When It Left, Death Didn’t Even Close Our Eyes, 2020

Artist: Doruntina Kastrati

Venue: Castle of Prizren

“I kept going to work sick, with an injured leg, and my leg was injured again in the same place because I kept my boots on all the time. We worked twelve to thirteen hours straight; we even worked twenty-hour shifts. No rules at all.” So retells one of the laborers working in Kosovo’s construction industry. Doruntina Kastrati’s film presents workers who have been involved and harmed during big infrastructural-construction projects, and who reveal the human costs of the unregulated labor market. One of the primary consequences is a high rate of injury, which then precludes future work in the industry. Many workers state that they would rather face death than lose the ability to earn a living.

Kastrati’s film is the result of extensive research, including dozens of interviews, close readings of official documents, and digging in archives. The piece was inspired by her interest in construction and buildings, but instead of talking to engineers and planners, the artist started listening to the testimonies of workers who had lost their jobs or been humiliated or disabled while building Kosovo’s highways. The film shows those who go unseen: the invisible working class, the precariat with no guarantee or legal protection in quasi-feudal conditions of extreme exploitation. It tells stories of workers who died, lost their eyes or hands, and were left disabled for the rest of their lives while working for 70 euro cents per hour for two leading global companies, Bechtel and Enka—both also patrons of contemporary art and cultural institutions.

Doruntina Kastrati (1991) was born in Prizren and lives in Prizren and Prishtina.

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