The real people went away
Series of 35mm negatives
The real people went away is a series of digital images made from rolls of exposed photographic film that the artist received from a friend. Gjeloshi began by testing the film on an old machine for viewing 35mm negatives. The exposures that he discovered were veiled in mystery as they arrived without any context or information: dark nuns walking in the snow, people walking through apocalyptic, crater-filled landscapes, bodies frozen in mystical gestures… He photographed the negatives on his smartphone and used an application to overlay another negative filter, to create a hybrid, positive image saturated in cyan blue. Using this unconventional method to develop, or rather convert, the images digitally, the artist produced a charged, new atmosphere that emphasizes their ethereal and phantom-like presence.
Gjeloshi recognized that the images were taken in Shkodër, his hometown, and — without a doubt — after the 1990s, as Hoxha’s regime completely forbade the practice of religion as of 1967. Until the end of the regime, the churches in Shkodër were either destroyed or repurposed into things like a puppet theater or a sports palace. Religious observance persisted in private. In the 1990s it resumed as a communal, public practice and was supported by international aid from the Catholic Church and other missions that poured in when Albania’s borders re-opened.
Liberation in 1990 was immediately followed by political crisis and chaos. As he was a child in this transition period, Gjeloshi only later identified the confusion that came with the transition from one ideological system to another as its own kind of violence. The children captured in the images are around the same age as the artist, and so most, if not all of them, are still living. By converting the images on his phone, the artist plays with the idea of religious conversion; the resulting, hazy filter allows him to identify with the figures in the film while also manifesting his feeling of alienation from them and the time period depicted.
Lek M. Gjeloshi
Lek M. Gjeloshi was born in Shkodër, Albania in 1987. He graduated from the Fine Arts Academy of Florence in 2010. His work has been shown in several solo and group exhibitions since 2007. In 2016 he was the winner of Ardhje Award for Young Visual Artists, organized by TICA – Tirana Institute of Contemporary Art in Albania. In 2018 he was artist-in-residence at Residency Unlimited in New York.