Spider-Web City is a video-work presented at Uncharted Festival in Porto Palermo Castle in the south of Albania from 8th-11th August 2014.
Over the course of three months Julia Heslop has been working in Bathore, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Tirana, Albania’s capital city, tracing the history of this contentious community. In collaboration with composer Martin Heslop, the research has gone beyond Bathore, to Puka, Tropoja and Kukes, searching for the traditional musicians and the vacant villages of the north. The video follows the roots of one 21-year-old girl, born in Puka and raised in Bathore since the age of one. Her story represents the first generation of Bathore and the area as it is now, as it has become.
The work follows the girl’s experience of growing up in a community built by people, from the ground up, from working hands and sweat drenched brows. She speaks of her aspirations for what the youth of Bathore can build, can change – the endless possibilities of place. Through a converging dance of image and sound the viewer is invited to trace the emergence, expansion and reimagining of place; of a town coming to maturity.
This is an enquiry into a divisive site of interconnections; a spider-web city, where the old and the new converge, where strong familial bonds and age-old northern traditions unite with contemporary city life. In this work Bathore’s scarred landscape, its unfinished buildings, its faltering streets, all tell the story of migration, building and imagining. The words spoken by the girl through a haze of northern melodies and the clattering of industrial noise traverse some of the psychological and imaginary boundaries that surround place, becoming an account of how the unfamiliar can become the familiar, how we can unlearn and relearn all we think we know about past and place. It is a story about leading and following, about taking the hand of a stranger and connecting their ‘there’ with your ‘here’, and furthermore, it is about seeing the reflection of another town in the windows of your own.
Thanks to Kristiana Faslia, Antuela Gjata, Marjana Lila and Artur Kurtallari for their help with the making of this video and to musicians Ben Hasani, Kujdesi Maçmata and Agron Sopaj.
(Julia Heslop 2014)