Sislej Xhafa’s video Passionate Fruit presents a single shot: a gun lying on the asphalt beside a puddle in the rain. The soundtrack presents the noise of the constantly falling rain with a metallic edge that gives it an almost aggressive character. The image is open to a whole variety of interpretations and mental associations on the part of the spectator. The first questions regard the origin of the gun. Who was the owner? Why has it been abandoned just there? Has it been used to kill someone? Though deprived of its function by the rain, left in the street like a harmless object, the weapon arouses curiosity and interest. The mystique of this aggressive but now inert object interweaves with the poetry of the rain to create an independent story of violence, loss and passion.
In his works, comprising installations, photographs, videos and performances, Sislej Xhafa addresses the themes of marginalization and violence in politics and society. His past in Kosovo before and during the fighting in the Balkans and his direct experience of war and loss constantly resurface in all his work. Passionate Fruit again reflects this past and the ambiguity of the artist’s attitude toward the gun, as an object but also a weapon, in the title and the chosen form of representation. The words “passionate fruit” suggest the mystique and emotion associated with the possession of a weapon while minimizing the violent aspects manifested, for example, in war. While the gun unquestionably loses its power to kill lying in the rain, the idea of this possibility is always present. The weapon thus represents the violent past of the artist’s native land and reminds us at the same time that fighting can break out at any moment. It also alludes, however, to the history of cinema and the role that weapons play in many westerns and gangster films, where they are often the only way to arrive at the truth. With his minimalist approach, Xhafa leaves his work open to the most varied interpretations.
Sislej Xhafa (Peja, Kosovo, 1970) has held solo shows at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Bergamo, the 51st Venice Biennial, the Sala Montcada de la Fundació la Caixa in Barcelona, the Kunsthalle in Berne and the Fondazione Olivetti in Rome. He has also taken part in group shows at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, the White Cube in London, the Kunsthalle Exnergasse in Vienna, the Palazzo di Primavera in Terni (Italy) and Performa05 in New York. Sislej Xhafa lives and works in New York.