‘Xhafa creates images that burn into the retina...
without resorting to shock tactics, Sislej turns on
its head psychological and economic exploitation.’
- Luk Lambrecht, 2005
Blain|Southern is delighted to present asymmetric désir, the first ever solo exhibition by Kosovar artist Sislej Xhafa in the
Bringing together painting, sculpture and installation, Xhafa explores the effects of consumerism, examining the social,
economic and political imbalances inherent in all capitalist societies. Using an ironic and subversive black humour that
is intrinsic to his practice, the artist works to expose the limitations of material possessions, highlighting the futility of
commercial desire when considered within a broader context of metaphysical and existential questions.
In Mother (2013), we are confronted by a tombstone, on top of which is attached a telephone receiver – an object that
normally grants instant gratification to our need for connection. Yet by attempting to give the tombstone an interactive
function, Xhafa exposes a type of connection that is unfulfillable: contact with the dead. In doing so, the work alludes
to the perceived futility of religious ceremony, ironically subverting notions of afterlife and spiritual communication with
those we have lost.
Woman with Red Skirt (2012) invokes the idea of artworks transforming into mere ‘objects’ in their own right, which
can be continually recycled within a marketplace. Indeed, the colour red that is indicated by the title is physically
absent. Instead, pastel greys and greens make up the hazy form of a woman, whose sensuality is undermined by the
muted colours of mould and decay. This incongruity between title and product is a play upon expectation and preconceived
ideas on painting itself. It is left up to the viewer to decide whether the absence of red is part of the artist’s
subjective representation, or whether both the canvas and painted fabric are deliberately presented in a state of gradual
decomposition, implying the process whereby a precious object is eroded by the effects of consumerist exchange.
Merry-Go-Round (2013) similarly presents the idea of cyclic demise, through an installation which is stationary despite
the title’s implication of a rotating structure. A strange amalgam of seemingly disparate objects including a fridge, a
taxidermy cat, a pack of cigarettes and a radio hang from a rusting football goal, denoting differing forms of desire
and consumption. One object is harmful to our health, while another is essential for survival; some function as status
symbols, while others illustrate a desire for human connection and the consumption of information. The taxidermy cat, in
particular, indicates the absurdity of recycling an animal’s body, in the hope of capturing the animal’s essence even after
its death. This network of juxtaposed signifiers is suspended in front of the football goal, a potent symbol of aspiration
and success that is now in a state of decline and neglect – indicative of an eventual collapse. The installation thus
illustrates the jarring difference between the dream and the reality of contemporary socio- political aspirations, invoking
the ‘merry-go-round’ concept in order to convey a perpetual cycle of consumption and decay.
Xhafa once described how ‘reality is stronger than art. As an artist I do not want to reflect a reality, but I do want to
question it.’ asymmetric désir represents the artist’s continued ambition to lay bare the realities of psychological and
political exploitations that are rife throughout contemporary society.