‘I BELIEVE ONE CAN DEVELOP ANYWHERE GIVEN THEY WANT TO,BUT THE WAVELENGTH YOU DECIDE TO STAY ON DEPENDS ON YOU’-Elene Rakviashvili
Elene Rakviashvili’s performance commissioned by cARTveli Foundation was brought to London, first showing at the Georgian Christmas Fair and then at the White Cube, Mayfair.
Elene Rakviashvili, trained painter, works on performances, video art, photography, installation and public art. Based in Georgia, the focus of her art is the society and themes having a particular significance locally. Georgia is inexhaustible source of inspiration for the artist and according to her the environment is so complex, diverse and exciting she would never move to other countries. Elene has a very peculiar attitude towards life seeing all the obstacles and disadvantages as the challenges and actually key to her successful career in art. The first happening was also born out of the desperate reality of the 90s Tbilisi engulfed in fear of the ambiguous future. People exiting the underground (one of the few places having electricity) were taken by surprise seeing the brightly lit street with the images shining on the walls. Driven by the intense desire to cheer and give hope to the confused, disoriented and depressed mass, Elene was personally greeting everyone exiting the underground. More than 10 years after the first performance the artist jokes some of her friends still expect her to stop fooling around and start painting.
Academically trained, Elene has managed to escape its daunting restrictions and find herself as a performance artist. Instead of limiting her the artist says it has helped a lot when working in multimedia especially in terms of composition, teaching the discipline and accuracy, making her perceptive and diligent. Elene closely observes her surroundings and picks up on the most problematic issues. Her art revolves around the social themes, questions about identity, gender and tradition. Seeing the potential of art to change the whole epoch and the standpoint of the whole society, Elene fully understands the importance of its engagement with social questions. Disapproving the non-existent spirit of togetherness in the creative circles, the artist also does not like the local indifferent audience, who was way more receiving and participating in 90s.
Her art always draws parallels with the European values with the aim of resurfacing some of the most problematic aspects of Georgian mentality. She works and thinks a lot about broad concepts such as Georgian national identity, as well as specific historical events. The artist masterly incorporates the distinctive nature of Georgia, being at the crossroads of Asian and European cultures. In order to grasp the roots of some of the most perpetuating stereotypes and perceptions, she often time-travels with her art.
In the performance My effort to follow the footprints Elene in the national costume, hesitantly approaches the Qvevri, traditional wine making vessel, and tries to squeeze into one of them. In the process she takes off the clothes in order to accomplish the impossible task. Taking off the dress she is left in a plain, monochrome costume- faceless, uniform and boring compared to the national dress. Trying to somehow adjust the Qvevri, she breaks it. Then hugging the fragments she tries to get the pieces together. Finally comes the realisation- it is impossible to squeeze through the Qvevri or mend what has been broken. Regretting, with her head down, she ends the performance. It is quite characteristic for the Georgian society to incorporate the foreign habits into its environment flatly. It looks as forced, unnatural and illogical as trying to fit into a piece of pottery. The allegory of Qvevri is a clever choice, because usually very traditional and very distinctively Georgian customs go through these modifications. ‘The influence of the dominating countries has always been present in Georgia. However, a lot of things get lost in attempt to Europeanize the society- traditions, self-awareness, identity’- remarks the artist.
Ironically, Elene Rakviashvili belongs to the small group of Georgian artists who manage to maintain their distinctiveness and at the same time correspond to the European trends and developments in art; and this is so organic, not a bit is forced.
The performance was brought to London by the non-profit foundation ‘cARTveli'. The collective of Ekaterina Moniava, Elizabeth Chachkhiani and Tereza Kandelaki want to promote the Georgian contemporary art abroad. A product of their inexhaustible enthusiasm, it is a series of pop up shows concentrating on some of the most exciting names.