Early morning in the Pyramid. Way up in the glass and metal monster, in a drab little office, Edi Muka spreads out his plans for the new Tirana Institute of Contemporary Art on the table. He and Yoa have been writing all night. His eternal stubbles are darker than usual.
It's great to see him here. Back in 1999, his name was all over the art mailinglists in the West, because of the Pyramid. Built as a tomb for dictator Enver Hoxha after his death in 1987, a last gasp of self-congratulating communist architecture, it was turned into a centre for arts, music and performances after the fall of the regime in 1991. Building a pyramid was fitting epitaph for the leader who had made himself into a myth. The immense labor of countless workers in honor of the single man at the top was echoed in Ismael Kadare's haunting novel. And the irony continued when Albania spun into a violent chaos in 1997, after the collapse of the so-called pyramid lottery scheme.
Edi Muka was barely thirty when he was appointed director of the Pyramid in 1999. He had made a name for himself as a young painter, and especially by being the first to start curating art shows which were a radical break with the older generation, that had morphed from obligatory socialist realism to almost just as wide-spread abstract painting. One of the ground-breaking events he organized was a conference for syndicate, the critical art&media list that connected new artists en theorists across Europe. Internet art in Tirana, where you were lucky if the phone worked, let alone your modem? Edi Muka did it.
He hardly lasted two years. The prime minister's wife knew someone who needed a job. They gave him the Pyramid. Edi Muka was out, no matter how loud the outcry across the internet, which delivered hundreds of concerned signatures to the prime minister's office.
In the meantime, he has become a curator with a world-wide reputation and no office. Three times, he has now organized the Tirana Biennale, an ambitious overview of Albanian and international art spread out across the city. When he first applied for foreign funding, in 2002, the reply was: 'We are sorry to inform you that we cannot support the Tirana Biennale, for the simple reason that we do not believe that such an event can take place in Tirana.'
Muka is the nomadic survivor of Albanian contemporary art. A small man with pointed ears, stubbles and an army dump coat that he probably even wears under the shower. For the time being, he?s back in the Pyramid, renting a small office from his friend who runs an advertisement agency here in the building that now hosts senseless tv-shows and commercial fairs. But Muka is ready for something new.