An enormous wheel rotates on the flat roof of Kunstraum Innsbruck. A disc, painted in the colors of the sky, transforms the ceiling into a celestial event. The disc is flat, suggesting the human experience of the ptolemaic world view as a vault. The installation is composed of a big iron and wooden structure mounted on the roof of the building and visible from the inside only through four windows in the ceiling. In order to experience it, the audience needs to betake themselves under the hanging wooden shafts through which they can see the painted sky, rotating counter clock-wise from night to day in a constant loop. The skylights provide a new form of presentation; where art is normally hung on the walls or standing on the floor, here the ceiling is used to display the work. Petrit Halilaj does not seem to be the one who blindly seeks to turn the time back into a nostalgic dimension that craves for the primitive world; yet the flames of a deep-seated longing to master time with some endurance are strongly felt, a longing to conserve the past as a metaphoric picture in the present.
Halilaj’s stories don’t need any reference. He is an inventor of objects, which in their presence and ambience, seem to come directly from a fantasy land – the Land of Oz – but still strongly connected to a more physical reality. There are the bourgeois hens that talk about the polar star and live in a chicken-hut in the shape of a space shuttle (They are Lucky to be Bourgeois Hens I I, 2009); there is the parent’s house that Halilaj turned into a scaffolding like a collective memorial from a remote past (The places I’m looking for, my dear, are utopian places, they are boring and I don’t know how to make them real, 2010); and there is the massive chunk of Kosovo earth shipped from Kosovo to Switzerland, together with a patch of grass that withers with time (Kostërrc (CH), 2011). In the current work as well, shown at Kunstraum Innsbruck, an existing natural phenomenon undergoes a transformation; the sky becomes a painted picture, almost like the weather itself. In the words of Immanuel Kant: „Der gestirnte Himmel über mir und das moralische Gesetz in mir“ (“The starred sky above me and the moral law inside me.”), Halilaj searches for what is hidden inside himself, in the language of art. „Sembra bruciare qualcosa dentro, sembra non dormire il stress fuori fredo, pioggia dentro caldo molto volcano sopra quella penna verde.“ (“It seems as if something is burning inside, the stress never sleeps, it’s cold outside but it’s raining warm rain inside, very volcanic over this green feather.”) He calls them alberi (trees), those space shuttle-like objects, coated outside as well as inside with an abrasive fur, like an ostensory protected by glass with an almost glowing substance leaking through the floor. The outside is covered in nut tree branches and earth, inside ferrules, glass, and pigments mixed with sand. His drawings show similarities with Etruscan frescoes, a youth with an erect penis, looking up to the sky, the erection like a seed sprouting out of the earth, like a space shuttle made of flesh aiming for some lost time. On Nebra’s celestial disc from the Bronze age there were marked, horizontal, arches on both the right and left side. The disc seemed to simultaneously enclose the earth and the sky.
In antiquity and the Middle Ages, people had astrolabes, which developed into the telescope during the 20th century. In his practice, Halilaj always aims to reverse this process of evolution.
A machine – an electronic motor with a wheel construction – is used to rotate the disk. Seeing is made difficult. Halilaj’s TomTom navigator does not tell him where he is located and without the chip, his notebook is meaningless because he has no access to the Internet. Thrown back upon ourselves by our short-sightedness, the view is obscured by all the artifacts that come out of the civilization’s vision to reciprocate all existing images. But it’s not only the transformation and displacement of meaning that drives the conceptual sculptor. In his process, he develops mental images and finds the appropriate template to melt them into a form. Then, he and his surroundings must find a place in it: the chickens, dogs, frogs, cats, flies, bugs and butterflies, even if the latter turned into dust, or tatters haning on pins, in a Natural History Museum storage in Pristina during long years without light. Everything must find a place in the final form of his mental images; to preserve the face of things, their memory, yet without aiming to display erudition. Not using the instrumental reason and cognitive thinking, but to create conceptual works which can be re-interpreted with a sense of understanding. No, Petrit Halilaj has to stick to his pensée sauvage. Trying to bring water, earth and sky into one sculptural relation. „Si ma il mare sta attacato alla terra e non sta mai nello spazio.” (“Yes, but the sea is attached to the earth and never in the space itself.“)