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Tbilisi, Kuhlo

Overall, I've been to Georgia three times. The first time was in 2015 when my wonderful friend, Lia Gulua, connected me with the Center of Contemporary Art in Tbilisi. Lia is Georgian herself but has been living in Austria since birth. During this visit, I painted the entire facade of the CCA Tbilisi with my motifs, communicating outward in that way. I had an interesting conversation with Wato Tsereteli, the co-founder of the space, regarding the elitist approach to contemporary art. He mentioned that Georgians perceive the Center of Contemporary Art as a sort of spaceship, particularly emphasized by the brightly lit door standing open, resembling a spaceship but not inviting people to enter. This often happens with contemporary art in transitional countries and elsewhere, where it can seem alienating. In the summer of 2016, I was invited to Georgia by Bacha Khoperia. I was supposed to paint in a mountain village called "Khulo" as part of a festival aiming to bring art to extraordinary places. Khulo is located in the autonomous region of Adjara. A several-hour drive over partially poorly maintained roads led us to this remote location. In the village, I discovered a huge red wall that hadn't been painted for decades, giving it an interesting patina. For me, it was the perfect wall to paint my "pile of Soviet artifacts," a large-scale work composed of dozens of artifacts from the Soviet era piled up like a giant heap of trash. I intended it to symbolize overcoming the Soviet era. However, Georgia still has an explosive relationship with Russia, which resulted in a war, and Georgians fear for their independence. After getting permission to paint, I had a man standing by me the whole time, whom I couldn't understand but who was clearly unhappy. Unfortunately, we didn't share a common language. I felt like he disliked my motif. Finally, Bacha showed up and explained to me that the man was unhappy because the wall hadn't been improved or painted beforehand. Ironically, I found this imperfect wall from another time particularly intriguing. During my third visit in 2017, I participated in the "Fabrikaffitti" festival. The festival was founded by Bacha Khopeira and takes place in and around a huge factory hall called "Fabrika," which has been transformed into a large gathering place featuring galleries, studios, hostels, restaurants, and bars. This place holds great significance for artists and creatives because it provides a space for creative processes in a country still threatened by conservative forces. Lastly, I want to mention the incredibly delicious food in Georgia and the hospitality associated with it.

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