Raino Isto’s academic essay for the Journal of the Universities Art Association of Canada “Weak Monumentality”

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Raino Isto, thank you for dwelling on the concept of “weak monumentality” and for this inspiring academic essay for RACAR, the Journal of the Universities Art Association of Canada.

“The works of art I consider here—Luiza Margan’s Eye to Eye with Freedom (2014), Nada Prlja’s Humanistic Communism (2016), and Armando Lulaj’s NEVER (2012)—are embedded firmly in global processes of decolonization and revised understandings of Cold War transnationalism (…) In grouping these works under the specula- tive moniker “weak monumentality,” I do not intend to suggest any pejorative evaluation of their approach to monumentality (as might be understood from the appellation “weak”). Rather, I align these with a trend that has gradually gained ground in recent decades in disciplines such as philosophy and literary theory: “weak thought” or “weak theory,” associated with the writings of Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo and literary theor- ist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (who builds upon psychologist Silvan Tomkins’ “weak affect theory”).Weak theory seeks to put aside the ontological hier- archies, epistemological certainties, and paranoia regarding ideological deception that frequently characterized theory and criticism in the postwar period, instead privileging responsiveness and a certain credulity towards those objects of aesthetic criticism that continue to exercise a marked emo- tional appeal upon us. I might preliminarily define “weak monumentality,” then, as an artistic practice that engages the monument not as a categorical sign of authority, but instead as a productive site of ontological uncertainty amenable to reparative efforts and interpretations. Weak monumen- tality does not aim to undo the monument; it seeks to use it as a focal point to both recover and discover new affective patterns, and new ways of being together, while still acknowledging its problematic perceived authority.”

In the essay Raino Isto examines Nada Prlja’s Humanistic Communism (2016), which was one of the artworks presented in the pavilion.

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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016. Photographs of the workshop 10 colour photographs, 42x30cm each. Courtesy of Nada Prlja and Tirana Art Lab. The work photographed at the Pavilion of Republic of North Macedonia at 58th La Biennale di Venezia. Photo by Robert Jankuloski.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lr_north_macedonia_nada_prlja_vb2019_2_humane-communism-01_photo-raul-betti.jpg
Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016. Photographs of the workshop 10 colour photographs, 42x30cm each. Courtesy of Nada Prlja and Tirana Art Lab. The work photographed at the Pavilion of Republic of North Macedonia at 58th La Biennale di Venezia. Photo by Raul Betti.
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016 (same caption applies to all photographs)
20 colour photographs
Workshop documentation
Workshop organised by TAL, Workshop participants: Aurora Kalemi, Mirjana Meçaj, Lucas Vogt, Ruzmira Beqiraj Bejaj. Photographs by Nada Prlja and TAL
Held at the National Gallery of Arts, Tirana, Albania
Photographed by Nada Prlja and Adela Demetja.
Courtesy of Tirana Art Lab and the artist
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016.
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016.
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016.
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016.
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016.
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016.
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016.
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016.
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016.
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Humanistic Communism by Nada Prlja, 2016.

Raino Isto is currently the editor-in-chief of ARTMargins Online. Raino received their PhD in 2019 from the University of Maryland, College Park, where their dissertation focused on the political valences of monumental sculpture in socialist and post-socialist Southeastern Europe. Their work has been published in Third Text, the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Science Fiction Studies, Extrapolation, International Labor and Working Class History, ARTMargins, RACAR, and The Getty Research Journal.

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