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Renewed as Phoenix

Sophia Tabatadze and Salome Dumbadze


The Why Not Gallery is glad to present the show 'Renewed as Phoenix', comprised of artists Sophia Tabatadze and Salome Dumbadze. The exhibition focuses on the iconic Soviet apprenticeship building Pirimze and its surrounding neighborhood and presents two very different creative approaches to it.

Sophia Tabatadze's videos 'Pirimze' trailer and 'Pirimze' stop motion both are resultant of the artist's research that she worked on for over five years. Initially her interest was ignited by the sudden discovery that Pirimze no longer existed, when it got dismantled in 2007. The building, that once played an integral part in the city's life and provided its dwellers with all sorts of services, was on its way to transforming into a luxurious business center. The artist, deeply touched by the fact that the whole fabric of the area was being changed, set herself a task of gathering and preserving the spirit that she felt would also disappear soon. What came out of the research is a body of work bound with social and political connotations that can easily apply to the whole of modern day Georgia. When first opened in 1971, Pirimze posed as an innovative example of creating a working place for craftsmen and artisans of all sorts. During the 1980s it became a highly profitable enterprise that functioned avoiding soviet bureaucracy. After the breakdown of the Soviet Union, Pirimze's status changed from state ownership to shareholding enterprise, where workers were given total of 49% of shares. In 2003 the enterprise was declared bankrupt and part of the building was put up for an auction by the state. In 2007 the new owner of the 51% of shares evicted the craftsmen from the building promising to refurbish it and then let them come back to their workplaces. When the reconstruction started these craftsmen moved into neighboring properties thinking it would be a temporary change.

Sophia Tabatadze's video tells the story of Pirimze from the building's perspective and opens up with the shots of its reconstructed appearance. The voiceover reads text from the advertisement brochure for the Pirimze Plaza. There is a big discrepancy between the reality and what is promised in the advert. Then the video moves to the neighborhood, where new Pirimzes house refugee craftsmen. The camera scrupulously depicts these apprenticeship shops, their interiors and people, all seemingly stuck in certain sense of timelessness. There the artist aims to capture these carefully curated ecosystems comprised of personal memorabilia, working tools, kitschy cutouts. However, what can be read between the lines is the poignant feeling of wary apprehension, incongruity with the reality around and the fragility of this condition. Eponymous stop motion video documents Sophia constructing a model of Pirimze's ground floor that housed booths of the craftsmen. We hear the voiceover meticulously describing the order of these booths and what was being repaired in each of them. The action displays the artist's avid desire to reconstruct the spirit of this unique community that was her initial fascination with Pirimze. These booths can be read as the most accurate and honest symbols of the era of self-organisation and survival. 

Salome Dumbadze's installation 'Renewed as Phoenix' imagines a new logo for the building of Pirimze, where the carcass of the building has a burning phoenix trapped in it. On the both sides there are naked seductive women – a nod to one of the most striking visuals of the craftsmen's working spaces - magazine cutouts and calendars of naked women. For the artist these images are the best signifiers of the male-dominated vibe that Pirimze carried in itself. 

Salome decided to transfer this ‘new logo’ onto everyday objects that are part of Pirimze's daily workings; these are a matrass that she had tailor Darejan sewn and ceramic plates. Once, when she visited Darejan's working space in Pirimze Plaza, she caught the workers during their lunch break, eating just like Sophia had captured in her film, but now the action took place in a polished, euro-renovated new building. Hence, she decided to transfer her imagined logo onto ceramic plates and reiterate these superficial attempts to rebrand and renovate all: new logo on new plate with the same food on it…

Sophia Tabatadze (b.1977, Tbilisi) graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam from the faculty of fine arts and drawing. Her artistic practice mainly revolves around social themes and presents the artist’s well-researched, critical and often humorous approaches in various media. In 2003 the artist founded an artistic organization GeoAir that united cultural research, artistic residency and archive in itself. Tabatadze’s art has been widely exhibited both in Georgia an abroad including Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Kunstverein Goettingen, Tartu Museum, Columbia University, New York, Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, 10th International Istanbul Biennial, Die Grenze travelling exhibition, Goethe Institut. In 2007 the artist represented Georgia at the 52nd Venice Biennial of Art.

Salome Dumbadze (b.1992, Tbilisi) graduated from the Tbilisi State Academy of Fine Arts and then continued her education at the Centre of Contemporary Art Tbilisi informal masters course. The artist usually works alone, however, has collaborative projects with Qeu Mepharishvili. She works in painting and sculpture and has participated in numerous exhibitions around Tbilisi.

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