Monday, May 29, 2006

Notes from participants of 'Georgia Here We Come'

Freya’s notes of conversations with people who took part in the ERforS project: ‘Georgia He We Come’ in March 2006.

- The stay in Georgia especially taught me a lot about myself. You realise that things that are normal to you do originate somewhere specific.
- Dutch people think in steps and are used to planning. Georgians are interested in that but are constantly confronted with changes in society and then planning seems in vain. Architects would really like to work the way people work in the Netherlands. They miss the planning and targeted way of working. I think a lack of knowledge amongst the teachers contributes to this problem.
- There is a will but not yet a way and there is a lot of energy in people but they are sceptic and they are often laconic about their own actions and live from day to day.
- The typical Dutch design, which is completely integrated in society doesn’t work in Georgia. In Georgia you notice a negative reaction to design that reminds them of Russian design from during the communist era. ‘Western design is en vogue’
- Men dance together like Moroccan men.
- Georgians have black humour.
- Sometimes apartment buildings are finished only by casco and the inhabitants give their personal input to the rest of the house including the front and rear façade.
- It could be that you are sharper when you are there for a short time because then you don’t have the time to get annoyed by things.
- I know people are disillusioned asking themselves: what can we do or change and what will be the effect? They are used to not having anything and they are on the edge of the world and it is hard to get out because of visa regulations and money issues.
- I found it very valuable that we had access to the art community and the right people and they to us.
- On a social level it was valuable to hang out around the table and then, when the power goes out, you improvise. We played guitar, people sang, it was romantic.
You get to know people and meet them on the street. Projects grew out of conversations.
- What was interesting about being in this different world was to see what art can mean in this situation and you see that it can take a whole different shape.
What I saw that there was less institutional pressure determining the topics people work with, like you sometimes feel in the Netherlands. It is off the ‘cultural map’ that is being made by cultures who have more means to exchange. Specific stuff I saw was artists making connections between performance and art and using their cultural identity in their work in a very conscious manner.

Teike Asselbergs from Orgacom

For an artist that mostly realises work based on peoples narratives about their organisation or group it is difficult enough to get into another culture an realise a project within the time-frame of less than 3 weeks. It was however a new experience for me to additionally find myself in a country and city where both the language and letters were totally unfamiliar to me and where English is spoken by only by a few.

The first few days (I arrived a couple of days late into the project) I spend catching up, seeing the touristic sights the others had photographed the days before. I wondered what to do. My first idea was to produce some new types of souvenirs, but later I realised this idea came only to my mind because I had been involved in a workshop about this topic the week before, in Istanbul. The best of this and of any other recidency is to meet interresting new people. In this regard this recidency was extremely rewarding. The real luxery of this recidency is that there are people to translate both language and culture-wise, what is happening and what is said by people living in Tbilisi. Some recidencies are luxurious in other ways, but the visit can be made just as well by anybody on their own account. I think it is safe to say there is no way, except maybe if you master Russian, that one could find those interresting people relevant to specific ways of working - let alone speak to them - in Georgia, without the help of GEO-AIR.

Another luxery of the recidency is the Georgian Food! I now know where to word 'georgious' stems from. It was good to share dinners with the other participants of the recidency and the Tbilisi people that were part of our various projects and make sense of all new impressions together. It was usefull to share thoughts on projects because they progressed faster and in relation to eachother.

Because I live partly in Turkey I want to get to know artists in the bordering countries. I found out I have lovely neighbours. Nadia and Sopo also visited me back in Istanbul. Who can say that of their host-residency? Spin-off of this visit is that the three of us will participate in the biennual Sinopale in Turkey during the summer of 2006.

Although initially the drive for me to commit to the Enough-room-for-space project for me was the possibility to start networking in Georgia, as the days progressed I wanted to join the frantic production fever more and more and produce some art work in the space. The good thing about the Enough-room-for-space project is that it is open enough not to stear things to much in one direction, but energetic enough to made me want to produce something.

Since Orgacom artist-initiative has plenty of experience in combining content with organisation and the momentum in Tbilisi is now towards setting up new art initiatives (something which is also happening in Istanbul) this was something I felt strongly related to. Somehow after speaking to Elias I decided that it could be interresting to organise my meetings with Tbilisi artists around the topic of setting up artist initiatives. Therefore I allocated my art budget to a prize for the best artist-initiative concept of 2006. The lecture to the art students and artists - which was part of the Enough-room-for-space project - was very helpfull to introduce the prize-idea to my target audience.

The winner(s) use the money to realise their idea and my use of being in Tbilisi would be that all artists that intended to enter the competition could plunder my mind for international contacts and examples. This resulted in discussions about: what is the difference between an art project and an initiative? and how open or how specific should the identity/focus of an initiative be formulated?

For me the creative moment and the notion of succes is linked to collaboratively find a novel 'fit' between artistic content and models of organisation. This happened in several cases in discussions with participating artists. I will stay available to them long after my recidency to co-develop the initiatives. My intention is to visit Tbilisi again or host some Georgian artists in an art initiative space in Istanbul in which I am involved.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Georgia Here We Come, Part II, to Holland

Utrecht, 21 August - 17 September, 2006

During the 'Georgia Here We Come' project in Georgia Expodium (Bart Witte and Maaike Gouwenberg) selected Georgian artists to go to Utrecht to react to the specific cultural context in Holland and develop a site-specific project in the Netherlands.
In the second part a group of 8 Georgian artists came to Holland to work and explore. Expodium, located in Utrecht, hosted the artists and offered a workspace and a program in which the group could gather useful information for the development of the art world in Tbilisi.
In order to create a network and gather information the group did various day-trips for which Dutch artists, architects, theater producers and others have made the program. Bureau Beyond Utrecht and the Graphic Atelier Utrecht contributed by offering their spaces as a temporary work- and live space. In the public workspace at Expodiums headquarters the group worked on a database, filling this with the gathered information, as well as on an exhibition with previous work and work made in Holland.
The final presentation took place on the 10th of September, during the start of the Utrecht cultural year.

Participating Georgian artists were:

Lado Darakhvelidze
Makes installations in which he plays with the societal and political situation of a place and combines this with geographical elements of the place where the work is made.
Mamuka Samkharatze
Works mainly site specific. Coming from a fascination for eastern religion he lets his thoughts run free and translates this into big installations in exhibition spaces and in the public space. The start is an idea that will grow into a construction made like a mind map using complex figures.
Melano Sokhadze
In performances, video’s and installations Melano searches for a confrontation with the spectator. With a critical view she manages to incorporate elements from the city and its politics in her work and to play with the boundaries of art commenting on both. She plays with ‘the familiar’ in a way that the spectator is confronted with his own ‘normality’ and simplicity.
Polina Rudchik
As a theatre designer for costumes and stages Polina searches for new ways to give input to the development of theatre in Tbilisi. With an open attitude and experimental way of working the manages to give new input in traditional Tbilisian theatre. Her work sketches have an inviting quality that makes you want to go see the performance they are made for.
Luiza Laperadze
Luiza is a teacher and challenger. She likes to go out into the streets to do performances that bring some life into the city and stir things up a little. A powerful woman that cannot be set aside by any powers.
Bessa Kartlelishvili
Every day Bessa makes a few drawings about the situation in the world. Well aware of the political situation he addresses current changes on different topics from war to sports. With a big interest in art in the public domain and its boundaries he is coming to Holland to gather information that can help him to turm Tbilisi into the city he wants it to be.
Aleksandre Katsitadze
Being the only architect in the group Aleksandre might seem an outsider but his courage and curiosity towards developments in architecture are an inspiration for the whole group. He has a well-funded vision about the building developments in the city and ideas about how he can change those in order to make the city interesting architecture wise.
Giorgi Tabatadze
Is interested in all sorts of aspects of the arts world. With a critical attitude towards art as well as the political situation of this country he makes pieces with different media resulting in installations, performances and videos. Giorgi often works together with Lado Darakhvelidze.