In the month of August 2019, four of the eight artists of the art
collective ANNASTATE, including myself, were part of an art
residency in Georgia called Aqtushetii.
We met at the airport in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in the middle of the night where we continued our journey to the mountain area, Tusheti. We were in the car for about seven hours. Three hours to the mountains and then four hours on small mountain roads to Omalo, the village where Aqtushetii residency is located. The trip to Omalo was phenomenal, the views, the nature but especially the beautiful mountains! All jeeps that drove through the mountains were driven by experienced drivers who had been driving these mountain roads for years. Omalo is 3000 km above sea level, and this was noticeable: the first few days I suffered from severe headaches and every now and then a bloody nose due to the height difference. This didn't stop me from doing anything, because to wake up every morning in such a beautiful setting, you forget all your aches and pains. Aqtushetii is surrounded by mountains.
We soon met all the other residents, about 15 other musicians and artists. All of them wonderful people with their own vision, all from other countries. For example, there were artists from Ukraine, Australia, Denmark, America and a number from Georgia itself.
For me it was very beneficial that so many other people were present for the idea that I had in mind. We did not know whether other residents would be present.
The energy that prevailed in the residency was very inspiring. All artists came together for breakfast, lunch and dinner and in the time between the dishes everybody was working hard on all kind of projects. In the grant application I announced that I would like to work with photos and video for my project. I have therefore focused on this. The first week I mainly worked in the darkroom, here I learned how to shoot, develop and print analogue photos. I am very excited to work on my projects with this new skill. During the residency I worked on a series of analog black and white photos.
Title of my work:
მშენებლობა - Mshenebloba (building site)
During the trip to the residence I paid much attention to the moments where the "structure" of the environment was broken. Just as I focus on this in the Netherlands, I looked at the various construction sites during the journey. Places where people work on the streets attract me as an artist.
In my artistic practice there is often material from the construction. The site-specific installations that I have built in the past executed by craftsman are only temporary. In Georgia I looked at my art practice differently. I thought in advance that there would probably be no building material. As mentioned in the grant application, I wanted to use the power of the people themselves.
I was inspired by various compositions from the building industry such as building fences, foundations, screw stamps and wooden struts. My idea was to let all artists and other locals take physical positions based on these constructions. I took analogue photos of these different compositions.
To communicate this idea to all artists and attendees, I already photographed the places that I had in mind. I developed these photos in the darkroom and after I drew the compositions of the people on the photographs. This was a great communication tool for the Georgians, because many people didn't speak English. The four final ideas were implemented in a few days.
The photos were highly respected by everyone, especially the people from Georgia themselves. Several things were said about it and many people interpreted the photos as the power of Georgia and its people. For example, it was seen as standing strong together and building the new future of the country together. During the residency I immersed myself in the history of Georgia and it became increasingly clear to me why the photographs were seen as a representation of the power of the people. It is a proud folk who have had to fight a lot to preserve the country, Georgia. Parts of Georgia are still being suppressed by Russia.
After about a week and a half, I and Alexander, a young man from Bosnia, came up with the idea of organizing an exhibition where the works of all artists could be "exhibited". Quickly we ran into a beautiful concrete building that had been empty for a very long time. After we had explained our idea to the people of the village, we were allowed to use this building for the exhibition. The property was renamed by us into a gallery called CICA "Center for International and Contemporary Art Tushetii". With an enormous amount of energy, Alexander and I started our cooperation as director and curator. We visited all the artists and discussed all the possibilities for the exhibition that we named "Now is the right time to say wow". All artists eventually took part in the exhibition with their work! The building was cleaned by all of us and a nice collaboration between all artists ensued. After all my and Alexander's studio visits, the whole image of the exhibition became increasingly clear. As a graphic designer, Alexander designed all the posters that we subsequently distributed throughout the village. We made nameplates and placed them next to all the works of the artists. The Georgian attitude, which is nice and taking its time, was present when the visitors arrived and we were still hanging up the last works. All this ultimately went smoothly, the spaces were full of people! The visitors were both tourists and residents of the village of Omalo. There was an enormous strong and enthusiastic atmosphere and everyone was satisfied but especially surprised: a gallery 3000 meters above sea level, and probably the only one in the mountains! It was a very nice and educational experience and Aqtushetii, the residency, wants to continue to use the space in the future.
Aqtushetii was a great experience. The conversations and meetings have made me a lot wiser as a person and as an artist. My goal is to visit a few times a year other countrys. As an artist it broadens your horizons and I can recommend it to everyone!