In September 2015, Curator Elene Abashidze and artist Gio Sumbadze, both Georgian, sat down in Tbilisi, in the Republic of Georgia, to discuss Gio’s work in relation to acceleration, ecology and the Soviet Union.
Elene Abashidze: Gio, you mentioned acceleration.
Gio Sumbadze: True, I was saying that, in terms of technological production, acceleration does not make much sense. It is of no need on a daily basis. Nor is it needed in disciplines such as graphic design, electronic music production, or other sciences connected to technology.
If we speak about graphic design, for instance, or special effects, or video game production, we create using an older version of a computer in the same way as we do with one that has the newest update.
To speak of the social economy in the first place, acceleration negatively affects human beings as well as natural recourses. In order to build a computer, one needs to mine for the requisite precious materials. This also affects human nature, making one more competitive and rationally active, creating an imbalance between the rational and spiritual natures of human beings. This creates a society of competition.
Unfortunately, I can’t deny the importance of competition within a society, as it remains as one of the core drives for it to grow. It is indeed necessary, to some extent, but the truth is that, at this point, the tempo is rather fast.
Abashidze: As a former citizen of the former Soviet Union, would you say that the society of competition has become far more radical than it was during the USSR? Do you think that, without this competitive nature, society wouldn’t grow?
Sumbadze: This is a subject for a longer conversation. To be short, during that era, maybe the society only grew spiritually, but still the progressive society lived within a utopia and its development is strongly connected to its gaze at “Western” culture. At the same time, it was a society of the repressed--the dissident society.
Maybe human relationships, like friendship, were better because of a less competitive environment, but I can’t say that the USSR would create a “better human” in the same way that I can’t say it would create a better ecology, or a better sociological ecology. The USSR is another pole that is radically different from the one we speak of at the moment. You can’t choose in-between, or say the totalitarian system of the USSR was any better than today’s capitalism.
Abashidze: So you wouldn’t blame capitalism for the ecological issues today?
Sumbadze: No. I think this is not a question of a political system as such, as it is a question of balance within any given system. There are certain regulations that need to be introduced within any society.
In terms of an artist’s position among these issues, I guess firstly it should embrace the protection of ecological systems. For example, when speaking of the materials an artist uses, staying in solidarity with nature can be a step forward.
Abashidze: What kind of materials do you use?
Sumbdze: Myself, I do not take into consideration using exclusively ecologically friendly materials. This is a compromise that I take for the position’s sake. I use the materials that are around me, the ones that are at hand. This is an integral part of my practice. I believe, as an artist, that I am a part of the whole in the same way; the materials I use are parts of the same context.
Abashidze: What is the idea behind your decision—how do the materials you use influence your practice?
Sumbadze: I believe I am a part of the context I research. In fact, I am a part of the consumer society, too. Sadly, I cannot allow myself to be as radical as to wholly withdraw from the consumer society. I wish I could live in the woods and produce my own food, electricity, and live in a commune. To have a system on your own and a network of people living and thinking like you—this is an interesting position on its own. I guess such a living project today would be art practice in itself.
GIO SUMBADZE is a member of the Tbilisi art collective Goslab and founder of the Urban Research Lab (URL), a Tbilisi-based platform of artists, architects and photographers. URL produces an on-going archive documenting the repurposing of Soviet infrastructure and studying its relationship to the erosion of the Marxist ideology. Based on his architectural research in Tbilisi Gio Sumbadze developed the kamikaze loggia as the form of the Pavilion of Georgia at the 2013 Venice Biennale.Elene Abashidze
ELENE ABASHIDZE is an independent curator based in Tbilisi, Georgia. Selected projects include : 2014 - Same, Same with Jesse Darling and Takeshi Shiomitsu, CAC 41/41N, Batumi, Georgia; 2013 - Meeting point - the Kitchen Archaeology, Hotel Ces't la vie, London, UK; 2011 - The Fragment of Time which is not recorded, CCA-Tbilisi. Words: 2015 - Dear Chris - an interview with Chris Kraus for theoryandpractice.ru, 2011 - TBS, an artist book by Gio Sumbadze, 2011 - Danarti, CCA-Tbilisi.