Fearful Intentions

Jozsa Gallery is pleased to present the second solo show of Anila Rubiku (Tirana, 1970), Fearful Intentions.
Anila Rubiku transports us in Albania landscapes, with three different projects, in order to discover the communist past through bunkers, she also approaches the issue of domestic violence in her country and the topic of dictators love for art trying to make art fight back.

In Albania, military bunkers are everywhere: on the beach, in the mountains, even in cemeteries but mostly in the country near the coasts and the borders. Approximately 750,000 have been built during the dictatorship of the communist Enver Hoxha (1945-1985), that means one for every four inhabitants. But for what use? The answer is quite simple: to defend against the country’s supposed enemies: NATO and the WARSAW PACT. They are simply the result of the Dictator’s paranoia.

Tactically useless from a military point of view, these bunkers had a profound psychological effect on the citizens and especially on Albanian children growing up. After the fall of communism at the end of the 80’s these bunkers were used in various ways: as cafes, restaurants, storages, etc. For Anila Rubiku, who grew up with those bunkers, they are a constant reminder of « the futility and nihilism of totalitarianism » especially the fear they generated in her and her friends of both the outside world and the culture of her country at that time. They are also a concrete corruption of one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe.

In her series Bunker Mentality: Landscape Legacy Anila Rubiku created a water-colour series representing these bunkers. She also made a beeswax installation of bunkers presented at the Kiev Biennale. Her artistic interpretation of these concrete mushrooms is at once a reminder of the horrible past and a message to future generations.

It’s a fact that many dictators collected art, mostly by stealing it. There are various reasons for this but one of the messages they were sending was « that they weren’t simply murdering psychopaths, they had –taste– as well ». But it is odd that there are so many totalitarian collectors of art in history.

The project Effacing Memory was born of Rubiku’s mind when she was resident at the Hammer Museum in winter 2013: What if art could fight back against these dictators by erasing them from our collective memories? Subsequently, when this idea was put to a curator to give Rubiku a perspective, she discovered that there was one famous case of erasure in recent art history, Rauschenberg erasing a de Kooning drawing. So, through twelve portraits of dictators, Rubiku allows art to fight back by effacing these dictators: Ceausescu, Goebbels, Goring, Hitler, Hoxha, Il Duce, Kim Jong, Mao, Marcos, Miloscevic, Shah Iran and Stalin. This project consists of a video and the erased etchings paper work.

Domestic violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon. In Albania the saying goes: « If he beats you; he loves you ». Because of international pressure from such organisations as Amnesty International and domestic groups such as Platforma Gjinore (Platform for Gender), Albania has adequate laws to protect women from domestic violence. But in Albania these crimes are seen as « family matters »; they are not a matter for the justice system. According to Amnesty International, a woman who was a witness at a trial told the judge: « You know, sir, that all women in our country are beaten by their husbands. It’s normal...Your husband comes home in a bad mood, or tired from work, and when he isn’t pleased, he beats you ».

Some women fought back, they killed their husbands, they were incarcerated. Extenuating circumstances are generally not recognised in Albania. Anila Rubiku organised workshops with those women in prison Ali Demi - Prison 325 in Tirana. The idea behind this was to use art to reveal the suffering of these women and the fact that they had no legal protection. The work Albania: Women, Justice and the Law was presented to politicians, journalists and opinion formers at the gallery of the Tirana Academy of Arts (FAB) in October 2013. Through these workshops, in association with psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Adams, she wanted to let women prisoners express themselves in art and through narratives about their ordeal. Many prisoners applied to participate in the workshops but 12 attended through to the end.

The grills of Anila Rubiku are the artistic contribution from the project. They represent Rubiku’s insight into each personality informed by the women’s art and narratives. In Spring 2014, she discovered that the women had been freed. Of course, this is not entirely due to the project but it helped. The colourful grills that are embroidered are a representation of the women Portrait of a Freed Woman. These embroidered grills are sewn by hand. Anila Rubiku likes to think that the labour time represents the time that these women have spent locked up in prison. Of course, there still remains a lot of work to do concerning attitudes to domestic violence. The project is a sign that Albania is gradually moving in the right direction where citizens can protest injustices without repercussions. Women especially are finding their voices and fighting for their rights. There is a long way to go, however.

ArtBrussels 14

Other Countries, Other Citizenships

The 54th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia - National Participation - ALBANIA
Spazio Rolak, Giudecca 211/b, 30133 Venice

For occasion of the 54 Venice Biennale, Anila Rubiku’s work: "Other countries. Other citizenships" deals with the idea of exile. In it we see a room with sixty hats - a common attribute of immigrants – scattered on the floor and sewn with a white thread. On the wall we see cloth hangers and a sentence which reads: “The person who disowns his own language in order to adopt a different one changes identity and disillusions”.

Dwelling on wanting to belong and being the Other, the installation provokes a love for difference. During the first three days of the Biennale, visitors can acquire a pin with the claim: “Hats protect ideas”, in collaboration with the Fondazione Borsalino, addressing exactly of how emigrants are often employed under their intellectual capabilities.

The Albanian´s migration to (West-) Europe in the 80's, motivated by an aspiration for a new life and citizenship, serves thus as leitmotiv to the entire installation. As in most of Anila Rubiku’s installations, which result of collaborative local community projects or workshops, the sixty male hats have been symbolically sewn by emigrated women.

Focusing more on feelings of being in a country and in culture not of your own and not so much in the pure act of leaving, the installation explores social emotional and biographical frequencies.

Laws, Lies, traditions & Convictions

more in .pdf

« People who see my work, often find it very feminine mostly, because I use embroidery as the medium. There is nothing wrong with it but, what interests me most in my work is the time spent in making it and what comes with it. » Anila Rubiku

Albanian by birth and a global nomad currently living between Milan and Tirana, Anila Rubiku is an international artist by character and attitudes. The lines quoted from her are about one particular work but the attitude expressed in it is characteristic of her oeuvre as a whole.
Being a nomad means being on the move not only geographically but also mentally and intellectually. It requires a great deal of flexibility and openness of mind but also keeps you in a constant need for self-definition in various environments. Having no place of your own means that you need to re-contextualise yourself every time you occur in a new setting.
For Rubiku, the journey in physical space is thus also a mental trip. Her desire to be somewhere else, the constant reference to the self finds a personal poetic expression in a larger context, where the works are, by definition, relevant on a global scale, exploring questions and problems of urban space and the individual, industrialisation, urbanisation, architecture and the body.
Rubiku’s work are often done in collaborations with others. An immense number of relevant issues, social, societal, ethnic, historical, gender etc. are raised, for example, in the project “The 16 Ways” organised in Tel Aviv she involved a group of very religious Ethiopian women, to stitch sexual scenes on paper.

Two-time participant of the Venice Biennale and presented broadly internationally, Anila Rubiku appears now for the first time in Belgium , making her debute here in a solo show at the Jozsa Gallery. The exhibition showcases six works:
An installation of 24 drawings, In Harmony takes you inside the most organic clusters of human nature, opening up parts of our inner world that we tend to suppress or even conceal intentionally , although they are natural parts of our inner selves, intrinsicly animalistic as they may appear.
Referred to above, for her embroidery project titled Ain’t I a Woman ? Anila has chosen 100 women who have brought significant changes to our world. All of them made important contributions in various fields, such as physics, medicine, human rights, peace activism or sports. Rubiku’s intention was to call art lovers’ attention to these women. Installing the 100 stitched handkerchiefs in a single space turns the 100 female voices into a strong sound that can make all our wishes come true. The floor of the room of the installation is covered with white beans. This makes it hard to walk in the room, as if visitors were following these women’s uneasy path through life. The silk handkerchiefs are hanging there waiting to be given as a sign of acceptance of an engagement proposition – a proposition that can only come after the recognition of the woman in these females engaged – to use the other sense of this word – in activities that are generally associated with masculinity.
Konrad is series of drawings, an imaginary journey back to the fantasy world of childhood. The drawings are assembled into a kind of foldable storyboard, and the story unfolds on an object, a kind of sculpture, and goes round and then starts again, as if a film were looped. The use of « bad drawing », breaking away from the academic rules of drawing and employing a childlike mode of visual expression instead, liberates the artist from the constraints of time, making memory the ultimate vehicle for the journey. At the same time, the clock, the only object drawn accurately, imposes its constant presence in the composition, as a memento of real time – of reality.
SunSex in Arizona, the version presented in the Jozsa Gallery, includes 6 etchings, two stitchworks on paper, and two watercolours from the series Urban Pornitecture.
Working with students of the Arizona State University on a community project, Rubiku developed her concept of the Relationship of body, sex and the environment. With highrise cities ‘growing’ out of the sand of the desert, Arizona was the ideal place for the project. Scenes of sexual character, sewn on paper, materialise amid the crude environment of the désert. In these works Rubiku re-instates the technique of etching, very similar to stitching in its meticulousness, precision and in being highly time-consuming. Omnipresent in Arizona, cactus stands here for virility and prolificness in a harsh natural environment, and also as a phallic symbol bearing the same associations for human life and urban life in that state of the US.
Even today it’s so contemporary is inspired by an ancient Egyptian legend, whose hero is still worshipped today in a fertility rite. Rubiku points out parallels between the ancient invitation of external help in conceiving a child and today’s practice were the couples rely on cutting-edge technology in pregnancy and childbirth.


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ANILA RUBIKU (1970, Durres - Albania)

Lives and works between Milan and Tirana, Italy

In 1994 she graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana and moved to Italy to study at the Academy of Brera, Milan and graduated in 2000.
In 1998 she attended the Advanced Course in Visual Arts at the Ratti Foundation, Como - with visiting professor Hamish Fulton.
In the last ten years she has lived for long spells in various cities abroad (New York, Los Angeles, London and Prague). In 2000 she won the bursary “Artists in Residence” from the Leube Art Program which took her to Vienna (where she attended master courses by Renée Green and Michelangelo Pistoletto at the Akademie Der Bildenden Kunste) and to Salzburg. In October 2004 “Gallery talk at Apexart Gallery, NY” invited her to speak about her work. In 2005 she won the 2nd Prize in the category "Light Sculptures" of the Targetti Light Art Award 2005 and now her work is part of the Targetti Art Collection and London Deutsche Bank collection. In 2007 she was invited by the Jerusalem Center for the Visual Arts as Artist in Residence. She won the ArtsLink Residency October- November 2008 NY, (USA) and Residence International Aux Recollets, Paris, France in 2010 and AIR in Krems, Autria in 2011. Currently she is the Artist ib Residence at the Hammer Museum in L.A. until May 2013.
Special Projects

Solo Exhibitions

Last Group Exhibitions

Selected Awards and Residencies

Public Collections
Israeli Museum Collection, Jerusalem, IL
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Deutsche Bank Collection, London, UK
Targetti Art Light Collection, Florence, Italy
Collection of Galleria Comunale dell'Arte Contemporanea di Monfalcone, Monfalcone, Italy
Collection of Anthony and Heather Podesta, Washington, DC
Edition5 Collection, Erstfeld, Switzerland


de crayencour, Muriel. Le fruit de nos entrailles, L'Echo Weekend, 2 octobre 2010, p.41 /in .pdf