ARTMargins Online Blog

GeoAir Project “Undergo. The Parallels.”

Events like Geoair's project "undergo. The Parallels" that took place in Tbilisi, Georgia, in 2012 from the 24th of May till the 3rd of June, were indeed focused on overcoming the Soviet times understanding of public space through different events that may help in shifting citizens' perception of public space they live in. Also shifted public spaces function through artistic or social activities. Project's "Spaces" curator Nini Palavandishvili focused her attention on parallel, invisible world of urban lives: Tbilisi Subways, where she invited all of us to undergo through the informational and artistic interpretation of Tbilisi, with its contemporary problems and joys. This was the start of the journey.

The themes of the events were planned in very easy, playful and interactive way. One of the main goals was to find: the ways of social communication with pedestrians and involve them in an ongoing event and to make communication easy among citizens of Tbilisi. Different ways were used for communication: verbal-narrative (Michal Moravčík - One day heroes, Romana Schmalisch - Back on Screen), verbal dialogue (Andrea Schneemeier - Collecting Fears – The Temporary Office of Anxiety, Jonathan Karkut Julie Scott Torange Khonsari - High Tea). The last one was extremely effective in the aspect of collecting the social information and creating social fears mosaic. Nuka Megrelishvili's work "Movement" (Tbilisi, Heroes square subway) was also socially active. This work narrates of Hero's squares subway everyday lives; images are pasted like visual applications on subway's walls. Virtual rumors and stories about Tbilisi subways are here visualized and you can see the fragments of the unfinished moments: two teenagers are running through it, but you can see only the legs of both of them. There is also the visual replica of a thief with a torch. You can also meet a mother and a child moving downstairs, etc. All those visual fragments are scattered about the subway and all of them look organically in this surrounding. A lot of personal emotions are concentrated in this space of subway. The children are suddenly stopped at the beginning of the subway tunnel as if they are in the beginning of a new world's exploration. There is an invalid figure in a carriage who was drawn as if he has no chance to move upstairs and it is true, invalid people's problems are partly ignored in our city. Neither in Soviet Union, nor in our society standards of public space have been modified for this layer of society. Such, social intervention of art in public space delicately reminds you about some main problems. To emphasize social problems is one of the main value of art generally and in public space particularly.

Project "Spaces" besides social subjects was trying to find links between contemporary and soviet period Tbilisi. There were two works which presented this idea. Curator, Nini Palavandishvili herself involved the third historical block by choosing those subways where in the late 80's of the 20th century Georgian artists made first historical public events. All past public activities (By Oleg Timchenko, Niko Tsetskhladze, Davit Chikhladze "Margo Korablevas performance theatre", Mamuka Japaridze, and Koka Ramoshvili etc.) were displayed on the monitors beside ongoing projects and participated in re-thinking of public space. Apart from old videos, several contemporary artists successfully projected past of the soviet city. For example Irina Kurtishvili and Andreas M. Kaufmann in their project "Between Yesterday and Tomorrow" projected in the passage underground inside the Baratashvili Bridge historical photographs that originate from the private archive in Tbilisi. "This photographic material has been rhythmically mounted on the graffiti-covered walls of the pedestrian crossing of the said bridge and thematizes its nearly one-hundred-year history in fulfilling an urban function. Connotative memories are invoked and earlier misapperceptions might become evident and either rectified or validated. In any case, it is an invitation to join a trip into the controversial history of this visionary bridgework and its changing utilization. The visionary architecture of this structure has even planed one exhibition space for art, which actually lasted in this function only for a little while.

The second part of the project consists of a single slide installation mounted in the passage underground, which opens up to the current governmental palace and the Freedom-Place. The slide depicts the former steel bridge called Mukhrani. Metaphorically, former Mukhrani Bridge inside the new bridge construction establishes symbolic ties with the past, present and an intended future. Though the Past and the Future seem untouched, the respective present and its attendant interests have misappropriated them throughout history almost without exception: constructions, reconstructions and deconstructions notwithstanding. In the projection space this mechanism is becoming an experience, as the slide installation is coercing the viewer to move between glare and recognition, image-construction and image-deconstruction, the latter with attributes of "fragmentation", "distortion" and "overlapping". And maybe one finds that the image is changing constantly depending on his position in the space and the direction of the gaze. Eventually this might lead to the cognition that everything we are going to see is basically dependent on our motivation and interests."

Studio Basar's projects idea – Passage X seems similar to Baratashvili bridge project at the first glance. In Kostava st. subway Studio Basar intended to reanimate Tbilisi's past and makes a projection of it by displaying old TV fragments with Soviet Tbilisi or putting into artificially made wooden construction space (modelled gallery) architectural plans of Tbilisi copied from the private archives of the architects. This wooden artificial construction in the Kostava street subway had a dual function of contemporary gallery and of transition space. No one knew what this space's future will be alike and this is important in such projects, ability to finish the story that was started by the artist.

Temporary character of contemporary public art or social events in the frame of projects "Spaces" is also acceptable and important. Even a very democratic idea, being too long projected in public space through visual forms risks to turn into aggressive ideology, while throwing bright stars and fixing them on subways walls (Agnieszka Pokrywka - The Night of Shooting Stars) only helps the society to be more open. The artist tried to make all the participants wishes come true and invited all pedestrians to participate.

At the first glance "Red carpet" copied from Oscar ceremonies (Natalie Nebieridze) has as playful, joyful and positive messages as shooting stars project, but common for them is orientation on temporary moments. While your dreams come true in Rose Revolution subway, "Red Carpet" in subway nearby Opera House reminds you who you are, where you come from and these Oscar Winners and other participants of this ceremony "Red Carpet" becomes kitsch in our reality and we all become a part of this kitsch space. Why not?! Being a kitsch is an experience too. We all know that all those social or other roles suggested by artists are temporary events and undergoing those circumstances we are re-thinking ourselves and our space as well.

Above all, many of those projects started ideas, stories etc. but they are not responsible for the ending of the story they started in the city. Public space actors and city itself are main participants who through those projects creating final local stories or helping many actions provoked by the artists find their endings. In the "Red Carpets" case this was a musician, who had been playing in this subway for 15 years and for whom this carpet was something he deserved, for some of them this musician himself became a part of a kitsch. Such art intervention always helps to gather diverse social landscape together.

Project "Spaces" lightened this hidden, unknown Tbilisi that has always been living in the subways and never contacted the city itself. The process of permanent changing spaces from subway to streets and from streets to subways was extremely interesting for a guest, because every space with different artistic projects demanded from you diverse decisions. Different artists from different countries suggesting different cultural visions, problems and ways of solution make you re-think your own cultural borders or even push you to soften those borders. Albert Einstein influenced Ludwig Kittinger and Fernando Mesquita who cleaned the window in the Rose Revolution square subway. Their idea was to put one step back to go forward and to overcome the illusion that past, present and future are parted and untidy window as the imaginary border among those time categories was something like a barrier.

In the frame of project "Spaces Undergo the Parallels" were a lot of moments in public space and public art as a matter of borders and re-thinking , matter of barriers and overcoming them. Here is this root of democracy and this is the way how public art can react on democracy and how former totalitarian country citizens are able to re-think this more or less unknown form of responsibility towards each other, unknown form of cooperation and unknown form of patience and tolerance.

Project "Spaces" was the most large-scaled public art event that has ever taken place in Tbilisi. So it is obvious that for us it's impossible to talk about all projects. We just tried to figure out the main conceptual lines of this project and our subjective point of view about meaning of such activities.

Project "Spaces" and Georgian side curator Nini Palavandishvili managed to fulfill all that which is so important for democratization of the space itself. Artists, who were selected for this project, have searched and found the space to express their wishes, ideas and attitudes openly; they gave an example of being open to many others. Democratic can be every space that is ready for your free expression, re-thinking and re-modeling of them. Democratization process of living space can be a good beginning for making our society more open through public art that comes with positive messages.

Tamta-Tamara Shavgulidze
Author: Tamta-Tamara ShavgulidzeWebsite: Georgia
Tamta Shavgulidze focuses on contemporary art issues, and is especially interested in shifting cultural and art forms in the South Caucasian region. She is also interested in Georgian art and culture modernization. Every year, she interviews Georgian artists, curators, art critics to gain the inner view of local processes. She is a PhD candidate at the Tbilisi State Academy of Art Program in Contemporary Art History, and the founder of the New Knowledge Laboratory, a non-governmental, contemporary art and culture research organization. She is the recipient of the Presidential Grant for Young Scientists for her research project "History and sociocultural function of Georgian Sculpture." She has authored 15 publications in different art magazines since 2001.

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