"Georgia Here We Come"

"Georgia Here We Come"

From the 2nd until the 24th of March 2006 eight artist and two documentary makers went to Tbilisi, Georgia for Part I of "Georgia Here We Come", a project by Enough Room for Space (ERforS) and Expodium (NL). By giving eight Georgian artists the opportunity to come to the Netherlands (later on this year) they wanted to avoid a one-way approach and turned cultural colonialism into cultural exchange. Part I in Tbilisi, Georgia was supervised by ERforS. Expodium will organise Part II in Utrecht, the Netherlands. A call for participation was spread out and published in several media. ERforS wanted to establish diversity in the group by selecting artists with different attitudes and modes of operation.

After the Rose-revolution in 2003, the new Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili called back his fellow country-men, who fled Georgia in the past decades, to come and help rebuild the once prosperous and wealthy country into a modern western democracy. We decided to respond to this call as well and see for our selves how a new democracy was being introduced or rather implanted and what the side-effects are of such an enormous political and sociological shift.

"Right in front of our eyes, the biggest protests since the Rose-revolution are taking place. The NAC/National Art Center, our home-base, is the last remainder of a huge complex, called the "House of the Painters", which housed galleries, artists studios and other cultural activities. It was burned and destroyed by all fighting parties in the civil war for it's strategic position right in front of the Parliament. The smell of revolution is present on every street corner. The eyes of people reflect fear and hunger. The memory is still from yesterday. The ruins are slowly beeing covered by modern garbage from the west; left overs from the fast-food generation, thrown carelessly over the fence. A 50 meter long repetitive print of the new Georgian flag is blocking the view from this apocalyptic view. Filming in the backyard of the NAC in the direction of the Parliament is therefor strictly forbidden. As a security measure, but also to prevent this image from reaching the outer world. Only after two weeks we are informed that the roof of the Parliament is being occupied by snipers. I guess we were lucky..."

The welcome was overwhelming. Thanks to the terrific organisation of GEO-AIR (Sopo Tabatadze and Freya van Dien) who acted as our hosts in Tbilisi, the project was present and alive in the Georgian art world and media from day one. The combination of traditional hospitality and genuine interest and curiosity towards the whole group, made us feel very welcome. The network of people involved and interested in the project grew day-by-day and culminated into an overcrowded final presentation and exhibition of works developed during the residency period.The lack of activities and foreign visitors drew many people towards the NAC/National Art Center where the project took place. But our continuous efforts to infiltrate Georgian society and investigate the recent changes being carried out, was a big help as well.We all gave lectures at the art academy in Tbilisi and David Djindjikhachvili and Krzysztof Wegiel, the two documentary makers organized a one-minute film workshop. With the assistance of participating artist Stefaan Dheedene, they made 21 short films, based on the Sandberg One-Minutes.

Several works are still being developed or initiated an ongoing commitment and involvement with Georgia or Georgian artists. Rosell Heijmen from Suze May Sho is working on a publication about Georgia and the changes it is undergoing. She is conducting research that already made her go back to Georgia and will keep her in close contact for a long time to come. Teike Asselbergs from Orgacom organized the Tbilisi Initiative Award, giving her working budged to the best proposal to start an artist initiative in Tbilisi. She is now assisting Mental Hybrid (Georgi Tabatadze, Tornike Chapodze, Giorgi Doborjginidze, Irakli Svanidze) with the development and execution of their winning proposal. Marjolijn Dijkman and Maarten Vanden Eynde are working together with the director of the Georgian National Museum, David Lordkipanidze, on a presentation and continuation of their works developed in Tbilisi. The common interest in "The Preservation of the Future", a search for authenticity, made their works come together. They are currently looking for the possibility to create a book in combination with a presentation of the modern history and archeology of Georgian society, in collaboration with Elke Roelant, a photographer who is now conducting research for two months at the Ethnographic Museum near Tbilisi.

For all participants the residence period has proven to be very inspiring and influential. Although three weeks time was very short, it generated enough energy en contacts to last for years. We are all looking forward for Part II, when the Georgian artists are coming to the Netherlands (from the 15th of August until the 15th of September 2006). At the end of the year, the whole project "Georgia Here we Come" will be presented in TENT. Rotterdam.Enough Room for Space functions as an International Spacestation, stimulating the creation of physical, virtual and mental space by initiating events, research- and residency projects world wide.

Maarten van den Eynde

July 2006

For more information about the project check out the following website: www.enoughroomforspace.org, or go directly to the documentary web-page.