The base of the artistic work of Halilaj (* 1986) forms the still young life, which is largely determined by the history of his home country Kosovo. In installations, drawings and films he deals with the experiences of his childhood and youth and studied with great empathy themes such as home, memory and identity. It connects to the artist’s work which seem to have sprung from the world of a storyteller, so they appeal to something more universally valid the viewer regardless of its relation to the recent history of South East Europe and affect sustainable.
Halilaj developed for the exhibition at the Kunstverein an extensive group of works relating to the former school in the Kosovar village Runik. The new production includes a film, innumerable sculptures and an installation, which are spread over the entire building of the Cologne Kunstverein, refer to each other and complement each other. The earliest approach to the topic represents the film shown in the cinema, the starting material by chance was in 2010 and the school building is one day prior to its demolition. Halilaj documented as young students talk about their memories of the establishment while exploring the site. Passages can first recognize the changes and the coming new school building curiosity and joy. Without the presence of formidable teacher, the behavior of children and adolescents, however, turns into a form of aggressiveness: windows are smashed, pictures torn from the wall or sprayed paint on the walls of the classrooms. It is not unfamiliar with the game forbidden, reflecting the moments of questioning and rebellion.
Very similar aspects of sound in the pavilion, staircase and atrium of the Cologne Kunstverein presented to works that developed Halilaj reference to the former benches and tables his school. So was devoted to the artist doodles, drawings and writings, the students left once on the inventory of the classroom. Halilaj made these settlements greatly enlarged, of thin steel rods gradually transformed in this way which is reflecting in the illicit legacies transgression in something creative. While maintaining the objects defying their sculptural form a unique graphic character and unfold in the different areas of the building the effect of filigree drawings in space. The processed motifs, including houses, hearts, birds, flowers, cars, planes, missiles or guns, bear witness to the hopes, aspirations and dreams as well as of the doubts, fears and concerns of former children and adolescents.
How diverse was the ideas of the students of Runik, can be under consideration of the original tables and benches able to track which can be found an overwhelmingly large number of markings and signs. Halilaj has summarized part of the class inventory in the basement of the Cologne Kunstverein to an installation which he accurately placed some of the school desks in rows, while others were piled up to a confusing pile. In addition, the artist a small number of tables and benches has given a special life of its own, which it freed from their existence as mere examples: a school desk seems to be captured by the sculptural lines so to speak, while two other representatives of the inventory in the stairwell of the building into the unattainable grow.
Authority, standards and canons, their acceptance as well as the resistance to it, can be read as overriding themes of the exhibition. While in the film and in the various sculptures the interaction of acceptance and rejection will be guessed, the installation on the second floor of the Cologne Kunstverein moves its foundations in the foreground. For this work Halilaj has equipped the whole room with a wallpaper that the first primer of the artist, the eponymous publication “ABETARE” shows. Page after page of the book are explorable on the walls and call the familiar process of learning in mind, whereby in addition to the alphabet also the foundations of society are taught.