Ilir Tsouko at Space52 / Athens

Ilir Tsouko
Life In Limbo
01.04. – 29.04.2023
Curated by Adela Demetja
Larnakos 28
10446 Athens

Images courtesy the artist and Space52
Photos: Olympianna Miliaki

Ilir Tsouko is a visual storyteller who primarily works in the genre of documentary photography. His long-term projects and series often revolve around migration, social and political issues. His photographs stand out not only for the stories they tell but for how they tell them: aiming to go beyond the specifics of What, Who and Where they rather direct our attention on the human condition.

One of Tsouko’s recent projects is “Life in Limbo” which features a selection of photographs taken from a larger series created between 2021 and 2022 in a beach resort in Albania.

The photographs in the exhibition show children playing, adults staring outside large windows in expectance, yellow beach chairs, dark sand and water in different blue shades. The surroundings are comfortable and soothing, but the horizon is almost always missing, while the Statue of Liberty stands freely, surrounded by a clouded afternoon sky.

The copy of the statue is part of the beach resort Rafaelo located in the small town of Shengjin on the Adriatic coast in Albania. In August 2021 Albania agreed to take Afghan refugees, 1870 of them where hosted at the beach resort. Most of them former government officials and employees of American institutions were evacuated expecting to resettle in the U.S. and ended up in a country they had never heard of. Most of the refugees had never seen the sea before and now they were living in a catered luxury resort, trapped in a never ending vacation dominated by feelings of gratitude for having escaped the punishment of Taliban’s and frustration for the undetermined future of their relocation in the US.

Tsouko visited the resort on several occasions and spent a lot of time getting to know the people and each of their stories personally. His connection with the refugees allowed him to capture intimate photographs that, together with their stories, create a narrative with multiple perspectives.

While most of the refugees have left for the U.S. and Canada, over 700 of them are still waiting in the hotel and may have to stay in Albania.

“Life in Limbo” is an exhibition featuring a tough but hopeful chapter of long and devastating war in Afghanistan. Photographs from Albania are contrasted by unedited video footage taken by Ilir and his translator Hameed Farhadi during his visit in Afghanistan in 2021 after the return of Taliban’s into power. (Text by Adela Demetja)

Some of the photographs from “Life in Limbo” have been published in the Washington Post and Die Zeit magazine.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The exhibition is supported by Heinrich Böll Stiftung – Thessaloniki, The Albanian Center of Photography and SPACE52.