An Exercise in Legitimacy: Kosovo's Participation at the Venice Biennale

Authors: Murati, D. and Schwandner-Sievers, S.

Editors: Armakolas, I., Demjaha, A. and Elbasani, A.

Volume: II

Pages: 71-107

Publisher: Kosovo Foundation for Open Society

Place of Publication: Prishtina

ISBN: 978-9951-503-06-8


The Venice Biennale, one of the world’s most prestigious cultural events, engages artists and states to represent their nation at an international level. This contribution demonstrates the ways in which such an event can be used to enact a novel national identity and support its international legitimacy in the case of Kosovo, a state which began to obtain official international recognition in 2008 only. It explores the role of Kosovar artists, bureaucrats and the polity, both at national and international level, in this process of generating symbolic power. Based on discourse analysis of media reports and various public utterances emanating from within the wider social and political fields surrounding four Kosovar artists who participated at the Venice Biennale since 2013, the study explores how the nation is enacted and national identity constructed, or overcome, in the fields of the arts in Kosovo. It explores the extent to which Kosovar artists occupy, or can be expected to occupy, a critical, perhaps even subversive role towards state power and national ideas. Guided by Bourdieu’s (1991) and Loveman’s (2005) theories of symbolic capital and power accumulation during state-building processes, the study traces the artists’ intent, negotiations and enactments of their roles, as pertaining to their nation, at the Biennale. This case study thereby attempts to unpack contemporary, artistic articulations of Kosovo’s national identity and artistic response to collective and political expectations of promoting legitimacy through cultural diplomacy.

Source: Manual