In the wake of the identity crisis inherent to almost all post-communist countries in South East Europe, provoked by the unsatisfactory points of identification provided by the neo-liberal system, leaning towards the re-articulation of the cultural legacy has proven to be one of the most common artistic positions. This process that is often explained by Slavoj Žižek’s concept of overidentification as taking 'the system more seriously than it takes itself ', paradoxically points to the strong character of the past, but also to the flaws of the present condition.
In his most recent project (Over)Identification Olson Lamaj continues to act as an active observer and an intelligent “stroller” between the “serious” system of the past and its manifestations and insecurities of the present. He points to the banal instrumentalisation of the cultural monuments and symols. However, by appropriating and re-articulating the monuments of culture and symbols Lamaj manages to absorb and resolve the arising contradictions. For example, instead of being trapped into the interpretation of the star as the sole symbol of the communist past, Olson Lamaj treats it as a space that embodies political dimension of multiplicity. That way he produces certain dynamics between a star as a symbol and its possible spatial and temporal coordinates, as well as conceptual interpretations. By expressing his ideas in different media, in the artworks such as How Stars are Born? (2015); People’s Heroes (2016) and Cultural Monument, protected by the State (2016) he plays with contradictions. His method of treating overlapping and simultaneously present dimensions of space and time aims towards representing totality but also contributes to the perpetual ironical interpretation of the status quo.
People’s Heroes (2016) and Cultural Monument, protected by the State (2016) are drawings done in the frottage technique that implies the process of rubbing from an uneven surface. This surface as a historical reference to the state-regulated content can also be considered metaphorically: it is a meeting point of the ideology projected by the state and individual absorption of that very content. The flaws of the drawing emphasize the noise that arises from that very contact.
In the video How Stars are Born?, the pivotal piece of the project, Lamaj confirms that he succeeds to go beyond the puzzling contradictions of the star as a symbol. He combines the images of the Albanian communist monuments with the voice-over from the BBC documentary in which the origin of the stars is explained. It is from this hybrid that the multiplicity emerges, as Lamaj goes beyond the mere self-colonization of the communist legacy with the hegemonistic scientific narratives of Western origin. What Lamaj emphasizes is that in the condensed atmosphere, he is capable of playing with the logical paradoxes within the system. The stars as a political symbol, be it a red star as a symbol of communism or a yellow star as a symbol of EU, are not confronted. Instead, these condensed narratives gravitate towards the potential reading of the stars as subjects in the art world. This star status is brought into question by underlining the identification with the pre-given political realities. This identification is regulated by the state apparatus and stimulated by the regional artistic tendencies. Lamaj points to the fact that our common political ground flaws are inspirational, only if they are internalized and articulated in a sense which indicates that one is “over” with the already exhausted identification.
Text by: Dr. Maja Ćirić, Independent Curator
1Irony and Overidentification, Retrieved from: http://www.thepoliticalcurrencyofart.org.uk/research-strands/irony-and-overidentification
2Dorren Massey on Social Science Bites, Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Quj4tjbTPxw