“Waterfalls” by Alketa Xhafa-Mripa converts a pool table into a platform for
“Be damned with your borders and the rules you created for us.”
In her performance Waterfalls, created and presented for the Biennale Autostrada (19
August–23 September 2017), curated by Manray Hsu, London-based artist Alketa Xhafa-
Mripa contextualizes the past, present and future of borders.
At the centre of an enclosed room inside the Prizren bus station, there is a pool table,
surrounded by people. One by one, the artist and four other women slowly emerge from the
crowd and lay down their bodies over the table and spit many times in different directions.
They spit violently, as if to say: “Be damned with your borders and the rules you created for
Women with various societal roles climb over the table. The first woman, Alketa
Xhafa-Mripa, represents the female creatives. The next wears a transparent dress, alluring
and sexual. The third is pregnant, representing mothers. The fourth represents the female
members of the LGBT community. The last one that appears – the youngest– represents the
woman of the future; she is still naive, but aware of her fate. She loves life but is painfully
aware of the limitations she faces. This last woman spits more softly, creating the allusion
that she has not been confronted with these themes for long.
The pool table as a symbol for entertainment is now converted into a platform from
which the women protest. Instead of entertaining, these women are discontented by
contemporary life and they spit over the borders and rules created through the centuries and
that are being created still. The establishment of such physical and psychological borders is
supported through the politics and society in which they exist. Instead of hoping to live in a
world where arcane borders and rules increasingly disappear, they are confronted with more
and more each day.
Pool is a male-dominated game where they have the cues in hand to control and shoot
the balls in the ‘right direction’. It is an allusion to the fact that men take decisions in
contemporary society. They shoot the balls to the pockets, score points against each other –
they take into their hands decisions for the future of the men, women, and of the whole
society. The work of Alketa Xhafa-Mripa is also a protest against the male decision-makers,
who ‘play games’ with human lives.
The women represented within this installation have had enough of such decisions.
They protest by spitting against these borders, created for the different communities within a
society, or to stop immigration. They protest the limitations and controls for foreigners, the
LGBT community, mothers, women, young girls with their life ahead of them, for the rules
and orders that are created against their will all over the world, but which they must abide by.
They protest against the borders and rules created by society for female artists.
Alketa Xhafa-Mripa globalises the issues that tethers all women around the world by
demonstrating points of views based on fact. The shape of the pool table echoes the
symbolism that these women are demonstrating in all four corners of the world.
The five women in sequence climb and spit repetitively, the audience gets the
message that despite the protest, the same act is never ending. Waterfalls are being created by
their spits. The audience becomes restless. In the pause between the women’s actions, the
visitor wonders whether the performance is over. This is what the artist provokes and makes
us aware that this is still happening. Although women all over the world were confronted
many times with such limitations and discriminations, and they have protested many times, it
happens again. And again. They must continue protesting if they want change.
A kind of meditation occurs through the darkened light, the silence (except for the
noise of spitting), and the repeatedness of the actions... Is this a never-ending story? How will
it end? How could it end? Additional questions the artist provokes with this performance.
Alketa Xhafa-Mripa is a mother of four children and a former refugee from Kosovo.
She provokes the themes of our time in her unique way, reflecting her personal experiences.
Her previous work, Thinking of You – a large-scale installation of dresses hanging on
washing lines – is dedicated to the thousands of women who suffered sexual violence during
the war in Kosovo (1998-1999), and who often felt ashamed and kept the trauma secret, until
this work brought the topic into the spotlight. Thinking of You evoked special emotions for all
those who experienced it, that visitors will also take with them after experiencing Waterfalls.
© Dr. Penesta Dika, Art historian / Founder of SciTechArt in Vienna.