Graphic, Novel.

Sketching W.G. Sebald in Pristina

A Project by Elisabeth Desta and Sonja Lau

Host organizations: Qendra Multimedia and Tirana Art Lab

May 2012, Qendra Multimedia, Pristina (Kosovo)

The idea for this project came from the observation that graphic novels are becoming increasingly relevant today since they help organize the flood of information in the world and, through their combination of images and text, offer an exciting vision of reality.

It was this combination of images and text that provided the point of departure for eight young graphic artists from Albania, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Germany, and Belgium in their response to the works of author W.G. Sebald. Sebald (*1944) uses images and text in his works as a way of approaching a past reality, creating an additional sensory value for reflection and opening space for new perspectives. In this way, he addresses the importance of documenting history in an artistic way and discussing the role of memory within our society.

The interplay of text and images always creates ruptures; displacements and superimpositions can cause audiences to feel a sense of longing or searching. This way of showing and telling contains within it a specific strategy for creating meaning that transcends a sense of linear time, an approach which graphic novels share.

Under the guidance of comic artist Barbara Yelin and researcher Ute Friederich, participants in Pristina took a week to do research and gather information, visiting archives, and speaking with people. They asked themselves what their artistic approach can hope to change in the gray zones of our collective memory. They concentrated less on factually processing the Republic of Kosovo's recent history and more on the seemingly insignificant events and histories that, when observed closely, opened up deep paths of insight into the past.

In the context of the polip literature festival, an exhibition opening first in Pristina presented these graphic novels. The project also entailed a publication entitled "Graphic, Novel. Sketching W. G. Sebald in Pristina," featuring the artists' works and texts by Ute Friederich and Mathis Eckelmann.

With: Mathis Eckelmann, Zgjim Elshani, Christina Gransow, Jelle Kindt, Neven Misaljevi, Gerta Oparaku, Ester Vanhoutte

With support from: Goethe-Institut Belgrade, Robert Bosch Stiftung
Photos: Ljubiša Milovanović, Jetmir Idrizi, Elisabeth Desta