Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rosell Heijmen (NL), 'The Very Temporary Contemporary Museum', 2006-07

At the end of 2006 I visited Tbilisi in order to start preparations for a publication about Arts and Culture in Tbilisi, in collaboration with GeoAIR. As a guest in Goethe Institute I was invited to make an exhibition in this period. The first step was to talk to young artist about their art-practice and the possibilities to show their work, hoping to see a lot of work in the process. Soon it became clear that the only possibility to see work by young artists is through looking in a catalogue, magazine or visit the artists in their home. This was my third visit to Tbilisi and unfortunately during all of these visits, I was not able to see the works of fellow (living) artists in an exhibition context. However there are a number of very interesting initiatives, art-collectives and persons that try to change the situation and focus on developing their works. I was lucky to have met a number of artists through GeoAIR and because of a prior project in Tbilisi called 'Georgia Here We come' (with an exhibition in the National Art Center that unfortunately seized to exist) in Spring 2006, that enabled me to get some insight in the Georgian Art scene.

There are a great number of museums in Tbilisi, most of them have an exceptional collection, a beautiful building, a large staff, and a lot of free space. Next to these exhibition spaces there are a number of private owned Galleries. None of the exhibition spaces offer contemporary artist a place to experiment, because there is no focus on modern art and the actual space is to be left intact. A few of the bigger museums are being renovated. In Tbilisi renovation can mean a number of things: The national museum on Rustaveli is indeed being renovated, new walls, new floors, new light, new division. It can also mean simply closing a part of the museum and leave it unused for a long period of time. The only 'lively' exhibition spaces and spaces for workshops, lectures and discourse seem to be foreign institutes like The British Council and The Goethe Institute. However their policy is to promote and develop their specific culture, respectively United Kingdom and Germany, it is mostly artists from these countries that have a chance to work there.

There are a lot of empty buildings and a lot of empty space in the museums in the city and there are a lot of plans to realize a contemporary art-space in Tbilisi, however the buildings will probably remain empty for a long time. A lack of flexibility and willingness (support through facilities, permissions etc.) from the part of the city council, the Government and the institutions make it very difficult for the artist to follow through on developed initiatives to realize serious projects without financial means. There is a lot of concern, talk and frustration about the situation, but due to lack of financial means and difficulties in working together, a place for showing, meeting and discussing, seems to be far away. There is hardly any government support, there is practically no art-market or government assignments for contemporary artists.

In contrast to the absence of a functioning presentation space, there are a few very interesting magazines that focus on contemporary art, photography, design, fashion, music, architecture and literature called Anabechdi, Hot Chocolate, a periodical by AIRL, and Loop'A. The magazines offer alternative possibilities for artist and designers to show their work. The first three magazines are in Georgian only, which is a pity for non-Georgians to get an insight in the Georgian contemporary art-scene.

In the Goethe Institute I wanted to show this situation and make a work in-situ. I ended up showing and feeling the situation, by experiencing some difficulties involving making an exhibition. Together with Lado Darakhvelidze and Giorgi Tabatadze I work on an installation based on the reality for artist to develop their art-practice and the lack of exhibition space. We divided the space in a classical museum space and two small museums. The classical space showed pictures of the interiors, taken in all the major museums and other art-spaces in Tbilisi. In the two small spaces Lado Darakhvelidze and Giorgi Tabatadze made a translation of their exhibition possibilities, they showed their work as it actually can be seen; in their house. By making this exhibition I was confronted with the Georgian reality. Until this time I did not actually understand what it is to deal with bureaucracy and hierarchy. The coarse of action is different, you need a different mind-frame to realize an exhibition especially in a short time frame. Even in the German Goethe Institute flexibility and support was hard to find. In order to get something done, even small things, heaven and earth were to be moved. The invitation to make this exhibition was there, but it seemed like an actual interest and commitment to realize this exhibition was absent. After having started to build the exhibition it became clear that the institute's interest was in a formal exhibition, framed pictures an occasional sculpture, no sound, no work, no fuss, nothing exceptional. With a small budget, a good concept an actual space, and a cooperating staff one should be able to work magic. With a good concept, an actual space, a small budget, and an unwilling director, everything works a lot slower and takes a lot of energy, creative process stops right there.

At the same time, Tbilisi art-scene is interested and interesting.
Whenever there is a exhibition or an action, there is a large group of visitors, big interest by the media and a lively discourse. For me this goes to show that the so much desired contemporary art space is of utmost importance for visitors and artists and it will work. With this potential and a lot of work remained unseen, it's not obvious why this space doesn't already exist, one could imagine that an unused building, made available by the city council, could easily be transformed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Jasper van der Made

In February-March 2006 Jasper van der Made (NL) stayed in Tbilisi. During his stay he made the work Coca-Colonization which was shown in the Gallery Didi in Tbilisi.