Made in China:
Adrian Paci’s “The Column” at the Architecture Biennale in Venice

The Column is the title of a video installation and a marble sculpture that the Albanian artist Adrian Paci showed in 2013 as part of his exhibition Lives in Transit at the Jeu de Paume in Paris and PAC in Milan. Now the work, from which a series of video stills were acquired for the Deutsche Bank Collection, is being presented at the Architecture Biennale in Venice. Paci’s work is on view in the Albanian Pavilion.

Like all of Paci’s works, The Column deals with migration, placelessness, the repercussions of globalization, and the transformation of cultural identities. He got the idea for the work when he learned that it is possible to order giant marble sculptures in China, which, in order to cut costs, are hewn by a team of workers on a freighter en route to Europe. Paci’s film shows the extraction of the marble block in China, it being loaded onto the freighter, and the work of the sculptors on the high seas. At the same time, it addresses the drawbacks of the global flow of goods, ideas, and labor. The Column is both documentation and cinematic metaphor. The hardness of the marble corresponds to the hardness of the working conditions.

In calm sequences, the camera follows the everyday work of the sculptors and the implacable logic of their exploitation. The meters-long column, classically shaped, is an example of the powerful transformation of nature into culture: the stone loses its raw beauty and takes on an artificial one. The column is also a phallic symbol of hierarchy and hegemony. But in the lying position it is shown in throughout the film, it symbolizes impotence and powerlessness.

Adrian Paci, to whose work an entire floor of the Deutsche Bank Towers in Frankfurt is devoted, was born in Shkodra, Albania, in 1969. He studied at the Academy of Arts in Tirana and was part of a progressive Albanian art scene. In 1997, he had to leave his home country due to violent unrest and moved to Italy. Today he lives and works in Milan.

Since he represented Albania at the Venice Art Biennale in 1999 and his work was shown at PS1 in New York in 2005, Paci has had solo shows around the world, at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Kunstverein Hannover, Kunsthaus Zurich, Tate Modern in London, Manifesta 3 in Ljubljana, and at the Lyon Biennale, among other venues.