10 September 2018

Georgia is the guest of honour of the annual Frankfurt Bookfair. Naturally, there are a lot of cultural events on the topic. We reveal the highlights.

By Sylvia Meilin Weber

Wikipedia states that Georgia is located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, but the country is often called the “balcony of Europe” by its people. The German Federal Foreign Office strictly advises against all travel to the separatist Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The magazine “Geo” writes that for the Georgians, wine is sacred. You have never heard of Georgian wine, Abkhazia or the “balcony of Europe”? Hardly surprising, since for most people this country, which is only gradually recovering from a bloody civil war, is part of a great unknown. Now that’s all set to change –at least in Frankfurt, since Georgia is the guest of honour of the Frankfurter Buchmesse (Frankfurt Book Fair) in 2018, which means Georgian culture is coming to Frankfurt. We have compiled the five most exciting exhibitions and events.

1. Thea Djordjadze at Portikus

Thea Djordjadze, born 1971, is one of Georgia’s best known contemporary artists, perhaps even the best known. She studied in Tbilisi between 1988 and 1993, but had to abandon her studies due to the civil war and therefore headed for Germany, where she attended the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, graduating from Rosemarie Trockel’s master class.

Since then, the Berlin-based artist’s career has skyrocketed: She was represented at documenta (2013) and the Venice Biennale (2015), and in 2016 she had her own solo exhibition at MoMA PS1 in New York. Her trademark? Expansive installations developed specially for the relevant exhibition room. Her works hover somewhere between sculpture, architecture and design – and tend to be made from everyday materials. For her exhibition “o potio n.” at the Portikus, she uses plinths, Plexiglas boxes and a four-meter-high screen to create a new spatial artwork.

September 15 – November 11, 2018, opening: September 14, 7.00 p.m., Portikus, www.portikus.de

Thea Djordjadze, Ausstellungsansicht MOMA PS1, 2016 © Thea Djordjadze, Photo: Pablo Enriquez
Thea Djordjadze, o potio n, 2018 © Thea Djordjadze
2. The Bouillon Group at Basis

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8”, hands on forehead, hands on belly, hands on chest to the left and to the right: Six people do aerobics – or more precisely “religious aerobics”. This is the response by Georgian performance collective Bouillon Group to the rise in religious fundamentalism in their country after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The performance was previously presented at the Venice Biennale in 2013, among others. Audience participation was encouraged, and indeed will be once again when the Bouillon Group hits Frankfurt. At Basis there is an exhibition “Bouillon by Bouillon” with film documentaries about their projects, and the three live performances that make up their “Social Aerobics” trilogy will be staged during the exhibition.

Bouillon Group, Weightlifters, 2009 © Bouillon Group, Photo: Robert Mkhitarov
3. A Film by Andro Wekua at the MMK

Andro Wekua is in his early forties and has been a well-known figure in the art world since his twenties. His works are exhibited worldwide, and he is represented in the collections of the MoMA and the Saatchi Gallery. Whether paintings, sculptures, installations, collages or video art – most of his works deal with associative images and memories of his youth in Georgia. His father, a Georgian activist, was killed in 1989 by Abkhaz nationalists, and a few years later Andro Wekua went to Basel to study art. He now divides his time between Zurich and Berlin. During the book fair the MMK1 will be screening the German premier of his film “All is Fair in Dreams and War” (2018), which also plays on a childhood memory. The evening will include a literary accompaniment from Georgian poet Rati Amaglobeli.

Andro Wekua, Get out of My Room, 2006 © Sprueth Magers Photography, Photo: Till Janz
4. “Young_Georgian_Characters @ AF” Festival

An exhibition about the guest country Georgia? That would be too easy for Atelierfrankfurt. Hence the art house is staging an entire festival. This consists of two exhibitions (“Descriptions” and “The Future is Ours”), readings, book presentations and discussions, concerts and sound performances, a party, and Georgian food. “The Future is Ours” shows photographs by German and Georgian artists that address the youth cultures of the two countries, while “Descriptions” combines Georgian positions in video art that revolve around the themes of dependence and independence. Incidentally, the festival title “Young Georgian Characters” relates, on the one hand, to the young artists being presented, while on the other it is a reference to the guest country’s overriding motto – “Georgia Made by Characters” – which plays on the fact that Georgia has its own alphabet.

The Future is Ours © Sandra Stein
5. Georgian Photographic Art at the Fotografie Forum Frankfurt

In “Picture Languages. Photographic Art from Georgia”, historical images meet shots by young contemporary photographers, and renowned artists meet exciting newcomers. The show is curated by Celia Lunsford, Director of the Fotografie Forum itself. She travelled through Georgia and discovered extraordinary places and a lively photography scene. The 12 positions she has chosen include, for example, Koka Ramishvili, who co-founded the Center of Contemporary Art in Tbilisi and whose works have already been exhibited at the Tate Modern. “Picture Languages” presents two of his photo series and one still life. Mariam Sitchinava, born at the end of the 1980s, is one of Georgia’s up-and-coming talents. She became known for her sometimes mystical, sometimes romantic fashion photography, which she takes in unspoiled, natural settings.

Without Title. From the series "Delusion", 2017 © Beso Uznadze
From the series "Twin", 2016 © Mariam Sitchinava

SPECIAL TIP

Featuring several important loans from the Georgian National Museum, the show “Medea's Love and the Quest for the Golden Fleece” tells the story of one of the greatest myths of the ancient world: the story of the Greek prince Jason, who embarks on a superhuman quest with a band of heroes – the Argonauts.