The parallel art system is getting a name and a place: TICA, Tirana Institute of Contemporary Art. For too long now, contemporary art has been drifting through the city. An art climate cannot flourish just on nomadic exhibitions and the incidental visits of curious foreigners. That is why Melin, Finn�s, Ljungberg, Muka, Romano and Q�ndro have joined forces to open up a new place. The TICA will be a space for exhibitions, workshops, lectures, archive and residencies. A place to stay. Open daily and active throughout the year. Key word: gender. 'Here, art can only be of value if it is related to the social and politicial context,' says Muka. 'In this society, the balance between men and women is lost. We want to change that.' Between the six traveling curators, they will run the centre like an estafette.
The TICA team faces a paradox: if they want to create space for developing plans, art under construction and the search for answers to the missing balance between men and women, then they will need a fixed, outlined and recognizable place. A city without an arts centre is not a city. While in the West, art centres are very often temples for the establishment and tradition, here they find their necessity in the daily imagination of the city, public space and tomorrow's society. The new art in the Balkans, especially that in the Albanian atmosphere of permanent unreliability, discards utopia but is at the same time so burdened by responsibility that almost each photograph, video or installation can be read as a design for the future - if only by countering a society that shrugs its shoulders in chaos and lack of perspective by images of personal initiative. So a new centre for the arts will simultaneously unmask the fiction of an ideal society and replace it by a new one. Utopia has been disqualified, but utopian thinking is alive and kicking.
Muka and Qendro stamp their feet in approval on the floor of the empty space they want to rent. Concrete, no marble tiles. The art here will need no frills and ornaments. The men like the glass walls: much light and few hidden corners. The round terrace outside invites visions of summer nights with open air projections. There are two adjacent spaces on the ground floor of a recently built apartment block, 400 square meters in all, on the edge of the city centre. Behind the delapidated football stadium, close to the arts academy, next to the gigantic Sheraton hotel and looking out over the sloping city park. Three of the luxurious cafe's and restaurants that are a Tirana trademark - Juvenilja, Valentino and Greta Garbo - are just around the corner.
TICA is counting on a budget of approximately two hundred thousand euro per year. They will ask the municipality to pay the first six months rent. That will give them time to convince foreign foundations, like the Swedish SIDA and the Dutch NCDO and Prince Bernhard Foundation, that after project-based contributions it is now time for structural support.
Does this place have a history, too? Muka nods. 'Last year someone blew up the elevator here, when the former president of the boxing union, who was thought to be involved in organized crime, stepped in to go up.' Luckily, grins Qendro, the centre will be on the ground floor. 'We don't need the elevator.'