Studio Petrit Halilaj, work in progress for Tate St Ives show, spring 2021. Photo: Angela B Suarez

Studio Petrit Halilaj, work in progress for Tate St Ives show, spring 2021. Photo: Angela B Suarez

16 October 2021 – 16 January 2022
Open daily 10.00 – 18.00
For public information call +44(0)20 7887 8888, visit or follow @Tate #PetritHalilaj
Supported by the Petrit Halilaj Exhibition Supporters Circle and Tate Members

This autumn, Tate St Ives will present Very volcanic over this green feather, a major new installation by Petrit Halilaj (b.1986 in Kostërrc, Kosovo) for his first solo exhibition in the UK. Halilaj is internationally recognised for his expansive artworks, often using his own biography as point of departure to reflect on private and collective histories in constant transformation. Deeply connected to Kosovo’s recent history, he frequently incorporates materials from his native country and re-elaborates them through installation, performance, textiles, drawing and video. Halilaj’s work explores issues related to individual memory and cultural identity.

This exhibition at Tate St Ives stems from Halilaj’s own personal story, while also bringing forward the collective trauma of the Kosovar Albanian people and other survivors of conflict. Displaced by the Kosovo War (1998–9) as a thirteen-year-old, Halilaj and his family lived at the Kukës II and Lezhe-Shengjin refugee camps in Albania in 1999. For this exhibition, Halilaj will present a poignant new installation reimagining a collection of felt-tip drawings he made as a child at Kukës II.

The original pictures were created under the guidance of Italian psychologist Giacomo ‘Angelo’ Poli, who was taking part in a humanitarian mission at the refugee camp. Poli supported the children in communicating their experiences through drawing, encouraging them to document the destruction they had experienced but also to imagine ideal, fantasy worlds for the future as a tool to escape the present. In a period of 15 days, Halilaj created 38 drawings, all of which have been preserved by Poli until today. After Poli’s departure, Halilaj continued to create drawings of his experiences, one of which he showed to Kofi Annan, then Secretary General of the United Nations, when he visited Albania.

Since 1999, Poli has become a close friend and supporter of Halilaj, who is now an established artist based in Berlin. In 2021 Halilaj revisited the original pictures he made with Poli for the first time in over two decades. Informed by those conversations, Halilaj will create an immersive environment within Tate St Ives’s largest gallery, magnifying and reconstituting fragments from the original drawings on a grand scale to reflect on personal and collective memories. Fusing the atrocities he witnessed with his birds and fantastical visions, the exhibition will present a powerful meditation on conflict, hope and memory.

An adjoining gallery space will offer additional information about the Kosovo War and the political and social contexts which continue to impact the country and Kosovar society. This gallery will also feature materials, videos and photographs from Halilaj and Poli’s archives.

Petrit Halilaj: Very volcanic over this green feather is curated by Anne Barlow, Director of Tate St Ives, with Giles Jackson, Assistant Curator.

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Halilaj lives and works between Germany, Kosovo and Italy, and is a professor of art at the l'École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France. His practice emerges from his personal experiences, reflecting on individual and collective memories, freedoms, and cultural identities. His installation Forget Me Not, a collaboration with his partner, Spanish artist Alvaro Urbano, is currently on show at the Autostrada Biennale in Pristina, Kosovo. The project reinforces the Kosovar civic campaign for equal rights, particularly for the LGBTQI+ community, which demands that the new civil code includes the right to marry. In 2013, Halilaj represented Kosovo for the country’s first appearance at the Venice Biennale. In 2017 he was awarded a special mention by the Jury of the 57th Venice Biennale and was awarded the Mario Merz Prize. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions around the world, including at the Palacio de Cristal, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; Fondazione Merz, Turin; Paul Klee Zentrum, Bern; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; New Museum, New York and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan.