MTVS The Borderization edition, The Gdansk Shakespeare Theater - 2015
In collaboration with Onno Dirker, Nadia Tsulukidze, Mike Georgeson, Willy Fournier
For the Borderization edition, MTVS turns its attention to the complex question of borders and their shifting contours in the present. The fixed borderline is highly problematic in many parts of the world. To delineate a territory through the inscription of lines in a landscape automatically signals a gesture of appropriation of land and resources. This gesture can result in the violent disruption, displacement and even erasure of the culture, history and livelihood that are tied to that land by its human and non-human inhabitants. While such instances exemplify forms of imperialism and power struggles between nation-states, in our everyday experiences we all have border issues that often escalate into family disputes and neighborly quarrels. Such micro instances of borderizations can lead to the formation of ideological boundaries within a community that are articulated in terms of us and them, mine and yours, theirs and ours.
The rise over the last several decades of a free market that extends and operates across borders has further complicated these dynamics. While the neoliberal market appears unhampered and free to extend into ever-new territories, its activities and logic have resulted in an unprecedented move toward privatization within the borders of nation-states. Many activities of transnational corporations within national boundaries result in forced evacuations, land grabs, and undesired displacements of the locals. Finally, the level of appropriation and instrumentalization of natural resources that we have now reached on a global scale has placed an unprecedented strain on ecological systems, the repercussions of which directly effect borders and the peoples that live within them.
In order to begin to map these complex questions regarding borders and boderization in the present, MTVS Gdansk focuses on man-created ecological disasters and their ramifications on border issues in Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains where Darakhvelidze grew up and where his family still owns a plot of land. At present, the Georgian government together with foreign investors, mostly from Korea, Turkey and India, are planning to construct several large dams, reservoirs and power-plants throughout the Northwestern mountainous region. The building of the Khudoni Reservoir nestled in the mountains up the river from Darakhvelidze home village was begun in 1985. Construction continues despite warning from geologists about the high sensitivity of the area to flooding and earthquakes that have the potential of wiping out the villages below should the dam crack.
This region is also home to the indigenous Svan minority who have their own language, culture and customary laws by which land is transferred from one generation to the next. Whereas the local infrastructure is lacking on all levels, and crucially in terms of reliable sources of electricity, the energy produced by these dams will be owned by the international investors and sold to foreign countries.
Through research that takes the forms of interviews with locals, including members of his own family, Darakhvelidze has begun to expose the various forms of conceiving, managing, and contesting ownership of land within this area. Disputes within the artist’s family regarding their respective plots have arisen due to the fact that many agreements were never written down on paper. Needless to say, verbal agreements and ancestral contracts are irrelevant to the bureaucratic reality of the Georgian government. Indeed, the Georgian ministries of forestry and natural resources are unclear as to the ownership of the land even as they proceed to draw-up new agreements with foreign investors that will concede land to them in the form of 35 year loans.
MTVS experiments with journalistic procedures for the research and presentation of its art-broadcasts. Collaborations, interviews, live-stream talks, art installations, theatre, and music are all used to communicate stories. Visuals take the form of small drawings produced during interviews as well as paintings. Borrowing from structural anthropological techniques, the drawings are co-produced by the interviewees who jot down lines, shapes and words that serve as visual aids as narratives unfold. What emerges is a bird’s-eye-view, similar to a map. Yet in these cartographies the lines lack precision, reflecting rather a spontaneity and emotional investment in the image of a contested territory that emerges in the process.
The paintings also creatively play with covert dynamics or details in stories. In one painting, a small grey building is dwarfed by the bright architectural structure of a stadium. The building is identified in the story of Nadia Tsulukidze as the house to which her Armenian family was forced to move into after the October Revolution. From then on, the once wealthy merchants lived in two rooms and shared living quarters with Georgian families. The tensions between these families only increased during the privatization process. However, as the painting makes clear, the frustrations and squabbles of the building’s inhabitants as to the partitioning of its interior spaces are of little interest to the municipal government who has big plans for the entire area, plans that would most likely see the demolition of this relic from a bygone era.
Taking the border issues of the small village in the Caucasian mountains as a starting point, MTVS moves outward and connects remote instances of borderizations, family feuds, land claims, and environmental crisis through the stories of collaborators and guests. Approaching the question of borders from a personal, ecological, political, and economic perspective, MTVS draws a map that relates and contrasts the question of borders in Georgia, the Netherlands, in Mig’ Maq land claims in Eastern Canada, and in Poland.
Russian acts of moving border markers further into Georgian territory in recent months has again altered the location of the so-called “border” with the Russian-occupied breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russia’s encroachment into Georgia points to how the previously well-defined lines between the states of peace and war have become blurred. Within this landscape it is imperative to reflect on the physical and non-physical operations of borderizations. The Gdansk edition of MTVS aims to construct a topology that sets into relief the various manifestations and conceptions of borders in the present
Made possible with the supprt of the Georgian Ministry of Culture