LightWeight, Kledia Spiro, Christopher Brodigan Gallery, Groton, MA
A multimedia Solo Exhibition by Kledia Spiro. Featuring video, sound art, performance and sculpture.
Uplifting Work with Artist-in-Residence
“If that were a story, what kinds of themes would you draw from it?”
English teacher Jake Kohn was pressing his students to ponder what they had just witnessed in the Athletic Center’s weight room. Artist-in-residence Kledia Spiro, this year’s Mudge Fellow, had taught students the proper form for weightlifting and hoisted a very heavy load—the students’ backpacks.
The symbolism was not lost on the class.
Two students had acted as “Olympic loaders,” placing the weights on Ms. Spiro’s barbell. The weights—the backpacks—were heavy with books and, for some, with less tangible academic burdens. When the backpacks became too much to lift, Ms. Spiro called on students to help, which surprised observers expecting the weightlifter, who was on a national Olympic weightlifting team, to prevail unassisted.
Ms. Spiro loves art and weightlifting and, as a performance and visual artist, combines the two. Her multimedia exhibit, “LightWeight,” in Groton’s Brodigan Gallery through February 16, features video installation and painting. Her work touches on themes including immigration, female empowerment, family, fitness—and the “weights” we all carry in one form or another.
Since December 4, Ms. Spiro has been working with Groton’s English, science, and art classes, and will continue through December 13. The Mudge Fellowship was established by the Mudge Foundation in 1992 to enhance students’ exposure to the arts. Art teacher Beth Van Gelder, who organizes the fellowship and curates the Brodigan Gallery, recognized the interdisciplinary potential of this visiting artist and encouraged teachers in all departments to consider working with her.
In Ms. Van Gelder’s Second Form Visual Studies class, Ms. Spiro began by asking students to name something that brings them joy. Puzzles, writing, golf on the beach, organ music, hiking … the students went on and on … building computers, writing, hockey. “What you love to do can lift you up,” the artist explained, touching on the metaphor that permeates her work. In future classes, those students will create mixed media works that symbolize what lifts them up—the things they love—or the burdens that can weigh them down. Those pieces and other student work will be on display at the Brodigan Gallery as part of Ms. Spiro’s installation.
The Groton community has had the opportunity to learn about Ms. Spiro’s art as well as her life. During an artist talk in the Schoolhouse’s Sackett Forum on Wednesday, December 6, she introduced the school to her childhood in wartime Albania, where she would paint in the hallway because it was an area safe from bullets flying outside. Years later, the sharp sound made by a barbell during Olympic lifting would remind her of the gunshots in Albania. “For the first time, I had control of that sound,” she said. “I wasn’t the victim of it anymore. I was the one producing it.” Much of Ms. Spiro’s art struggles to reconcile the weight of all that her parents sacrificed on her behalf.
The importance of lifting burdens together came up repeatedly in the presentations. At various times, the artist stopped to ask for help with her loaded barbell, sparking discussion about how difficult, or even impossible, it is for one person to lift the weight of other people.
In that unusual classroom, surrounded by equipment designed for physical challenge, students were thinking about how to properly lift a barbell while also contemplating weighty lessons about vulnerability, teamwork, empowerment, and life.
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Mudge Fellow 2017: Kledia Spiro
Made Masculine: Ready to be Remade featuring THE WEIGHT: Playboys and Vogue, Museum of Art, University of New Hampshire, Kledia Spiro, 2017
"Spiro walked around the museum holding the purses high above her head. Her heels clicked against the floors as each step the audience grew more tense, hoping she would be able to withstand the weight placed on her" - Nick D'Aloia, The New Hampshire, staff writer.
"By performing on a runway composed of alluring magazines, the likes of Vogue and Playboy, tension is drawn between the societal standards for both men and women. With this layout, masculinity may be referenced by both the magazines, composed of erotic images which may beguile men, and the act of weightlifting, which requires a particular physical prowess. Femininity, on the other hand, is depicted solely through the magazines, where women are modeled and posed as if they are delicate dolls in an attempt to personify beauty itself. " - Sebastian Mandino, Museum of Art, Fellow.
"Kledia Spiro’s parents are willing and wedded co-performers in her 2-channel video Trousseau. The channels emphasize the endurance and repetition of training, as well as isolate each parent in a separate frame. Her parents only come together through Spiro’s attempt to lift them. Her performance offers an image of strength and athleticism that challenges assumptions of these characteristics as male, and binds them to heritage." - Curator, Lisa Crossman, P.h.D.
"Conservative and Bland", Kledia Spiro, 2017, NY, NY. Part of the Archive 2 - performance series organized by Karl Cooney.
At times, being a performance artist can feel more like being a failed librarian. This series is a small contribution to the historical record of performance art in New York City.
Le Petit Versailles events are made possible by Allied Productions, Inc., Gardeners & Friends of LPV, GreenThumb/NYC Dept. of Parks, Materials for the Arts, the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs, and the Office of City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez. LPV Exhibitions are made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
For more information visit: Karl Cooney
"PAPERWEIGHT: Artforum, ARTnews Magazine, Art in America, Christie's, Sotheby's ...", Kledia Spiro, NY, 2017.
Organized by WILD TØR∇S and WILD EmbeddingS at Rockwall Studios.
Video stills: Azumi Oe
Clothes. They are an important part of people's perceptions of who we are as individuals, and particularly what their roles in society may be.
Brand names for clothing, shoes and accessories are a significant part of our daily choices. Not just because of their superior quality but because of their NAME and their PRICE TAG. Brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Versace, Fendi, Armani, Tommy Hilfiger and more are recognized everywhere, for their style, but most importantly for being expensive.
Affording these clothes is one thing but washing them is a whole other hurdle. Now you may think that most people who can afford these clothes from these brand names can of course also afford cleaning them appropriately, which usually involves a dry cleaner or at the very least a washing machine and a dryer. However, that is not always the case. In many countries, especially socio-economically disadvantaged countries, people will save up their monthly pay check to purchase just a single article of clothing. Yet, they do not have the proper means of washing them and they often even lack reliable access to water. In fact, many people from low SES countries think it's better to hand-wash all of the clothes so as not to ruin the precious clothing material. Women in particular will spend many hours hunched over of a bathtub or a sink washing these clothes. Often, these women have to go out, to find additional water, only to carry buckets of water up and down the stairs to make sure that their families' Polo shirts are washed just right.
Growing up, I saw this in my own country and my own family. Yet, what has surprised me the most is the need to continue hand-washing clothes even in the US, where resources are plentiful. Is the washing machine Just Not Good Enough for these precious brands?
Lifting Lives, II: BRING YOUR PROTEST SIGNS was centered around lifting the lives of all the people that are affected by the current political climate. Everyone attending the performance was asked to bring a protest sign. The sign came from either a protest that they have participated in or in reaction to Trump's recent executive actions. There were also protest sigs available for the audience to pick up at the Sprinkler Factory Art Gallery. Two people from the audience loaded the weight of the protest signs to my custom welded barbell. Ultimately, the gesture of lifting weight over your head has a universal connotation of standing up for what you believe in. The form of protesting with signs over your head has an incredible amount of weight and is critical to our current times.
My installation "THE WEIGHT" serves as a performative sculpture and was on display at the "Second Floor Sculpture Park" at the Sprinkler Factory.
To visit the Lifting Lives II campaign, visit: http://eepurl.com/czBL_r
Photo credit: Mike Hendrickson
Lifting Lives is a series of performances structured around lifting the “lives” of Spiro’s loaders. The loaders in Olympic Weightlifting are usually two people, one at each end of the barbell, adding weight to the barbell and making sure it’s perfectly calibrated. Spiro will feature three distinctly unique sets of loaders in each of the performances.
The first Lifting Lives series will feature John Vo and Tommy Vo. The Vo brothers are both artists. John is a painter and president of Nine Dot Gallery. Tommy Vo is a photographer and exhibitions manager of Nine Dot Gallery. Spiro will be lifting the lives of these two artists. They will be Spiro’s loaders. They will be loading her barbell with a collection of things that are important to their respective lives. Additionally, they will be loading the barbell to the cadence of a poem that her father wrote. The poem is a reflection on Spiro’s year long performances of lifting her parents books from Albania, Italy, France, Russia, and America. The Lifting Lives series are organized by Kledia Spiro, John Vo and Tommy Vo.
To visit the Lifting Lives Campaign: http://eepurl.com/crNByT
Video by OMC, Chris DeLeigh, Tommy Vo
Protektim Plastik, 2016
LiVEART.US hosted at Queens Museum, NY
Organized: Hector Canonge
Video credit: Karl Cooney
Protektim Plastik is about a law that was passed by the director of the ministry of education, Dion Spiro, when the arms depot in Albania were broken into, causing a deathly civil war. Mr. Spiro (my father), ordered all the schools to require students to carry their books in plastic bags, in order to easily detect bombs, grenades, or other weapons. Plastic can be radically strong and yet very fragile and transparent. An audio interview with Mr. Spiro, describing his policy and the situation was played in a loop, during the performance.
For this performance, each plastic bag held a book from my parents library collection, accumulated from Albania and their years of living in the United States. I kept filling the plastic bags with books and adding them to the barbell. I performed the olympic lifts with the plastic bags filled with books, until the bags start tearing and the books start falling off. The piece is about trying to “lift” history and confronting my Albanian childhood, inheritance and cultural expectations.
COffee Conversations, Kledia Spiro, 2016
Panoply Performance Lab, NY, NY
Flashbulb, Curated by Cris Schayer
For more information, visit the FLASHBULB Page
Trousseau II, 2016
Thomas Young Gallery, Boston, MA
Photo credit: Tommy Vo
While I Breathe, I Hope, 2015
Kledia Spiro and Ryan C. McMahon, Piano Craft Gallery, Boston, MA
This work is about occupying spaces of uncertainty and finding grace in both the weight and the weightlessness of being in such a state. It's about the obstacles we create for ourselves; and the processes in which we fail, succeed, and coast through life and the discovery of humor within this process. It can be as absurd as trying to lift, breathe, dive, repeat, lift, breathe, dive, repeat…"Dum spiro spero means "While I breathe, I hope" in Latin and is a modern paraphrase of ideas that survive in two ancient writers, Theocritus and Cicero. It is a motto of various places, families, and organizations."
Lifting the Sweetness, 2015
Kledia Spiro, Grace Exhibition Space and Gallery, NY, NY
"In a feat of ritualistic calisthenics that investigated survival and female empowerment, Kledia Spiro convinced us that there is a very clear, totemic connection between weightlifting melons, folk dance, and Freudian and Piagetian behavioral concepts." - Hyperallergic Magazine
Text by Grace-Yvette Gemmell
Illustrations by Erica Cassill
The Sphinx Returns at Grace Exhibition Space & Gallery in New York City was a 4-month performance series curated by Whitney V. Hunter. "The Sphinx Returns is a curated series of performance art and contemporary performance which looks at the artist as the myth maker and performance art as the mythology of our time setting the course for a history of the future." - Whitney V. Hunter
Photo credit: © 2015 Miao Jiaxin
The Ground as People, 2015
Great American Performance Art Festival, Rosekill Farm, Rosendale, NY
Below is a written description by the artist:
Two barbells were made for this performance and installation. One barbell was a tree trunk that carried buckets on each side. The buckets were reminiscent and symbolic of lifting heavy containers of clean drinking water for long distances in countries that no longer have the luxury of providing their citizens with enough water. As a child in Albania, I remember carrying huge bottles of water, up four flights of stairs so we could have enough for the week. Yet, instead of water, the buckets carried rocks. They carried, and I carried the weight of the land. I could not measure the weight of the rocks. I was carrying an unknown weight, a weight that can only be lifted on the ground.
Ian Deleón's performance ended and intertwined with mine. He pulled an empty boat through the meadows by his neck. He had nothing on his back but a rope that dragged the boat. He waited in the water with the boat until I was no longer physically able to lift the "barbell" and the rocks/land it carried.
I jumped in the water. Another woman, Ivy Castellanos, got in the empty boat. Ian and I, pulled and swam the boat out in the middle of the lake. There was a floating platform in the water, waiting there with a different barbell. This barbell was made of a metal beam and tractor tires. I got on the platform, as did Ivy Castellanos. I tried to lift the weight over my head, time and time again. I could not do it.
When I was lifting on land, I realized the ground had given me an unexpected power and resistance. The water, on the other hand, did not give any strength back. Not only did I have to balance on top of the platform on water, but I had to push off of the water. I kept hearing everyone's encouragement from the shore. They were waiting there with canteens and torches, for me to complete an impossible task. It was as if they were part of a ceremony. Yet, they were giving me a vigil, for the land I had left behind.
From the platform, the people looked like a bed of unweathered fireflies. The barbell and it's bumper plates became a reference to floating devices for survival. The two surviving bodies on the platform, in the middle of the water, at night, could only survive with the other persons presence. The strength and resistance once provided by the ground was now provided from the people.
There was an unexpected failure from the inability to be "grounded". The success or failure of lifting the weight overhead was dependent on another person. It reminded me of the refugees I had witnessed leaving Albania in a little boat at night and waiting in the middle of the ocean until another boat got to them. The piece became about struggle, survival and interdependence. Sometimes, the only way to overcome and conquer the Sisyphean struggle is with someone else.
The barbell was finally able to be lifted overhead when Ivy and I lifted the barbell together, both struggling, both surviving and both overcoming. Once what seemed like an impossible task was conquered, the boat was left empty, in the middle of the water, the barbell with tractor tires remained on the unbalanced, ever-moving platform and Ivy, Ian and I swam back to shore in the darkness. The next day, during daylight, people swam out to the platform to try and lift the barbell. The floating barbell had became a functional installation. People were its activation, as long as they tried and failed with one another.
Trousseau, 2015 Boston Center for the Arts, Cyclorama, Boston, MA
Trousseau is a two channel video installation part of a four channel large-scale sculpture installation titled "THE WEIGHT" featured at the Boston Center for the Arts, Cyclorama.
The artist has personally welded a steel barbell with specific seats for each parent. The seats are configured as throne-like puzzle pieces that can fit together side by side or on top of each other when taken off the barbell.
Her work alludes to Albert Camus "Myth of Sisyphus" where one's fulfillment comes from the process of struggling and failing.
In 2016, Trousseau was featured in the exhibition "From Me to You" at the ProArts Gallery in Oakland, CA.
Burn the Bachelorette's Red Scarf, 2014 Boston Center for the Arts, Cyclorama
Burn the Red Bachelorette's Scarf is a multichannel video series. Spiro explores the connection between weightlifting and folk dance as a new celebratory ritual for understanding the relationship between the artist and her parents, as well as the present and the past. By experimenting with indeterminate methods, Spiro wants the viewer to access the otherwise inaccessible domestic spaces. Her works are characterized by the use of everyday objects in which recognition plays an important role. By taking daily life as subject matter while commenting on the everyday aesthetic of societal values, she absorbs the tradition of remembrance art into daily practice. She examines the common language of sports, dance, and performance and what it means to perform inside and outside a space. What is left when the performer is gone?
© 2014 Kledia Spiro
Training to Lift My Parents, 2015
Mission Hill Gallery, Boston, MA
At the age of six, Spiro was one the subject's of her father's dissertation titled “The Child through Psychological Views of Freud and Piaget”. She decided she would re-write her father's dissertation through video and make him and her mother the subjects. The elements in which Spiro would study them would be through lifting objects. Weightlifting is only a means to understanding what the gesture of lifting an object in the air, above one's head means.
Training to Lift My Parents is a video-performance where the artist has personally welded a steel barbell with specific seats for each parent. The seats are configured as throne-like puzzle pieces that can fit together side by side or on top of each other when taken off the barbell.
Weightlifting became a metaphor for something much bigger than success or empowerment, overcoming struggle or immigration or war or any personal struggle. It was about showing that everyone has something to lift in their lives. For Spiro, it is her parents. They are the “mythical giants” of her world, the ones that sacrificed their whole life to create a new one for her and her sister. Spiro is always carrying that weight and wants to one day be able to “lift them up”and live up to their legacy. She may never be able to because of everything her parents carry and hold inside them, but she will always try. That is her life goal.
Photo credit: Ryan McMahon
My Mom!, 2014
My Mom! was a video-performance series I did with my mom at the Green Hill Memorial Park.
Mom and Dad (Mami dhe Babi), 2014
Mom and Dad is a three channel video installation and on going series with my parents. I set up an obstacle course for my mom, dad and sister with various house and school materials. I then proceeded to teach them each how to learn the olympic lifts. The video-performance became a kind of ritual and way for me to introduce and share my love of weightlifting through their love of Albanian dance.
Babi, My Mythical Giant, 2014
Great American Performance Art Festival, Grace Exhibition Space, NY, NY
Ripped and Shredded, 2015
Mission Hill Gallery, Boston, MA
Everlasting is a performance series about my childhood memories in Albania and the civil war of 1997. Memories are often closely contained, yet reconfigured every time they are told. This series focuses on my memories with my Grandfather and my experience of war at a young age.
Weightless Saturation, 2014
Piano Craft Guild, Boston, MA
Photos by Justin Tuerk
Experimental Structures in Performance was an event derived from many weeks of playing around with various strategies and structures of performing-while performing. Based primarily on actions, I developed my own systems, structures and maps for my work. Each map was laid over each successive map to construct a whole. The performances, though constructed individually, overlapped, collaborated and connected as the performance developed throughout the evening. Each artist was working with their own duration, from 16 continuous hours to 5 min. segments linked together over 2 hours.
Body Worlds: Weightless Saturation Series, 2014
The body painting and photos were completed by artist Rae Rice.
LG Supports the Arts, Art of the Pixel, NY, NY
Refraction Show, Mission Hill Gallery, Boston, MA
By questioning where one is and the concept of movement, Spiro investigates the gesture of lifting objects overhead and it's effects. She uses weight lifting as a symbol of her family's immigration struggle.
Self Portrait, 2014
Self Portrait, was a performance at the Bathaus, Boston, MA. It is part of the "Wherever You Go, There You Are" series.
Below is an artist statement by the artist regarding the curated performance event:
Healthy? Strong? Feminine? Elegant? Graceful? Beautiful? What do all these things mean? Can I be strong and feminine? As a teenager and young adult, I constantly examined my identity.
Now, as an athlete in an Olympic Weightlifting team, I find myself asking what it means to be a woman, an artist, an athlete. Can I be all three at once? Can I exist and succeed in two male dominated cultures: weightlifting and art-making, while retaining my “femininity”? These are questions that consume me.
Every time I step on the platform, I find a new strength, a new me. There is no more thinking. I just have to be present. Right here, this moment. Be mindful of every position. Hours of training cumulate to 1.2 seconds. That is the time it takes to get the weight from the floor to the air. Weightlifting is my mediation. It is where I find peace. It is my sanctuary. Yet, weightlifting is also a battleground. I am battling my body and my mind. The negative voices that say: why can’t you do it? Why are you so weak? Then, I stop and I say to myself, let’s go! You can do this! Easy weight! While I’m in a male-dominated sport, I feel the most feminine and beautiful performing in this sport. The weightlifting gives me the power, the self confidence to continue, to push through. Yet, it is this physical strength that turns into mental strength. The mental strength is what makes me who I am.
In my performances I explore the meaning of strength, meditation, beauty and femininity through physical training. The platform which I stand on and the objects which I lift with become precious objects to me as they are helping me live a better life. They challenge me every time I hold them and force me to be mindful and face obstacles, until I overcome them. “All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment vital and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” Martha Graham
Wherever You Go, There You Are, 2014
A metal bar and bumper plates. They need each other. They are codependent. They travel together. They communicate with all the other weights. They are part of a network. They create a language of their own. I want to magnify their world, their subtleties, and their language.
The barbell and different colored bumper plates are constantly changing. One fraction of a second they face one way then they completely rotate the other way. They resist gravity with the help of my body, yet they seem to float in space as they are first dropped from above my head.
The Trilogy: the Female, the Artist and the Athlete, 2013