XVII CENTURY FRIDGE, 2022 is a site-specific installation comprising three standalone pieces that are conceptually interwoven through their temporal, spatial and societal significance. The site, with its particular characteristics, and the three elements housed within it combine to contextualize the ideas of shared spaces as places of utility, adaptation of function, and the importance of historical and environmental preservation.
The notion of locality is instrumental, since the piece is rooted in the context of the city of Tbilisi as a place inhabited by people whose lives are directly impacted and molded by changes in their surroundings that are brought on over time and informed by social, economic, and political factors. The site chosen for the piece echoes the continuous transformation the city has undergone resulting from the transient demands of society and commerce.
Carrfur. Illuminated acrylic storefront sign. 2022
Visible in some of the earliest cartographic depictions of the city, Lado Gudiashvili Square (as it has been known since 1988) has assumed various names and adopted new functions with remarkable flexibility over the centuries. The underground space that houses the installation is located at this centuries-old, continuously utilized public square – a site of gathering and exchange. Recent reconstruction works carried out at the square have unearthed structures of archaeological significance that date back to the 17th century. The purpose of these structures is confirmed to have been for the storage of produce and other perishable goods in cool conditions – a sort of 17th-century refrigerator.
The exhibition title has been informed by the archaeological find with which the installation components share the space. The modern term “fridge” denotes an artifact from a time when technology identified today with the concept of cooling for preservation did not exist and is thus intended to provoke contemplation of the concept of time. The installation invites viewers to reflect upon the juxtaposition of the old, the new, and the yet unknown. The installation is comprised of three pieces, each addressing the idea of shared spaces, public gatherings, historical context, and the socio-economic drivers that bring people together in specific locations, but do not necessarily unite them. The objects exhibited hold individual temporal values, and are linked together through their original purposes – all of them pertaining to public gathering or use.
Cherry on top.A decommissioned portable toilet that houses a holographic representation of a embryo clutching a petrol canister. 2022
A portable toilet that houses a holographic representation of a embryo clutching a petrol canister is, by design, the first and last object to be encountered at the exhibition. A place out in the open, bared to the public, the portable toilet is simultaneously an intimate and utilitarian space, designated for the most basic of human needs. Our existence hinges on basic biological requirements, amongst which reproduction is principal. Placement of the representation of an embryo within an exposed and at the same time private location evokes a sense of vulnerability that stems from its inherent significance. The petrol canister in the hands of the embryo calls attention to our devastating dependence on fossil fuels fed by a culture of consumption that is threatening to bring the proliferation of life on earth to an end. The hologram represents an as-yet unrealized future, in both subject matter and medium. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the notion of a hologram was envisioned as an integral part of technologically advanced societies and as such, was prevalent in pop cultural depictions of futuristic cities. The contemporary manifestation of this technology falls significantly short of past expectations. Much like the medium used to produce it, the embryo is a symbol of the pending future, whose successful consummation is far from certain.
The illuminated acrylic storefront sign spelling out “Carrfur” (in reference to one of the major supermarket chains in the country) is perched atop a XVII century structure. This piece precipitates the likely appropriation of a centuries-old monument for commercial purposes, reflecting on prevailing tendencies to disregard the historical and cultural significance of various sites throughout the country. The sign and its placement emblemize commercialization, and tie in with the commentary on the perils of consumerism embodied in the petrol canister depicted in the piece opposite. The idea of people gathering, crowding, and using a shared space is a significant aspect of this work, since it represents a modern-day equivalent of a bustling public square teeming with commercial activity. Perhaps, after all, becoming another convenience store is the logical, albeit regrettable, future prospect for this archaeologically significant location. This piece urges contemplation of who has and who should have the power to dictate the trajectory of urban development and, consequently, the evolution of daily life in any particular location.
Head Office. A deconstructed found object in the form of a Lenin bust created in 1981 from epoxy glue and PVC, a metal frame, wasp hives, and snail shells gathered in Abkhazia at the outbreak of the war in the 1990s. 2022
The final piece in the installation is a found object in the form of a monumental deconstructed and reassembled papier-mâché bust of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The bust was created as a prop to be used during a visit by the General Secretary of the Communist Party to a public celebration of the 60th anniversary of Georgia’s incorporation into the Soviet Union. It was reused two years later, in 1983, during a public celebration of the bicentennial of the Treaty of Georgievsk on Republic Square, amidst the concrete arches locally known as Andropov’s Ears. Although originally intended as the representation of a significant historical figure, its purpose negated its substance and rendered it a multi-use disposable object, entirely forgotten by the city’s population. The current dramatic reconfiguration of the image retains only echoes of its past meaning, and nature has laid claim to the structure as wasps build nests and snails roam all over its surface. Clear parallels can be drawn between the bust being featured prominently at mandatory mass gatherings in public squares, and the daily congregations in supermarkets of people who are driven by the need to feed their consumerist dependences.