Levani's Room: AMERICA (“I STAND AT THE window of this great house [...] as night falls. The night that is leading me to the most terrible morning of my life. I have a drink in my hand, there is a bottle at my elbow. I watch my reflection in the darkening gleam of the window pane. My reflection is tall, perhaps rather like an arrow, my blond hair gleams. My face is like a face you have seen many times. […] My ancestors conquered a continent, pushing across death-laden plains, until they came to an ocean which faced away from Europe into the darker past.”), 2020
Installation view at The Immigrant Artist Biennial, EFA Project Space, NYC. September 9 - October 24, 2020.
Excerpt from James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room" transferred on translucent chiffon, outdoor string lights cord, LED black light bulbs, hanging hardware. Curtain: 12 x 14 3/4 feet, String Lights: 48 feet, bulbs 24, Overall dimension 12 x 14 x 2.5 feet.
Referencing James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” (1956) – a seminal book in the history of queer literature, it is a love story between two men, that begins and ends in a rented room. Within this space, David -a white American - tells his story all the while looking at a reflection of himself in the window.
As the opening paragraph makes it clear, the book is as much about the denial of the right to love, as it is about race, colonial history and guilt, class inequality, and privilege. “Giovanni’s Room” is also the first queer story I read in which I could relate to the protagonist’s fears, and to the personal struggle with imposed cultural structures. After my journey in Argentina first, and now in New York, where I can finally claim a room in Bushwick as my home, I start to tell my story of becoming, told through the reflections of my culture, history, and experiences. A real-size print of my room on a sheer fabric will become the setting for most of the presentations - “Rooms,” that will entail exhibitions, performances, podcast, communal dinners, and raves. It will culminate in an all-encompassing artist book and an online archive.
The first iteration, “Home” held at Spring/Break NY, explores the sense of belonging and community, and the role of Brooklyn’s underground rave culture in my inclusion of New York’s creative scene. Playfully titled “HOME EP,” a set of 15 “tracks” depict architectural details of my apartment along with the logos of underground venues and clubs, parties, and mailing lists, flyers, and other memorabilia.
The soundscape of this installation, co-curated with Arthur Kozlovski, features sets from the raves that had significant importance for me, along with specially created ones. "Home" also marks the first iteration of our ongoing collaboration that brings together traditional art-making and underground rave culture and explores the new ways of presenting them in different contexts. Among contributed artists are (in alphabetical order): Bouffant Bouffant, The Carry Nation, ChadKid, Double Body, Arturo Kozlov, DJ Leeon, Manu Miran, Punshukunshu, Xiorro, Wrecked (The list will be updated daily).
Specially designed wristband will grant access to the visitors of the fair to BASEMENT NY on Fiday night, March 6th.
*The artist would like to extend a very special Thank You to Eriola Pira for her help in developing the overall concept of “Levani’s Room.”
2019 Marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the start of the new, globalized world history. 2019 also marks another 30th anniversary - of April 9th of 1989 - when the anti-Soviet demonstration on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi, was dispersed by the Soviet Army, resulting in 21 deaths and hundreds of injuries. That day marked the tormented and painful process of independence of Georgia and the formation of its democratic republic. These two events once again remind us that in today's globalized world, it is impossible to separate private from the global and how personal is intricately interconnected with political and vice versa.
"89.19" is a non-linear timeline that doesn't aim to analyze or comment on those political events directly, nor on the three decades that separate them from us. It situates the viewer in the most recent "now" of Georgia (and indirectly of every "new" emerging scene), that is so enthusiastically accepted and labeled as "das Neue Berlin" of eastern Europe for its thriving night-life, unapologetic fashion and emerging contemporary art scene. Responding to the exhausted western methods of cultural labeling, "89.19" outlines the socio-political context of the current cultural revival of Georgia, and particularly the role of dance as a form of political activism. If we agree on the initial concept of "culture" "as an agent for change [...] as a navigation tool to steer social evolution towards a universal human condition" (Zygmunt Bauman "Culture in a Liquid Modern World") undoubtedly we have to credit the early years of Cafe Gallery and later on, nightclubs Bassiani, and Khidi, for bringing together previously dispersed social groups together, for creating a safe space for self-expression, and a community based on acceptance and diversity. "89.19" also questions the idea of history as one solid, mainstream narrative, and instead proposes a fluid construct that can be re-arranged, re-constructed, and re-interpreted on a very personal level.
Structurally "89.19" is formed by three parts: first seven pieces are the archives of 1989: the numbers refer to the dates of the events and the iconic archival images. The second part also contains seven pieces: German article labeling Tbilisi as new Berlin, the time when Georgian government raided Tbilisi's clubs that actually only exposed their influence and role for the society, and architectural renderings of the clubs themselves. The third part consists of numbers, referencing to the most recent political turmoils in the country this summer, ironically outlining the cyclical nature of our history.
“I Should Have Kissed You Longer” explores the mechanisms of construction of the national cultural identities and spans between the language, architecture and the thriving nightlife of Tbilisi. An immersive, modular metal structure transforms the entire booth into a performative setting with a DJ table in it. At the same time it contains and holds all the artworks, offering a self- contained display system. The soundscape for the installation is a debut album “Self” (released by Kingdoms) of Sophia Saze - a Georgian born, Brooklyn based DJ and producer. She combined the fragments of her childhood sounds with down-tempo beats and created a very intimate soundtrack of her personal journey.
This installation is based on a painting “If You Lived Here You’d Be Home Now” (2016), the first one from the ongoing blackboard series. The same detail is repeated in three different physical representations - woven textile, mirrored plexiglass, and hydrocal tile. The yellow neon stands for "Here" in my native Georgian language. The rest of the painting became source material for six accompanying “hyperlinks” in the liquid mirror. As the work deals with the contemporary condition of constant flux and fluidity, the work itself has changed during the run of the biennial.
My solo presentation at NADA, takes the point of departure the oeuvre of LA-based Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader, and mainly his last piece titled “In Search of The Miraculous” (1975) in which Ader attempted to sail across the Atlantic on his way to the upcoming show in Groningen. The discovery of his boat 10 months later and disappearance of his body, inevitably fueled already existing longing for erasure of the border between art and life, endured by the fact that Ader’s conceptually rigorous oeuvre was deeply invested in its seeming antithesis: Romanticism, and for him, the authenticity of the work of art lay not in representing philosophical concepts, but in embodying them. In works presented here, I explore conditions, in which despite the ever-growing complexity of our everyday reality, our perception of the world is reduced to the single digital image: ephemeral and temporal, moderated and conditioned either by us - ourselves or by technology and algorithms. If pigmented hydrocal tiles attempt to grasp ultimate physicality of the digital image, my hand painted mirror “Studies of Impossible Image” become the point of encounter of the work and it’s surrounding - not depicting it, nor dissolving in it, but the synthesis of these two.