“To make a change in society, to start a dialogue, our tools are public art and we hope that the art will engage local communities in a discussion on how to change their communities around them”
THIS IS THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE CONVERSATION I HAD LAST WEEK. MARIAM AND DETU STILL NEED TO LOOK AT IT, SO I DID NOT CHANGE IT AROUND TO MAKE IT AN ACTUAL CASE STUDY YET.
Mainly we are working on text based art, which in public space, we are interested in art in public space and social engaged art and participatory art, which is quite not so new in Georgia, new in the case that some parts are happening. For example participatory art. But, for me they dont have a real impact. Well, I myself haven’t worked much on it, it is more.
The Batumi backyard stories, we have created the museum of superstition, collecting all the knowledge of the people living there and it was more ethnographical or anthropological kind of research and then to translate it to visual language and artistic language.
Also, we are continuing the ghosts museum project, we will continue it this summer in garikula we are collecting stories from the people in the area, from the villages, and also translating it to visual language. But is more informative, it should have an informative outcome. It is kind of subjective, it is knowledge and lifestyle of the people which is disappearing, the legends, and how does this influence the people living there.
The text based art, HTTP, that we are making is always in a an open space, most of the time it is without any permission, those text which are ready made texts we take from the media, internet. For example “I feel lucky” text is from google. We have made this text in an abandonned taxi garage on the nutsubidze plato, where now IDPs live from the 1990s. So, we’re changing the contexts of these texts and putting them in another place which is… Those message are to wake up, Try to change visions of people. Also, there is always one problem, why ar those texts in english? And maybe that is right, maybe we should do it in Georgian.
We started this project homework, with just words, not ready made texts. The first one was in the popiashvili window project: “ghval” “tomorrow”. And it was on Rustaveli avenue. It’s actually the first time we also made the Georgian text. It was “dghes an ghval” “today or tomorrow”, and we also made it in batumi. It’s the sentence you here every time. When you are asking, when is the project ready? Today or tomorrow. It is constant reality. It’s never today. It is always today OR tomorrow. The second one was “time” “dro”. Which we made on the rose revolution square in front of the radisson. The idea came from John fekner http://www.johnfekner.com/ work from the 80ies in new york. He used abandond billboard. Kind off hacking reality, using spaces which are not supposed to be for art. Use spaces where art is not supposed to be or has not been before. So we asked outdoor.ge, who is a billboard company, and we asked them to give one billboard for free every month and they gave it to us. And then we asked Irina Popiashvili to collaborate with us, but then we couldnt find funding to print . City hall has promised for 3 months already to give us the money, but they haven’t transfer it, so the project stopped… We did make two. The first one was ‘dro’ and the second one was by david kukhulashvili, he is also an artist, on deisi. Itwas on a pink background, four guys in suits with spacemen, kosmonaut fishbowls and the text was ‘Georgian politicians’. When you are making urban art, or art in public spaces, it should be critical. Because for beautification of walls of spaces, that should not be the point.
Then the 25 million project. I always seperate activism and art in a way, it is even not in my portfolio. BUT art can be a really good tool for activism. It was funny how much it blew up, the impact it had. It was a present for the patriarch, for his birthday. And we are thinking to continue these kind of projects in the future. For example in HTTP, the text based art projects I mentioned before, are not always clear, for one it can be political, for the other romantic, so it’s not so obvious. We got a lot of messages, a lot of people were upset. It was unimaginable to them. But the conversation has to continue, it started, but I dont think it continued. The main thing of this texts was to question why do we have to in this poor country give so much money to the church, an institution which is distributing hatred? And then what should we do? Should we cancel it, or? Or, when should we cancel this agreement? Or what they did in Germany, where they opened the archives and you can find who was KGB. Those were two main objectives which I wanted to be the result, which need to be done.
I started doing this kind of work, because I want to start a conversation, I want to question things happening in society. To change it maybe. But I dont have any illusions, just to start the conversation. Artists should always ask questions, not answer it.
For examle with “dro” “time” billboard, there were millions of interpretations which always ended up with politics. My favorite versionwas one taxi driver who said that misha saakahvili had to make a talk on the video screen where our text was now on for new year and bidzina ivanishvili di not allow it and he burned it down, and then saakashvili was angry and wrote dro. And that’s what I like, our work doesnt have any author, my connection to the text ends when we make it. The authors of the text are the people themselves. The interpretations and mythologies that they are building on these texts or words comes from their own conscious or unconscious.
First when we started it was much more linked to urban problems, and architecture. Like, abandned buildings and soviet stye buildings and creating a new language of the city. And that is what urban art is for me, creating a new language. Language of the people that can not talk or are invisible. That is one of the reasons that we are making spaces talk. Like, literally.
The first thing we actually made was a poem by Carlo Kacharava, he’s a poet and writer from the 1990s and we made his poem, rally critical interesting texts on the wall. We wanted to make the city as a book and use contemporary not so poluar writers, because georgians are too much necrofilic, it’s always about dead poets that are popular. But we only made one. It was a diificult project because too much work. I was teaching at the Centre for Contemporary Art at the time. I was making workshops and exhibitions with students together, and it was with students, ‘instant street-art’ and we had to make some work in urban space and with students we started making these words in pulic space. To be honest I was always more interested in art in public space than in a white cube. Because, espcially in georgia. No one goes to museums, in galleries you always see the same faces, so to bring the art to the people, you need to bring it out of these spaces. Also, art can be a tool, or like, if we tell really rough, it can be a tool for social changes and innovations. That’s why it would be more interesting to continue working or in tbilisi or other small cities in social engaged art. BUT, there is no funding. It is impossible.
Detu and I always collaborate together. We sometimes work with others, but mostly with other curators and not with artists.
I am not sure what our skills are. Hacking Reality? Once we needed funding for something, 2000USD. On facebook we made a huge list with our skill set, but no one took it seriously. I guess now it would come in handy.
We are also curating some projects, when we started. One was in CCA and one in an abondend building and the last we were thinking how can we change it? And then we try to get inspriation, it just happens. And now we are trying to get funding for one big project, which is about rethinking the city. We started working on it by thinking about what we are interested in and what are we inspired by. And also the problems the city has. Or society has. Rethinking the city: dividing the city into historical parts, from the 20th century. And we are thinking the periods through architecture and art. So the project starts on the nutsubidze plato (late 80ies) and we would like to have a festival there, then it continues to khrushokas 960ies), then old city, and crazy transformation in old city and devaluation of the cultural heritage. Power symbolics in soviet period and post revolution power symbols, it consists of seminars and lectures and urban art, etc. Quite a big project.
In this case we were combining our interests with problematics, what we think is most important now. Sometimes when I wake up ideas like this come to my mind, but often it just develops and shapes throughout the course of a year. We define how can we change the present and the future.
The largest obstacles we face are just funding, nothing else. Well, ok, human resources in a way as well. Experience that I have is that most of the people don’t take their work serious here, or artists perhaps. Young artists. It’s more like having fun than working and thinking theoretically. And that is why we are so fucked up in Georgia I think. And also the engagement, for example, we have participated in some workshops and projects which were on urban space, on the transformation of urban spaces – most problematic thing for me is that organizations are finding funding and just doing it for the sake of I don’t know what. It doesn’t have impact for me, no visible impact. The most important part of urban art is engagement of the local communities. And I have not seen that yet. But maybe we in Georgia don’t have experience in that.
We dont want funding for the text based art, I am against funding street art. But the other projects which art participatory projects, that’s where funding is needed. More curated projects with architects, urbanists and art historians. Such projects should be a tool to bring society something.
There is a problem that most of the people dont know, are are not close to new art, for most people public art is the golden statue of saint giorgi on freedom square. That is why iare Pekhit’s projectGiorgi Makhradze’s art was destroyed. Because hey just dont really understand. Or for example the bycicle on rose revolution square, today I passed by and part of the pedal is broken. Because people dont really understand the meanings. Contemporary art is a way of thinking. The professionals and artists should try to bring this information to people, it’s a new and different way of thinking. If you think you dont have an agression and you wont destroy anything and you would think about changing future, present and even past. So, that’s also a problem, to bring meanings and definitions.
The most thing that I hate is paperwork. You need to do this to get funding or go somewhere, but I am not an accountant who likes this. Other things we need to do is research and get inspiration: thinking, drinking. But sometimes when I drink I cant work. Well, you know, it’s like more, I cant describe it. I don’t have systematized working schedules. Sometimes its spontaneous, but if there’s a deadline it’s much more organized.
What we would need, what I would like is exchange of knowledge. Human resources: clever people who have experience in this field. And seminars, workshops, etc. Intensive, and not just once per year. To exchange ideas and knowledge and experience.
I dont need media exposure. I usually refuse it.
With the text based work I also dont want to discus it, afterward, it’s like a game we’re playing. It’s out of my hands when it’s finished.
For projects such as Rethinking the City we could use people who are more experienced, even artists. Invite artists and speakers – we are organizers and curators – and what we would need is people who experience in these kind of projects. If we wouldnt need any support we would be great.
It would be great of someone would support our trip around the world for inspiration, but what we really need is education, knowledge.
We are also in need of how to find funding, I am not so good at that, fundraising.
Here in Georgia, similar initatives are GeoAir for example, or Iare Pekhit, but Iare Pekhit is more about public art and not about art with communities, etc. CCA, the what is cool is that there is a new direction, before the master course is a 9 month informal master program with installations etc etc, but now inclusive mediation is part. Each student has to do a roject with inclusive groups, an artistic project. Thats a great iniative, these are young artists that really have to get out of the white cube.
In Georgia, what is contemporary art, according to the ministry of culture, its funny. You can go to the museums and you are in a time machine, you go back to the 50ies for example. This year, Venice Beniel (I could not understand this, Mariam) on architectural, they could not find anyone, but they sent a group of fashion designers. And that does not make sense, that’s like asking me to do accounting. But it happened because on the jury were people from certain institutions that still live in soviet times. They didnt rethink the way they were doing. Why in Georgia dont we have the museum for contemporary art, why is it not established by the ministry of culture?
But I have a new attitude. Everything is so much, so destroyed. And we can not really erase it, for exaple the new building that is being build behind us. So why not make everything worse? As we cant erase it, we can at least make it worse.
Pooling resources to me means bringing together peoples minds from different backgrounds and create more and deeper and diverse projects.
Mutual support is a definition that does not exist in Georgia. Why is there an art scene in georgia, of 5 different groups, that then don’t cooperate. Maybe it’s the Georgian Ego. Last January we tried a collaboration of groups working in urban problematics: guerilla gardening, iare pekhit, tiflis hamkari, etc. First try failed. Now are only 4 or 5 organizations left that decided to work together, and last protest at the sulfur baths was organized. But I don’t know. It is impossible to work together. Someone always has different ideas or different thoughts, and discussion doesn’t exist here. Everybody just goes with their direction and doesn’t want to share the ideas. Maybe also, you know, it is an issue of time, experience. It may also be fear. It is often communication problems.
When you are struggling and you have the same aim, you have to leave your ego behind. We can have different background, different ideas, when you have a difficult situation as we have here in Georgia now, in every field, why should you not collaborate and work together?