by Kleitia Vaso

If the reader expects the general and somewhat-exhausted discussion on the pyramid as the symbol of power, on its form as the concrete embodiment of every emperor-dictator’s obsession and thirst for glory, I advise him or her to quietly bow out.

The pyramid in question is the one standing in the center of Tirana, a structure which, like any other – some more than others – is closely tied to those who were, are and continue to be in power. Architectural objects are, after all, manifestations of the wishes and wills of those who possess the capacity to erect them, to make their thoughts come to life. In this case, as in many others, its glory and shame constitute its own history and who are we to judge?

In a way that perhaps remains imperceptible to an incurious perspective, the pyramid, more than any other structure, demonstrates a great deal about the character of the entire society. Firstly, the lack of courage needed to eradicate something, leave no trace of it since, judging from its maltreatment, irritates so many. Because it reminds people of the not-so-distant history when…what? We were worse, more evil than we are now? More scared, bigger cowards than we are now? I see no change except that what was once a duty – servility and fear – currently represent freely-elected choices.

Secondly, the absence of desire and will to restore it, to transform it into something functional. Such a process would require thought and actual work and its benefit might not be instantaneous. Something created, something undertaken that yields no immediate monetary profit indicates a love for the object, for oneself, for the other. But, when this love does not exist, effort, work only assumes a value when it immediately fulfills a gaping hole, a lack, some kind of literal or figurative poverty; when it speedily satisfies enormous egos resting on shaky foundations, greedy, needy for proofs of their worth.

Thirdly, in connection to the first two points, why shouldn’t we punish an object instead of ourselves, for instance? Is it not infinitely easier? Let’s torture it, throw stones at it, strip it bare of its luxurious and hated marble which we secretly and openly love so much, tear it apart and then leave it there, ugly and miserable in order to show our revulsion at those in power, the ones who constantly violate us. Yet, we are they and they are us. Ultimately, its deformation only manifests an unaccepted and misdirected impotence, the always wrongly selected sacrificial lamb. The most terrible aspect is that its location at the center of the city’s main boulevard – carefully-planned from its conception – very clearly displays the shame and utter lack of self-esteem to any foreign visitor that might visit our city. Silently, the pyramid tells of our inability to accept the past as ours, the lack of willpower in terms of preserving something of value that belongs to us, the fact that we operate at the basic level of destruction which is infinitely easier than building, creation. Especially bitter is the attack towards something beautiful which we cannot simply experience as such, without adding and subtracting a myriad values and anti-values that allow us to pollute it with our own dissatisfaction.

Yet, I like it, even mutilated. Perhaps, even more so than in its glory days of youth and marble coverings. With its unique appearance, firmly located in the ambiguous territory between majestic and grotesque, the pyramid implies that rare things for whatever reason, extreme beauty, ugliness or both, become firmly rooted in the personal and collective memory and cannot be eliminated. It survives because it deserves to. Even violated in every way, humiliated as the representation of something else – abused power or the powerlessness of its very violators – it still eclipses the recently added and unmemorable, no-character buildings that surround it. Like Baudelaire’s swan, limping on concrete instead of gliding on water, a siren agonizingly trying to drag itself on the asphalt, tragic and impossible to ignore, beautiful and hideous all at once, the pyramid resists and will continue to exist thanks to the sheer power of her singularity.

by Kleitia Vaso