8 Questions Journey Into Georgian Contemporary Art
by Diego Pillon
One of the most amazing thing we love living in London is the bunch of opportunities you have if you want to learn a bit more about our world, being London much more than only a multicultural city, but a hub for everyone willing to show off themself and also for who’s looking to broaden his mind. RichMix is one of our fav places in order to experience world music, new approaches and let’s say “wild” experiences.
A couple of months ago we popped in to learn a bit more about Georgian contemporary art through the “Heritage” exhibition organised by Dash Art. That’s how Diego and I met Levan Mindiashvili, artist & curator born in Georgia but currently living in New York, and Tato Akhalkatsishvili, Georgian artist still living in Georgia.
Read our interview to Levan here and scroll down to reach Tato’s!
1) Considering yourself a curator, which is the meaning of the “Heritage” exhibition?
The initial idea of the project HERITAGE was to analyze the phenomena of “Heritage” itself.
Artists had complete freedom to choose any aspect of it, though already being familiar with their work, I could envision two main fields explored: historical heritage intertwined with personal memories or stories and biological, almost genetic one.
Since early 90’s, alike any post-soviet country, a main concern of Georgian society has been re-defining and re-constructing its own historical identity. The reference for these attempts are always idealized ancient history and mythological “traditions”, but never a recent past or current experiences. With this project we wanted to trigger a critical approach to those mythologies and also, to analyze events and social constructions in which we were born and formed as persons.
2) With the eyes of a designer, could you describe your project UtaLevan?
UtaLevan started as a creative duo (together with Georgian born, New York Based artist Uta Bekaia) to merge our experiences in different fields: visual arts, performance and fashion. We both are very much interested in interdisciplinary projects, where all the possible mediums are used as tools to create a one whole. We create projects, that exist in various forms: as a performance, installation, video, limited edition of prints and objects or even a T-shirt.
Generally, we both are working on our own projects separately, but sometimes, there is an idea that requires the knowledge and forces of both of us, and that’s when UtaLevan comes on stage.
3) As a painter, why did you say that when you are abroad your works are even more reflecting your origin? And which is the difference from who is staying?
First thing you do when you appear in an environment (society or country) which is new or different for your, you start asking yourself some questions: who you are, where do you come from and how can you be related to them; what differs or makes you similar to them. Trying to find answers to these questions was almost a non-stop process for me when I moved to Buenos Aires and all my works (mainly performances) of that time were related to them. That’s actually how the idea of “Heritage” was born and that’s where its roots come from. For me it was very helpful and I can say even ‘vital’ to take the distance from my country, culture and society, to see and analyse lot of things more clearly and precisely.
4) As an artist, do you think that developing skills in different artistic areas will be the direction where contemporary art is going?
I think we – as artists – live in a very advantageous but at the same time challenging time: today, when it’s almost impossible to define what IS art and what IS NOT, when absolutely any practice can be presented AS ART, depending the context in which it is shown, it seems almost impossible to define what would be the future of art or how it would look like in nearest decade or so. Blurred frontiers between disciplines help artists to easily browse and switch between them and we got less strictly defined ‘painting’, sculpture’ or ‘drawing’. But at the same time there is a big number of artists interested in so cold ‘traditional’ disciplines and consciously and purposely developing their artistic practices within those limits.
5) Considering yourself just a human being, why did you say that if you refuse your past, you can not be part of your future, so you will not develop and grown? I really like this concept, and I hope you’ll explain us better.
I mentioned that concept during our artist talk regarding the actual state of contemporary society in Georgia; after Soviet Union was collapsed and Georgia became an independent country aspiring western values and models, we immediately erased (or pretended to do so) recent 70 years of Soviet past. There were attempts to demolish any visual traces of that period. Main concern was to make things ‘look like’ new, ‘western’, ‘European’ or whatever their idea of ‘western’ and of ‘European’ was. That’s what I was referring to: without deeper critical analyzes, without working for changes in mentality, approaches and value systems, only superficial ‘visual’ changes would never bring any results. By just ignoring the past, without trying to find problems and resolving them, one can’t start building a new life, new society or new country.
Our 3 questions to Tato Akhalkatsishvili
1) How did you find out that you wanted to be an artist? I think that Georgia that time wasn’t really open to arts. Or do you think it was more than today?
I’m painting since I remember myself, from very early childhood. Though I think very inspiring and encouraging, was the fact that my grandfather was working with glass and his studio was a magic world for me, all the materials and tools I was seeing were guiding me to a completely different, fascinating world. I even never questioned myself what I would become, but I knew I will be an artist.
2) The situation you were describing at Rich Mix, saying that you were feeling frustrated since, after 1989, none was really reacting and everyone was living the same life as before, is really the same situation we’re seeing in Italy. Do you think it’s something culture and artists can change?
Yes I think that culture and artists can trigger changes, but first of all the country itself, I mean government, should help it too, since the only official mechanism of culture in country remains the Ministry of Culture, and this institution should start prioritizing promotion of culture and art.
3) What is the role of an artist living in Georgia in 2015 along with your experience?
For me, and it’s a very personal opinion of mine, I think that artists in post-soviet countries, should first of all try to free themselves as much as possible from all those old stereotypes. These changes would influence the public conscious in general and I think it would inspire a more open, free and alternative mode of thinking and would change the perception of reality and the world.
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