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Art & Life with Silvi Naçi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Silvi Naçi.

Silvi, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born in Fier, Albania, and moved to the United States in 2011 (one month prior to 9/11) when I was fourteen years old, just after the end of communism, while the country was beginning its transition into democracy. My mother won the green card lottery — the main hope for Albanians who want to leave the country legally in pursuit of a better life and education. With my mother’s life savings of a few thousand dollars and no English language skills to support us, I moved with my mother, two sisters, and my handicapped father to Boston, Massachusetts. While we worked several jobs to make ends meet, education has always been at the forefront of our American dream, and for me, this quickly took a direction into the arts.

Even before moving to the States, education was an access point to something greater, something that can help transcend. In first grade, I began attending (Jakov Xoxa), an art and music school in my town. At that time, art classes gave me an escape from a deeply conservative and patriarchal culture and provided me with a safe and open space. Making art was a way of survival. When we moved to the States, I attended Boston Arts Academy, where I was able to study with a remarkably diverse group. The integrated community of various cultures, races, and classes inspired me to travel abroad to find communities I could collaborate within expanding my art practice, language skills, and cross-cultural understanding. Working with traumatic memories from my childhood, I have begun to investigate gender and cultural identity as it relates to exile, migration, and “illegal bodies,” in my artistic practice. I strive to understand the power dynamics of my background and the new ones living in the States, particularly the consequences of patriarchy and dictatorship in different nations and cultures.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My practice investigates gender and cultural identity, language, and time, the body as subject/object, and the consequences of patriarchy. My work engages in the dialectic between the aesthetically beautiful and historical genealogy, identity and socio-political structures, queer, and minoritarian theories. Rooted in feminist ideas, Naçi’s work examines the relationship between power and privilege, weight, and trauma. It uses historical references to expand on broader truths while underscoring debates around social politics, identity, and representation through contemporary art practices. My interest lies in the subtle and violent ways decolonization and migration affects and reshapes a people, language, gender identity as well as social and cultural dynamics.

One of my recent works was a published book entitled: ha mer ika, Institutional Interruptions (2019), which was written across my two year MFA program at CalArts, and is a meditation on gender, queer identity, sexuality, immigration, race, nationhood, and citizenship, (de)colonialism, and especially, family relation and dysfunction. The photography in the book is documentation of my performances in the last two years, and medium format photographs. The text speaks to ideas of silencing of marginalized bodies–from the queer and immigrant perspective. The text starts in LA 2017, from memories of home before moving to the states, then Albania, then back in LA following my physical presence during the last two years. The book is structured in 2 parts: from silencing into actions. The first part speaks to injustices around silencing as a queer and immigrant body motivated by a personal letter coming out to my mother–something that I have never done in person; the second part is the actions propelled by that silence and the courage to live as a true body while understanding the fear a mother lives with knowing her child is different but not open to really seeing. There’s a pain in silence, but power too in knowing how to work with it.

Currently, I am working towards a solo exhibition in Tirana, Albania, where I will be expanding themes from my final MFA show at CalArts. My recent work regarding Albania directly addresses questions of identity and queer politics as it relates to the consequences of patriarchy and national identity – which fall under the exhibition titled CARE. I am interested in investigating the liminal space between care and violence in lower class third world countries, where I was raised and as it relates to gay taboo culture. CARE explores the possibilities of what the verb and noun carry and extrude. It investigates how the migrant, queer, POC, and femme body is handled – how the moments of innocents are broken by social and political conditions – particularly in the West.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
Coping with social media, attention span, art market, capitalism – all relates to the process of making art, and I think a lot of the times it disrupts the process and/or propels it to move so fast that we don’t take time to really look and listen to what the work is doing. I think that pressure is doing an injustice to doing critical work.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
To learn more about my work you can visit my website, where you can also find news: www.silverprojects.co

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Image Credit:
Works by Silvi Naçi

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