'Of course Tirana needs a centre like that,' says mayor Edi Rama (42). It is midnight in the lobby of the Sheraton. I've just seen him at work during a live talkshow on tv. It was supposed to take ninety minutes. The interviewer hadn't finished his first question or Rama, nowadays also chairman of the Socialist Party and arch-enemy of populist prime minister Sali Berisha, took the microphone and let loose a two hour rant. Even without understanding a word of Albanian, I caught the words terrorist, fascist and gangster. Tall and bald, with heavy brows and a trimmed beard, you would take Rama for a classic Balkan politician, one of those intolerant, selfsatisfied bullies - if you didn't know he was the immensely popular cleaner of the city.
Afterwards, he posed for two middle-aged groupies and dragged me into his limousine. In the Sheraton, he first spends fifteen minutes talking non-stop into two cellphones. Then he bends over to me and replies to my questions in precise, almost tender English. 'That centre will open wherever Edi Muka unpacks his bags. That boy is a genius. When he started the Biennale I feared the chill of such trendy events. But he took care that Tirana didn't turn into a pretentious village. I don't know why the big foreign musea haven't bought him away yet. Maybe he appreciates the freedom here. But everything is still so fragile, so temporary...'
What made Muka to be the only man in town capable to do this work? 'His mother.' He stares at me without blinking. 'Exactly. His mother.'
Will he support the new centre for contemporary arts? 'Our means are modest, but we will do our share. Muka no longer needs to convince me. I have no time to read his project proposals, listen to his dreams or even visit his exhibitions. But if he has a concrete question to ask he is welcome. He asks, I reply and then I will tell him to fuck off.'
The mayor looks at me.
Enough. On the way back, passing by the centre of the future, I peer through the glass walls and see the silhouettes of sacks of cement and the hungry fingers of electricity cables sticking out of the walls.