#unibzcareers: The former design student Eni Derhemi faces the most important step in her young life: she’ll be the Assistant Curator and Production Manager for the Albanian Pavilion participating at the 59th Venice Art Biennale.
What did you study at unibz and how did you get to know about us?
I studied at the Faculty of Design and Art, from 2010 to 2014. I found the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano while researching for study possibilities in Italy. I left Albania for the first time at the age of 18 to move to Bolzano and to study there. For me, it was the beginning of a new journey that would make me undergo many changes and that would shape my character as an adult. It all started in Bolzano.
Did you continue your studies with a master’s degree and where?
After finishing my studies in Bolzano, I got a trainee position thanks to the Erasmus + Traineeship program for graduate students through unibz. This position brought me to Germany, precisely in Frankfurt am Main, where I lived and worked in the creative sphere for 2 years. I decided to go back to Italy in 2017 to continue my Master’s Studies and deepen my professional training in Theory and Critique of Contemporary Art, so I started my studies at the University of Bologna. I graduated from the Master’s degree cum Laude during the first lockdown of 2020, while wearing a black, serious jacket and red slippers, a funny detail of an important passage of my life that will remain unforgettable.
What do you remember most/best of your study time in Bolzano?
I definitely liked the structure of changing typology of projects and professors every semester. It was stimulating while I was still looking for my “purpose” in life, despite always knowing I was much more drawn towards art rather than design. I can say the study program back then had an experimental shade which made it very interesting to me. Another amazing feature was the possibility to work at the different workshops and be able to experiment with photography, editorial design, wood, plastic, metal - I must say we were lucky students and we didn’t even know it back then.
Do you still have friends from that time?
Yes, the most important thing for me in Bolzano were the friendships I built. Bolzano was the first city where I settled after leaving my homeland and my family, so the friendships I created were for me like family. Some of the unibz students still remain my best friends even today, and I know they will for life. It was sad for me every time there were holidays and I wasn’t able to go back home, and it became heartwarming when some of my friends started inviting me over to their families.
You are participating this year in the Biennale di Venezia as an Assistant Curator to the Albanian Pavilion 2022 – could you briefly explain what your main tasks are?
I have the role of Assistant Curator and Production Manager for the Albanian Pavilion participating at the 59th Venice Art Biennale this year. I would firstly like to underline the fact that this is the first time in our Pavilion’s history that Albania will be represented by an Albanian female artist (Lumturi Blloshmi) and curated by an Albanian female curator (Adela Demetja). To be part of this team is a big responsibility and an opportunity to show a different representation of our country in an international context such as the context of the Venice Art Biennale. My tasks in this role include assisting the curator in all curatorial aspects of the exhibition and managing all organizational and logistic aspects of the entire production of the exhibition and its collateral events. You can imagine that for an exhibition of such importance, these aspects are many and the work can get overwhelming. Nonetheless, I can already feel how this experience is making me grow with the velocity of a shooting star - and I shall compare to a shooting star also the excitement I feel about it.
How difficult is it to get interesting offers as an artist?
An artist has to create its own world and context where to start acting and then be noticed. As an artist and curator you get a wider view of how the art world functions and this definitely helps you reposition yourself. To me, collaboration with other artists is essential. Even though individuality is still praised as a positive and intriguing characteristic of the stereotyped artist, I think collaboration and dialogue are the features of the future in such a context and I see this also as a fertile terrain for the birth of new possibilities and offers. I would like to give an actual example which may serve as an inspiration for other artists.
Did you live the Covid period as a throwback being in your art?
During the first lockdown of 2020, when Covid hit us for the first time in our lives and caught us unprepared, I started a new project that would teach me many new values as an artist, curator and creative producer. So, in March 2020, shortly after finishing my Master’s degree, I co-founded Ecumene Project with Giulia Dongilli, with whom I studied at the Faculty of Design and Art in Bolzano. Ecumene Project was born out of the necessity of creation and confrontation in such difficult times; in order to bring people closer and discuss the new situation that our society found itself in.
Ecumene is a Greek term dating from antiquity, and it indicates the portion of earth known and inhabited by man, in other words “the house where we all live”. Our main values are to approach art as a shared experience and to use it as a medium for inner exploration. We perceive art as a universal dialogue that can enrich the community and we believe that art should function as a collective though, able to move our values and our souls.
How did you handle the online-offline experience?
When everybody was trapped at home, with nowhere to go anymore, me and Giulia invited different artists, people she knew and people I knew, coming from different backgrounds such as art, photography, design, architecture, and psychology, and from different countries as well. We organized a virtual residency that functioned as a convivium, where we led workshops and discussions towards reflection and dialogue at the beginning of the pandemic. And what came from it, shocked everyone participating in the project: it was so powerful, even though we were meeting through online calls and some of us never saw each other in person. Giulia and I were amazed by the energy of the group coming together and sharing, so we decided we keep working on collective experiences. And little by little, we went from online to offline, with Ecumene Project organizing the first in-person group residency in Tuscany in autumn 2021. This year we are bringing the Ecumene Project to Albania, where we are collaborating with local artistic realities such as Tirana Art Lab and Seaside Gallery and we are getting funded by the British Council as part of the Western Balkans Creative Producer Programme.
It all started from a call and with the impossibility of pandemic, so the message I want to give is that sometimes it is easier to create possibilities out of impossibilities.
What were your highlights by now in your working life?
Creating my own project (Ecumene Project) to me has been a very important step that has enlightened my perception on my career and purpose in the arts.
Also, the experience with the Albanian Pavilion is one of those things happening once in a lifetime, so I am very grateful about it.
I look forward to what the future will bring.
What goals do you still want to achieve?
I have many wishes in my little hidden pocket and most of them are using my art and my projects to give messages to people. We are living difficult times and I want to bring some good reflection, creative stimulation, and exploration of the concept of poetry in our everyday life as human beings that are part of a big mechanism but often forget about being more. It might sound unnecessary, especially today, but I believe that when we start thinking some things are not necessary is when we can really learn something from them. I never want to stop learning; this is my ultimate goal.