Albert Heta

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civil war, conflict, death, democracy, existentialism, freedom, history, human rights, identity, memory, nation, Patriotism, politics, power, prejudice, rebellion, Utopia, violence
Visual Arts (installation art, performance, photography, video art)
Europe, Southern
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May 25, 2003
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Albert Heta


A minute of happiness

Albert Heta is one of the youngest of a new generation of artists, currently developing a new experimental approach to art in Kosovo. Working in installation art, photography, performance and video art, Heta´s bold works give expression not only to the experiences of loss and anger of his war-torn society but also to its the deepest desires and aspirations. While focusing on contemporary political and social realities, Heta´s works reach far beyond the specific to touch upon the ironies of human existence.
Albert Heta is one of a new generation of artists in Kosovo currently developing an experimental approach to art, creating innovative forms of artistic expression in a society devastated by war and conflict.

His early works, developed during wartime or reflecting upon wartime experiences, deal with the idea of the anonymous victim, often in simple installations that powerfully evoke absence. As art critic and philosopher Shkelzen Maliqi has said, "Heta uses minimalist tools of a totally reduced symbolism that could threaten his work with a simply illustrative effects. But, the artist cautiously places his work at the edge of an ambiguity of signs, that are ´attacked´ by oblivion and lack, or insists on the effect of sarcasm".

This can be discerned in his work ´Freeshop´. In 1999, several artists brought together by one of Kosovo´s leading artists, Sokol Beqiri, performed a series of artistic interventions in the old market of Peja, which had been destroyed by fire by Serb forces during the war.

Heta´s contribution took the form of an outdoor, site-specific public performance and installation. Each artist had been allocated a burned out shop with which to work. Struggling to find a concept appropriate to the site´s recent troubled past, Heta decided only to rename the place by referring to the condition in which survivors of the war found themselves - free. "Burned out but free," he says.

He worked for around four hours cleaning the charred remains of the shop, before painting white clouds and the word ´Freeshop´ across the shop. The artist explains "I saw it as an ironical redefinition of a new reality that the place was in."

Although Heta was unaware of it when he conceived his project, the site had indeed been used as an open air, tax-free shop by the people who were selling cigarettes after the Serbs had left the city. When he returned to the site to take pictures of his work, he saw "bicycles, cigarettes and a lot of other unpredicted things and events happening" there.

The act of paying homage to anonymous victims continues in another of Heta´s work, which was completed in 2001 and remains untitled. The artist created a wall-piece by installing blackboards, which are normally used for burial purposes, in an orderly pattern on the wall to comment on the difficult subject of youthful death. Heta explains: "they look like black neckties today, just as then, when we, the people, were just numbers".

Heta´s recent projects, however, deal with happiness. Magnifying fragments of television footage onto screens 3 metres by 4 metres, Heta captures and presents to his audience momentous instances of ecstatic joy.

In his project ´Happiness´, ´Life´ (2001), for example, he relays the image of a Kosovar Albanian who, in rapt gratitude, throws himself on the vehicle that supposedly belongs to his liberators, the NATO troops. The man has in fact thrown himself onto the car of an unsuspecting Sky News team entering Gjakova the day after the war. NATO troops had not yet made it near the city. The work capturing, as the artist describes it, "a burst of basic emotions for the unbelievable, the unexpected" poignantly opens up the tension between human desire and belief.

This is a theme boldly developed in ´Happiness´ Independence Day: 1Minute´ (2001), with which Heta becomes, as Shkelzen Maliqi has said, "a manufacturer of collective happiness". Taking a clip showing a short speech by the then UN Chief Administrator in Kosovo, Special Representative of the Secretary General Mr Hans Hakkerup, Heta alters the voiceover translation in Albanian, by using the voice of the most well known television news presenter in Kosovo to announce the formal declaration of the independence of Kosovo and the recognition of the independence by the western democracies and the Security Council of the UN.

The video-project was broadcast on the public television station, Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) without any prior explanation on 14 June 2001. Heta´s intention was to give the people of Kosovo "a minute of happiness after decades of dehumanizing treatment".

By making such a public media intervention, Heta reminds us that while the so-called "International Community" continues to ignore the claim to Kosovan independence, "saying that there are more important things that Kosovar Albanians care more about and giving other various daily updated reasons and philosophical explanations for not supporting the requested right, the issue remains a constant preoccupation for Albanians in Kosovo. "It´s there, not only after the war in 1998-99," Heta points out, "but since the beginning of the last century, and in our time, since the late 1980s".

While his works are clearly politically motivated, Heta, as Shkelzen Maliqi says, "does not limit himself simply to pamphleteering, and his intentions are not the plain subjecting of political messages, and even less the illustration of them". Maliqi argues that Heta is, in fact, more "interested in the most focal and the most emotional point of the identity of a person and a community, in which they dissolve and vanish into large ideas and projects."

Indeed, Heta´s latest work is ´Bang Bang´ (2003), a video piece about a woman and her two children, who survived the war. It is part of a series of works titled ´Memory´. While concentrating on an individual, Heta explains, "it´s really about all of us who shared her fate. There is no image; there is only her voice and her story."



by Vesa Sahatçiu
Prishtina, June 2005

Albert Heta is part of the youngest generation of artists in Kosova, that surfaced on the scene immediately after the war in 1999. Heta’s work is characterized by simple and refined formal qualities, and daring, straight-forward political messages, devoid of any kind of ‘political correctness’. His concerns are often local and national. However, rather than being mere political propaganda, Heta’s work, through the particular social concerns, reveals the hypocrisy, the collective lies, and the ironies of the contemporary world.
Heta’s work is free from any type of artistic symbolism and metaphor. He’s works are often simple acts of intervention in an existing social condition, situation or object. While the intervention is always in turn, an insurgence of an ‘unofficial’ existing reality, which the official condition/object/situation hides, or has simply dismissed. The result is the ‘ruined’ function of the existing object/situation, since its hypocrisy and been openly revealed.
In fact, Heta’s work often risks being considered simple political propaganda. For many his work is too direct in its dialectics. This is especially the case with the work “Embassy of the Republic of Kosova, Cetinje, SCG” (2004). However, the refined aesthetic and conceptual qualities make his work more than just ‘political pamphleteering’ (Sh. Maliqi). It is clear that Heta is not into pathetic protesting, nor is he asking for anyone’s sympathy in his cause. He is simply and calmly showing another reality, that parallel reality, still unaccented and dismissed. Heta, furthermore, does not simply suggest this other reality. He imposes it. And this is ultimately his strongest point.
In his latest project, Heta’s ‘Kosovar Pavilion in Venice Biennial 2005” was emailed as factual information by e-flux! This information was announced approximately two weeks ago, and the majority of the art world, still believes that there will be a real Kosovar Pavilion in Venice. Of course, there is no Kosovar Pavilion, since Kosova is not a state. Instead of the Pavilion, the space will be used for a party. Yet, doesn’t the fact that the majority of the people believe that there will be a Kosovar Pavilion, and that there will actually be a party called the Kosovar Pavilion, make this Pavilion a reality?
There is always a draw back in engaged art – it is a piece of art, and as such its effects on social awareness and social change are always minimized. Therefore, any attempt at changing society requires a jump to actual political participation, in which case you’re work is no longer considered a piece of art. To avoid this fearful situation, the artist sticks to the safe game of conceptual allusions and creative suggestions. Heta, however, does not want this safe game. He instead chooses to be direct in his approach. Looking at Heta’s work, we also realize that this game of allusions is an exhausted game, and totally inappropriate for today’s political and social situation.
Author: Diana Yeh, Visiting Arts


Albert Heta was born in Prishtina, Kosovo in 1974 and studied at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Prishtina from 1995 to 1999. He has exhibited in Kosovo and abroad in Istanbul, Berlin, Sarajevo and Portland, USA. He currently lives and works in Prishtina.


Archeology of Today?

Exhibition / Installation,
Exhibition curated by Vangelis Vlahos and Despina Zefkili, Heta´s work challenges the distribution of truth and questions the dissolution of personal or communal identities into large ideas


Production / Performance,
5 x 8´ Albanian flag on the Santa Fe Art Institute Building, Santa Fe, Mew Mexico, USA. 8 - 21 August 2005. HOMESICK, Colour Photography on Aluminium, 150 x 100cm, 2005. HOMESICK, color video, NTSC, 22.15 min, 2005.


Production / Performance,
color video, NTSC, 30.00min

Bang Bang

Exhibition / Installation,
A video about a woman and her two children, who survived the war. Part of a series of works titled Memory.


Exhibition / Installation,
Still from TV, digitally printed on 3x4m canvas


Exhibition / Installation,
Still from TV, digitally printed on 3x4m canvas. A man who jumped on the car of a Sky News team entering Gjakova the day after the war. Part of the series of images taken from the television. It has been shown in Berlin.

Happiness – Independence Day

Exhibition / Installation,
One minute long video piece first broadcast on prime time of public television (Radio Television of Kosova - RTK). Translated in English for tours, including Berlin

No Name

Exhibition / Installation,
Installation with 18 black wooden gravestones, placed in two rows, creating a large wall composition. It was first shown in 1998 in Prishtina, Kosova, and later in Portland, USA.


2006 | Santiago de Chile, Chile: SOMETHING ELSE ( in collaboration with Maria Jose Rojas), Galeria Concreta. 2005 | Santa Fe, USA: HOMESICK 5 x 8´ Albanian flag on the Santa Fe Art Institute Building, Santa Fe, Mew Mexico, USA. 3 - 21 August, 2005. 2005 | Venice , Italy: KOSOVAR PAVILION VENICE BIENNALE 2005 | SISLEJ XHAFA Vernissage 9 - 11 June 2005 12 June - 6 November 2005 La Biennale di Venezia 51. International Art Exhibition distributed by e-flux: 2005 | Prague , Czech Republic: EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOSOVA, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC public media intervention; official notice on DNES Daily Newspaper, 11.02.2005. 2004 | Cetinje, SCG: EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOSOVA, CETINJE, SCG 5th Biennial of Cetinje public intstallation; vandalised and removed after 3 days. 2003 | 15.12.2003 - 15.01.2004 | Berlin, Germany: WELCOME - Botschaft Der Republik Kosovo, Berlin, Bundesrepublik Beutschland; Galerie 35. 2003 | Prishtina, Kosova: IT´S TIME TO GO VISITING: NO VISA REQUIRED public intervention. NO VISA REQUIRED stickers on British Airways billboards; removed after 11 hours. 2001 | Prishtina, Kosova: HAPPINESS - INDEPENDENCE DAY: 1 MINUTE public media intervention; official declaration of independence of Kosova declared on Kosovar Public TV - RTK, by Hans Haekkerup (Dennmark) - Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK); 14.06.2001, 20.30 CET.


2006 ´Archeology of Today?´ The kosova Gallery of Arts, Prishtina, Kosova 2005 Els Hanappe Underground, Athens, Greece 2005 7th Bienal de Video y Nuevos Medios de Santiago, Museo de Arte Conteporaneo, Santiago de Chile, Chile 2005 Berliner Kunstsalon 2005, Berlin, Germany 2005 ´Kosova.Exe´, The Brno House of Arts, Prague - Brno, Czech Republic 2004 ´A New Past´, Marronnier Art Center & Insa Art Space of the Korean Culture & Arts Foundation, Seoul, Korea 2004 ´Love It or Leave It´, 5th Biennale of Cetinje, Dubrovnik - Cetinje - Tirana 2004 ´I Need a Radical Change´, Galerija NOVA, Zagreb, Croatia 2003 ´In the Gorges of the Balkans´, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany 2003 ´COMPILER//01 "Was ist Kunst, Marinela Koželj?"´, Press to Exit Gallery, Skopje, Macedonia 2001 ´NOW: Prishtinë - Berlin´, Thacheles New Gallery, Berlin, Germany 2001 ´Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina: Chaos & Communication´, 10th Biennial of Young Artists from Europe and Mediterranean, Sarajevo 2001, Sarajebo, Bosnia and Hercegovina 2001 ´Our World Today´, London Print Studio, London, UK 2001 ´TURN: Post War Art in Kosova´, Mimar Sinan Sniversitesi, Osman Hamdi Bey Balonu, Istanbul, Turkey 2000 ´Carnival in the Eye of the Storm - Kosov@: Art; New Technologies´, PNCA Philip Feldman Gallery, Portland, USA 1999 ´Peja Old Market Happening´, Peja, Kosova 1998 ´Perspektiva 98´, Dodona Gallery, Prishtina, Kosova


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Spike Island International Fellowship 2001

(01 April 01 - 31 August 01)


Artist´s website

Fridericianum Kassel

Short article on the artist
Embassy of the Republic
It´s Time To Go Visiting: No Visa Required