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apexart :: Illegal Kosmonavtika :: Magda Guruli and Mariam Natroshvili
apexart - Tbilisi, Georgia
Illegal Kosmonavtika
organized by Magda Guruli
and Mariam Natroshvili

June 24 - July 22, 2017

The Institute of Space Structures
Saguramo, Georgia (outside of Tbilisi)
11 am - 6 pm daily

Opening Reception:
Saturday, June 24, 6-8 pm

Featuring work by:
Zura Jishkariani
Mariam Natroshvili and Detu Jincharadze
Iliko Zautashvili
Mamuka Japharidze
Group Bouillon
Giorgi Maghradze
Ana and Tamar Chaduneli

An Open Call exhibition.

brochure pdf
book pdf
press release in English pdf
press release in Georgian pdf
images page
original proposal pdf
Georgia Today review
Agenda listing pdf
INDIGO review pdf
CStudio, Cannel I TV interview

Saturday, July 1, 2017, 5 pm
Everything you need to know about Guerilla Gardening
This three-part workshop covers the importance of Guerilla Gardening in urban spaces, how to make seed-bombs, and a hands-on gardening project.

Saturday, July 8, 2017, 5 pm
Lectures on the Self and Society
Tamar Tsopurashvili presents "The Society as a System" and Gocha Goshadze presents "Personality and emergency situations."

Saturday, July 15, 2017, 5 pm
The first Georgian space object - Reflector
Elguja Medzmariashvili discusses Soviet space technology, the modern means of deep space communication, and the history of construction of the first Georgian space object named Reflector.
The phrase Illegal Kosmonavtika was coined by the Georgian musician and writer Zura Jishkariani and used as the title of his 2008 text, which discussed the post-Soviet generation: "There are many of us, the unavailable customers, the anonymous constructors of daily life, both happy and bored. We have different professions and sleep in different poses. We have unique life experiences and imaginations... the Illegal Kosmonavtika has to start with the absolute, universal, albeit secret denial of officially recognized political and ontological realities."

The project Illegal Kosmonavtika reflects on the Soviet past and the post-Soviet present and poses an important question: what kinds of survival skills should be cultivated to survive if the current systems also fail" The exhibition features site-specific works, showcased within the decommissioned building of the Institute of Space Structures, by artists from several generations ? artists who lived under the pressures of Socialist Realism as well as a younger generation that found itself pinned between leftist ideas and modern critiques of capitalism. Further, the exhibition delves into the subject via a series of workshops aimed at cultivating a new "Illegal Kosmonavt" " an individual with rudimentary skills for survival.

The Institute of Space Structures, currently under the jurisdiction of the Georgian Technical University, is a true participant in the Illegal Kosmonavtika exhibition. Its history starts in 1979. As most buildings of the military-industrial architectural heritage of the Soviet Union, the institute is undergoing a complex process of re-defining its function in the post-totalitarian present. The architecture and location of the building are greatly influenced by the Soviet military programs" principles: the function of the building is hard to define and there is no settlement close to it. The only well-publicized state-run event that has taken place in the Institute in recent history was the launch of the first ? and last ? Georgian space object named "Reflector" into orbit in 1999. Today, the Institute is one of the rare Soviet buildings with well-maintained architecture and interior that may not be responsive to the current socio-political challenges, but often appears as a silent artifact of disturbed landscape.

In his statement about the installation G.V.E.C. (Google Voice for Existential Communications), Jishkariani explains: "A telephone is a very intimate and mysterious object for me. Once in my childhood, during the war, landline phone cables got damaged in the streets of Sokhumi. As a result, while talking on the phone, one could have heard noisy sounds of many voices talking simultaneously. Those noisy echoes were similar to the cosmic sounds of my imagination. The installation is my attempt to replicate those sonic effects under different circumstances." G.V.E.C. is a table with an old 1990s button phone on it. Anyone who picks up the phone will hear a greeting from a robotic voice with further instructions on how to use the buttons. For example, the button zero connects the listener with a chatbot created by Jishkariani, who explores futuristic interaction models in his work. The work is based on his childhood war memories and aims to subvert methods of conventional communication, which may entail wars, forceful displacements, and other disasters. In his words: "It is mesmerizing to have a phone to hear winter, planets, and a robot talking to you about loneliness and everyday revolutions."

As a sculptor, Giorgi Maghradze is interested in how a variation of materials can produce meaning. Mind the Gap is an installation comprised of a number of signs affixed to iron poles. The space created by the poles, placed in a cross-like shape in the exhibition hall, can host other works of the project. The signs invented by the artist are mostly abstract, or to some degree related to restrictions and commands enclosed in the Illegal Kosmonavtika concept, targeting various state and corporate entities that own exclusive rights to space research or other kinds of provocative activities. The work also alludes to the significance of the universal language of signs and symbols, which are crucial to navigating modern life. The signs are produced in a DIY mode in the artist"s house. He uses textolite, which is a basic material in printed circuit boards (PCB) production. The signs, drawn by the textolite onto a surface, are then processed by special chemicals. According to Maghradze, the handmade PCBs with changed meanings reflect the element of "illegality" in the project.

Protest Aerobics is the second work in Group Bouillon's performance series. There are various movements associated with a particular experience imprinted in body memory. The group collects habitual body movements connected with social rituals. When put together and repeated many times, the movement exposes the unseen characteristics of those rituals. The first work, performed only by the group members titled Religious Aerobics, was shown in the Georgian Pavilion in Venice in 2013. Religious Aerobics showed just how mechanical the process of worshiping can be. Protest Aerobics will start with a 5-day workshop where the artists will teach volunteers to perform together at the opening of the Illegal Kosmonavtika exhibition. The performance will be recorded and displayed in the exhibition space. The interest of the group in Protest Aerobics is to find out how the collective idea of a protest works on a performative level, and whether the specific discontent expressed in a protest"s subject influences its choreography in any way. Also, according to the artists, the mastering of protest movements can be simply useful knowledge.

Iliko Zautashvili's installation Minutes Before the Collapse is a critical reflection on the system within which he once lived. Two red Soviet-made gas containers will be placed in a black hand-cart filled with coal, several mechanical metronomes will make repetitive, even clicking sounds, and a small analog TV screen will display black and white noise. The work is an allusion to the circumstances behind the Soviet space programs. Slave labor, the forced "sameness" imposed over society, and non-stop propaganda were behind many significant achievements of the Soviet cosmos-related military. However, no matter how advanced the space programs were, a hand-cart requiring one"s body sweat in order to move was the object that best described the true nature of the USSR. This calls to mind a local joke of the Cold War period: the West was alarmed by new Soviet missiles being placed in a portable suitcase launcher, until they learned the Soviets weren"t even able to produce suitcases in the first place.

Behind the Institute of Space Structures there remains, from Soviet times, a long iron vine pergola. Small vineyards were often placed close to factories in Georgia, as an attempt to make specific surroundings more human and inhabitable. In his performance Alconauts, Mamuka Japharidze uses the old rusty pergola for his work. Around 70 meters of white fabric symbolizing a tablecloth will be placed along the path of the pergola, with wine and some village food at both ends. Two people from the nearby Saguramo Village will stand at the ends of the "table" and shout toasts to each other to start the performance, then volunteers from the audience will be invited to join in and propose new toasts. The performance will be recorded and displayed in the exhibition space. The work is Japharidze"s comment on long-distance communications and represents one of the rituals in Georgian culture " socialization through wine and the exchange of spontaneous toasts.

In their work It"s your Journey, We are Here to Assist, Ana and Tamar Chaduneli explore the influence advertising has on society. There was no advertising in the USSR, only propaganda promoting socially-relevant and utopian ideals of an almost perfect life. This propaganda showed how life should be, or will be; but not how it really was. The techniques of propaganda transformed to fit the times but the desire to control remains unchanged. Nowadays in Georgia, propaganda has been replaced by advertisements that manipulate one"s wishes and promote consumerist interests. The artists use the language of advertising, but replace the imagery. In the exhibition space, viewers will see ad-like imagery, but that imagery says nothing to them.

For Mariam Natroshvili and Detu Jincharadze, making site-specific "ghost" museums is an attempt to search for and archive disappearing knowledge and factual information. The Museum of Unidentified Files is the fourth project of the ghost-museum series, after The Museum of Superstitions (2013), The Museum of News (2014), and The Museum of Red Winds (2015). The Museum of Unidentified Files gathers casually found or researched materials, personal diaries, cosmos-related propaganda posters, civil defense educational imagery, and even fragments of works by other artists. One personal item, The Autobiography Before my Birth by the Georgian photographer Guram Tsibakhashvili, is a black-and-white photo found within a family album, dated before 1960, the date of his birth. The photograph is blown-up and manually printed on a photo canvas of Soviet production. The Museum interprets the Soviet past through the most important constituent of the Soviet utopia - the conquest of space, the greatest Soviet myth of spreading communism not only across the earth but throughout the galaxy.

Magda Guruli and Mariam Natroshvili © 2017
Franchise Program Winner 2016-17

Magda Guruli is a Tbilisi-based curator of contemporary art. Since 2008, she has organized Artisterium, an annual International Contemporary Art Exhibition in Tbilisi. Other exhibitions Guruli has curated include: Atmosphere 41 Degree, NCCA, Moscow (2006), Atmosphere 41 Degree, City, parallel exhibition of the 10th Istanbul Biennale, (2007), Journey to Tbilisi, Fine Art Museum of Nantes (2008), and Go East! Next Step, Bialystok, Poland (2010). She has participated in a number of conferences, workshops, and symposiums in Turkey, Ireland, South Korea, Poland, Mexico, Sweden, Italy, Greece, and Germany. She is interested in participatory art and transnational processes in post-totalitarian society.

Mariam Natroshvili is a Tbilisi-based artist and curator. Since 2012, Natroshvili has worked in collaboration with artist and architect Detu Jintcharadze. Working mainly in public and abandoned spaces in her artistic and curatorial projects, she brings art to unexpected places, questioning the possibility of a different future. She is interested in post-soviet mythology, disappearing knowledge, invisible people, forgotten places, and the recreation of vanished memories. In 2016, Natroshvili is curating Fest i Nova 2016: Future Memory in Garikula, Central Georgia. She is also a co-founder and editor of the art newspaper Revolver.

apexart's programs are supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Buhl Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., William Talbott Hillman Foundation, Affirmation Arts Fund, the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, the Fifth Floor Foundation, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
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