The FINANCIAL -- Art Caucasus 2007, taking place in Tbilisi, Georgia from 10-31 October is presenting a new stream of contemporary art projects; reflecting all aspects of life, changing the world around us, mirroring the native culture and historic framework of the country, viewed through the lens of 21st Century Georgia.
One of the most interesting and unusual parts of Art Caucasus, “One Stop” project was located on Rustaveli Avenue, one of the main streets of the city, forever linked with some of the most important events of Georgian modern history.
“There is not enough space for contemporary artists in Georgia. We have been facing this problem since Art Caucasus was first launched. We held the project in the trade centre the first year, and subsequent projects were also held in the trade centre. In reality there is little space to successfully maintain contemporary art projects in Tbilisi. The National Gallery, the biggest exhibition hall there is, has not been functioning for years already. Then there are just a few small galleries and art salons, which are not sufficient or adequate to carry such big projects. This problem triggered the idea of presenting the project on the street, specifically on Rustaveli Avenue,” said Nana Kirmelashvili, Director of Art Caucasus 2007.
“One Stop project was aimed at the wider public. We have a very conservative society in Georgia. It is hard to encourage them to go to galleries to observe contemporary art. We live quite comfortably in our limited world, without being open to many new experiences in our lives.
Somehow people are afraid of changing their quiet, comfortable lives for anything new or different. Contemporary art makes you think. The process of thinking already means that you are changing something- a little piece of yourself or your perception of the world around you. We didn’t want to make an official opening for the projects. The idea was to put pieces of art on the street and then see how they could communicate their ideas to people and passers-by and thus become part of the city. Images from the “Orange Evolution” project with street cleaners in orange suits, made out of card board is a nice example of how art can find its own way in the street. Nobody threw away these images when the project was over. Somebody replaced them, but they are still there. You still can see these artificial street cleaners standing next to the real people who do this job,” said Ann Riaboshenko, cofounder of TRAM (Transform Art Module) foundation, Organizer and Curator of One Stop project.
“We chose Rustaveli Avenue because we feel that the whole city is centred on this street. You get the feeling that the city itself is build around this street, repeating its shape. Somehow when the art project is held in a gallery people have to cross a certain ‘border’ to enter a different space to see the art. In this case artists were crossing borders by entering the everyday lives of ordinary people by presenting their art on the street,” added Riaboshenko.
“Art, especially contemporary art, can’t stay separate from the city, from people, from real life. We can say that there are some different standards though, there is high-quality art with a stress on high prices, which fits the market demand for art, or the demands of those in possession of huge capital. However at the same time contemporary art is for the wider public, for society. In our case, in Georgia and the region of the whole South Caucasus itself, it would be more interesting to give society the opportunity to come into contact with contemporary art, and therefore become informed about it.”
The initiative of One Stop started a year ago. Sending concrete information about the city, in particular Rustaveli Street- its images to the artists whom the organizers of the project wanted to come to Tbilisi, was the first step. All artists discovered something interesting to base their projects on. Even though they already had ideas and plans of what to do by the time of their arrival, many things were later modified and adjusted after actually coming to know the city and its peculiarities.
Part of One Stop project was WAS IST KUNST, created by Irvin group, from Lubljana, Slovenia. WAS IST KUNST (what is art) was written with the bodies of 100 soldiers on the territory of the hippodrome. The text comes from the title of a main series of works by Irvin group and one of the fundamental questions in their artistic practices as well as in the art world in general.
Irvin group together with NSK (New Slovenian ART) created the imaginary NSK state in the beginning of the ‘90s. There are already more than 3 000 NSK citizens from many different countries, bearing NSK passports. “Art society and army society are social structures that are usually at opposite ends of the social spectrum and very rarely mix. As an art state NSK has in fact some sort of parasitic relation with other, normal states and in this project this is made visible,”
said the creators of the WAS IST KUNST project. The NSK Tbilisi project was part of an ongoing project by Irvin group that started in 1998 with an installation in Tirana and was later followed by identical realizations in Prague, Zagreb, Rome, Sarajevo, and other cities. The basic action of the NSK Garda project involves 4 soldiers guarding the NSK flag, with Malevic crosses on their arm bands, standing for about an hour in some public space. But the Tbilisi project was different from what Irvin group usually does.
One of the projects of One Stop- the Parafont project responded to the boom of neo traditional fountains in Tbilisi. This project involved the installation of oil drums beside every fountain on Rustaveli Avenue, which would draw water from and depose of it into the fountains. “Parafont reflects the interconnection between the luxury that the European style fountains represent and Georgia’s position in the transference of oil from the East to the West,” said Charles Goldman, creator of Parafont. The project was a great success because it captured the attention of everybody. Some people even thought that it was some kind of filter to clean the water.
The main idea of the project by Iced Architects from Russia, involved placing a huge carpet on Freedom Square. The title of the project was Flying Carpet, in response to complicated Georgian-Russian relations. “When there are no direct Moscow-Tbilisi flights, the flying carpet is the easy way to travel,” said Iced Architects.
According to Nana Kirmelashvili, multiple organizational problems were encountered when working on the projects.
“Besides problems with a lack of gallery and museum spaces we came to realise that artists face problems even when they want to use public spaces. We had to go through a major bureaucratic machine for carrying out many of these projects. In most cases we managed to overcome this difficulty but unfortunately two projects practically failed because we weren’t given the necessary permission to carry them out,” said Kirmelashvili.
“For instance we weren’t allowed to use the Youth Palace wall to exhibit pictures. The administration of the Youth Palace must think that they own the place and can manage it any way they deem necessary. We failed to assure them that attaching pictures with double tape would not cause any damage to the building. We even offered a contract providing that in case anything happened we would be ready to reimburse damages. An artist from Italy had been working on this project for 7 days. It did not contain any severe political statement, there was nothing erotic in it, nothing to justify the strict preventative action of the youth palace administration.
The project was financed by the Italian Embassy. We had permission from Tbilisi City Hall, a request from the Italian Embassy, yet nothing would do, and because of this unreasonable prohibition the project was not realized. I think it is a serious problem and something has to be done about it. Another interesting project which was not carried out involved a projection on to the wall of Cinema House. We got all necessary permission except for permission from a single individual who was nowhere to be found, was out all the time, and therefore impossible to get hold of. These kinds of problems significantly hinder our work, but nevertheless the progress of contemporary art is irreversible. It is simply impossible to stop this process. It is just hard for some people to perceive the creations of contemporary artists as genuine art, just because they don’t see any flowers or traditional painted figures.”
One of the main concepts for One Stop project involved addressing the problem of the lack of linkage between government, businesses, society and art.
“Our main target of cooperation with The FINANCIAL is to put across an art to business structure. Step by step businesses in Georgia, together with the governmental organizations should start financing art projects, as it is happening all over the world. Georgian businesses have to realize the simple fact that being associated with international art projects like these is a good commercial and right marketing step,” said Kirmelashvili.