We are in Prishtina, near the cemetery for the army soldiers who took part in the liberation of Kosovo. After the Second World War a monument was built in this area in memory of the partisans who lost their lives after the war. Subsequently, the monument was enriched with a new metal structure in 1999. Currently, however, the commemorative architecture is damaged by the passing of the years and by the lack of care in terms of maintenance: the walls are now peeling and filled with tags and acronyms made with spray cans, between the tiles grass and cracks make it difficult to pass and the metal sphere positioned in the center is now completely rusty.

During Manifesta 14, the native Kosovo artist Sislej Xhafa reactivated this place by creating an alternative narrative in which the elements present were combined with contemporary objects and symbols that distinguish the artist’s practice. A yellow umbrella becomes the visual focus of Xhafa’s installation, below it a shabby petrol pump, a rickety chair and a man constantly on the phone (kept in charge by a solar panel). Frosted Pocket (2022) is the artist’s contribution for the 14th edition of Manifesta which could be configured as an urban, sculptural, performative and perhaps theatrical intervention, triggering a surreal narrative: who is the man under the umbrella? To who is he writing to or what is he reading? Using internationally recognizable urban elements, the artist instantly manages to create a sense of identification and brings the passer-by or visitor closer to the square in which the separation between an ancient memory and a life lived today is broken, albeit with a profound melancholy vein. Even the protagonist of the Xhafa installation seems to be a veteran, not of war but of his own present: tired and bored, he waits for time to pass by.

Surely, however, the decision to place everyday objects inside the memorial is part of a provocative vision capable of giving rise to a surprising narrative experience: the bizarre relocation of objects. The historical and social narration of a country emerges in its brutal simplicity, revealing in the eyes of passers-by an everyday life that should be the center of attention and commemoration. Frosted Pocket encourages not to distance art from the present and from our lived life but creates a point where everything, what we see, what we breathe and what perhaps bores us, can be felt as art. Now perhaps the writings and crusts on the walls appear all the more appropriate and fascinating. It is not in the reconstruction and refurbishment that beauty lies, rather in the attempt to build a new way of looking.


Sislej Xhafa
Frosted Pocket, 2022
Petrol pump, umbrella, chair, attendant, solar panel charger, mobile phone
Commissioned by Manifesta 14 Prishtina with the support of Galleria CONTINUA
Photo © Manifesta 14 Prishtina, Ivan Erofeev