Autostrada Biennale: our Hub in Prizren

Autostrada Biennale was established as a non-governmental organization in Prizren, Kosovo. It plays a key role in understanding today’s society through contemporary art, strengthening the local community and stimulating creative ideas for a more inclusive and more sustainable future.

Streams of blue fabric by Hera Büyüktaşciya runs down a hill near Prizren

Streams of blue fabric by Hera Büyüktaşciya © Tuğhan Anıt / Autostrada Biennale, 2021

We consider art as a form of demilitarization, as a language that can help mediate different points of view, misunderstandings or fragilities, and help coexist and cooperate.
Leutrim Fishekqiu - Team Autostrada Hangar
sunflower fields Agnes Denes – a heroine of the land art movement – planted in the heart of Kosovo's capital Prishtina. Many flowers in front of monumental building.

Sunflower fields by Agnes Denes © Tuğhan Anıt / Autostrada Biennale, 2021

Allianz Foundation Hubs are regional platforms from civil society, climate action and arts & culture. They form a European network working on solutions for the pressing societal questions of our times. To meet these challenges, new ways of exchange and cooperation are needed. And a shared vision.

What is your mission?

"Our main goal is to make art accessible for everyone, for regular people in their everyday habits, their routines of living and working. To us, this means opening our program to different communities who haven’t felt part of the discussion around art before. We set out to create environments of imagination and evocation for them. Therefore, we champion art in public spaces, art that engages people outside of specialized institutions such as museums or galleries. By exhibiting in “ordinary” public spaces that belong to all of us we bring art to the people and not people to the art.

We aim to develop new models of cultural production that encourage young generations to become part of the process of making and installing artworks as well as of critical thinking through art. As Autostrada, we have created new exhibition spaces, non-formal education sessions, discussions, and reflections – thereby stimulating a feel for the importance of freedom of expression, cultural exchange, critical thinking, and maintaining intercultural and interethnic tolerance – with the aim of promoting democratic thinking. We consider art as a form of demilitarization, as a language that can help mediate different points of view, misunderstandings or fragilities, and help people to coexist and cooperate.

Autostrada Biennale started in Prizren, Kosovo in 2014, with its first biennial edition opening in 2017. It took place in a region with a long and tragic history of conflicts, political tensions, and cultural misunderstandings. Kosovo is a post-war political entity that is only partially recognized by the international community, a part of Europe where different ethnicities and religions breathe side by side. To us, it is a place where the language of contemporary art is needed as a form of resilience and recovery. Moreover, we realized that there was a need for more cultural exchange both within the Western Balkans and with the international community."

What do you do?

"As the only contemporary art institution in Prizren, Autostrada Biennale functions at two speeds: a physical exhibition happening in public spaces every two years and a new education, production, and exhibition space, “Autostrada Hangar,” in a former military base. With the latter, we extended our mission to a more sustainable form of commitment and to the needs of our communities. We created a year-round platform of artistic production, of empowerment, and of learning and exchange.

With the Biennale and a yearly program for Autostrada Hangar we want to encourage various critical debates around artistic, social, environmental, and political matters.
We could name many examples of our work, such as the sunflower fields  Agnes Denes – a heroine of the land art movement – planted in the heart of Kosovo's capital Pristina and next to our hangar in Prizren, or the gigantic streams of blue fabric , imaginary rivers Hera Büyüktaşciyan let flow all over Prizren, or the phantom replica  of a former Yugoslavian monument that Alban Muja installed in a public space to question the history of his hometown Mitrovica."

The hangar of Autostrada biennale. In fron you see an open air meeting spot with tables and benchesr

The Autostrada Hangar near Prizren © Autostrada Biennale, 2022

Who are your people and who do you work with?

"Autostrada was founded by a team of young people including artists, pedagogues, and sociologists who also created an International Advisory Board with the aim of connecting with a wider regional and international network.

From the beginning Autostrada Biennale has made the densely multicultural city of Prizren and its citizens an integral part of its organization, involving everyone regardless of their nationality, gender, religious or cultural affiliation.

For every edition of the Biennale we collaborate with different curators from different countries. Through them we are connected to different realities in the world of arts and culture and keep on expanding our network."

What expectations do you have of your collaboration with the Allianz Foundation Hubs network?

"We are interested in developing a multi-year action plan for change in our region by integrating our activities into the European Hubs network as a long-term partner.
Our aim is to grow a sustainable cultural network with values of open and diverse societies where there are no borders and inequalities, to collaborate, exchange, and produce knowledge and art together. 

By joining forces with Allianz Foundation and the partner Hubs we want to create programs that will have a greater and long-term impact on achieving our common objective, that is to build international partnerships around our artistic, ecological, social, and societal approach and preoccupations."

Visitors of the Autostrada Biennale assemble in a big room and listen to a speaker © Tuğhan Anıt / Autostrada Biennale, 2021

Visitors of the Autostrada Biennale 2021 © Tuğhan Anıt / Autostrada Biennale, 2021