Ratcha is a remote region of Northern Georgia, situated between Svanetia and South Ossetia.
It takes about 6 hours from Tbilisi to get there on a marshrutka filled with people, watermelons, bathroom tiles, a 21″ television and other goods impossible to buy up in the mountains.
Our final destination is the village of Chkvishi where the Arteli Ratcha residency is situated. The village is spread out on a hill overlooking the valley, a truly stunning location. It’s quite big and though most villagers have emigrated to cities, it comes alive in the summer when children and grandchildren are up for a holiday. In the winter the village is cut off by snow.
Arteli Ratcha foundation has held workshops and events there with Georgian and international contemporary artists since 2005. The main aim of the foundation is to bring cultural life to the Ratcha region where it is otherwise limited, educate young people about contemporary art and engage with local audiences.
Kote Jincharadze’s house, where Arteli Ratcha is based, built by his great grandfather at the end of the 19th century, hasn’t changed much for the last 100 years except for the addition of running water and a modern bathroom.
We spent the two days walking around the village, getting invited to supras and sampling local wine, collecting blackberries and thinking about ideas for future projects in Ratcha. Our idea was a village design festival (inspired by the culture of re-using and recycling everpresent in the village), Kote suggested a scarecrow competition and exhibition. We also helped to start off Kote’s new public art project in the village (he has already done a mural by a public table where he painted what the villagers asked him to) – paiting a wall of stones in different colours. The project will be continued by all the artists who visit Ratcha in the next few months.
In the evenings we watched films by Mikheil Kobakhidze, Kartlos Khotivari as well as Repentance by Tengiz Abuladze about persecution of artists in the Stalinist period.
We spent today in Tbilisi, visiting Rusiko Oat at her New Art Cafe. This turned out to be a great opportunity to accidentally meet people that we’d intended to get in touch with anyway.
Ana Riaboshenko from TRAM (Transform Art Module) spoke to us about their projects in Tbilisi and the regions. She also told us about her work at Open Society Georgia Foundation.
Magda Guruli, curator of Artisterium, arts manager at and editor of Loop’A international art magazine, spoke to us about the upcoming Artisterium event in October and the Emergency Biennale – a touring exhibition dedicated to Chechnya which makes its 12th stop in Tbilisi.
Wato Tsereteli – artist and teacher at the Academy talked about his work, his plans for opening a small contemporary art centre in Tbilisi and art education in Georgia after the move to the Bologna system in HE.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around in Tbilisi’s gorgeous old town before heading back to Kote’s to watch some early films by Otar Iosseliani.
Tomorrow, off to Ratcha.
Got to Tbilisi on a marshrutka and went straight to a meeting with Sophia Tabatadze – a Dutch-educated Georgian artist living in Berlin. Sophia showed us around her house that is currently being extended by an extra floor to host GeoAIR – a residency programme for international curators, organisations and artists interested in making connections in the South Caucasus. Situated in central Tbilisi it will certainly be a great base for exploring the arts scene in the region.
We then met Nana Kirmelashvili for a coffee. Nana is a curator and one of initiators of Caucasus Biennale and chair of Association Art Caucasus. She told us about and her current projects including curating the Georgian exhibition for this year’s Prague biennale.
In the afternoon we visited Mamuka Japharidze‘s place in a village outside Tbilisi, with impressive views over the city. Mamuka and his British partner’s new house was also built with the purpose of hosting artists, but in a more informal way without a formal residency programme or institutional structure. Mamuka also showed us some his work.
We then got a lift to Kote Jacharidze’s flat where we spent the evening with him and his friend Kote Sulaberidze, looking at their work, watching Georgian video art and learning about the famous Georgian toasting traditions.
Yesterday the Austrian artists presented their projects: mostly conceptual and site-specific installations and performances. The well-attended presentation was followed by a party with a Georgian buffet, a roast lamb, plenty local wine and obviously Georgian music and a bonfire.
Another event took place at the Art Villa today: L’Expédition Cycloscope‘s i.e. Helene and Fred’s amazing performance which involved silent movies projected using power generated by a bicycle and a live musical accompaniment on Clarinet and Accordian.
We helped with documenting both events.
Tomorrow we are off to Tbilisi for a couple of days to work on our research and meet people, then on to the Ratcha region to visit Arteli Ratcha residency run by artist Kote Jincharadze.
So we are at Art Villa Garikula, in the village of Akhalkalaki, near Kaspi in the Shida Kartli region, about one hour drive from Tbilisi.
The landscape around is amazing and so is the house itself, built by Polish engineer and architect Bolgarski in 1885. After the bolshevik revolution the house was used as an orphanage,a rabbit shed and army base, now it hosts a contemporary art centre, founded and run by artist Karaman Kutateladze.
There are lots of other people around: a group of Austrian artists working on their projects for Festinova International Festival of Contemporary Art that Garikula is hosting in October, L’Expédition Cycloscope – a French couple of bicycle travellers who also run bicycle powered film shows, and several Garikula staff.
Almost every day there are visitors from Tbilisi: artists, curators, friends of friends…every corner of the house and its massive garden is full of people working, chatting, eating and drinking.
We decide to explore the area, get used to being in one place for a few days and start working on our project when the others are finished.