark George, historian/accountant, England
Peggy Gale, independent curator /critic, Toronto (Canada)
Arnisa Halili, editor for culture, youth and society, online magazin (Germany)
Anila Shehaj, architect, Italy
Nico Angiuli, visual artist, Italy
Christos Savvidis, Arts Manager, Curator, Greece
Forum of Italian Contemporary Art
Jorida Shahinas, independent researcher and writer Tirana, Albania
Tania Bruguera, artist and activist, Havana and New York

The demolished theater (courtesy of Exit News)

The demolished theater (courtesy of Exit News)

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...

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