Photography by Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk, 2018
Irina Kurtishvili originally comes from Georgia, the Caucasus region of the former Soviet Union. Since more than 20 years she has been living in Germany, currently in Berlin.
Irina researches and curates in the areas of architecture and history with an emphasis on Georgia. She collaborates primarily with artists, architects, photographs, designers, and also with university experts and competent consultants. Together with her staff, she devises exhibitions from artistic, historical, political and sociological perspectives. She designs the scenography, and produces a unique visual aesthetic for her shows.
In early 2000 Irina has established the projects for cultural developments between Germany and Georgia. She was a co-founder of Medea Film-Production-Service (2001), and from 2002 till 2008, the artistic director of the “Made in Germany” section of German films at the Tbilisi International Film Festival. Her debut exhibition “Location: Georgien”, was presented among others at the Willy-Brandt-House in Berlin (2007). In 2010 and 2013, she was curator of the retrospectives “Sergei Parajanov” and “Mikhail Kalatozov” in the Filmforum Museum Ludwig Cologne. She has curated and visualized a series of exhibitions in the context of the project “To Town its Places; to Places their History”, displayed at the Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography and at the Literature Museum, both in Tbilisi. Her most important curatorial projects include “Paul(a) Stern – Unknown Archive,” (2013)„ Hotel Orient/Haus der Künstler” (2014/2015) and „Dynasties. Parallel Perspectives“ (2018).
Irina is the author of books and contributions on architecture of the 19th/20th century in Tbilisi and independent Georgia. In 2018 she was curator of the exhibitions “Hybrid Tbilisi. Reflections on Architecture in Georgia“ (DAM, Frankfurt am Main) and “Georgia in Five Stations” (Ringturm, Vienna).
1997 Postgraduate Diploma in Audiovisual Media / Academy of Media Arts Cologne / Germany
1983 – 1989 Study of scenography, painting, film and art history at the Academy of Fine Arts / Tbilisi, Georgia
2018 GEORGIA IN FIVE STATIONS / series “Architecture at the Ringturm” / Exhibition Centre in the Ringturm, Vienna
2018 HYBRID TBILISI. REFLECTIONS ON ARCHITECTURE IN GEORGIA / exhibition / DAM Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt am Main
2018 DYNASTIES. PARALLEL PERSPECTIVES / exhibition / Georgian National Museum (Tbilisi History Museum, Karvasla)
2015 CAUCASUS – FROZEN AMBITION / exhibition / In development
2014 HOTEL ORIENT / HAUS DER KÜNSTLER / series of exhibitions “To Town its Places; to Places their History” #3 / State Museum of Literature, Tbilisi
2013 PAUL(A) STERN – UNKNOWN ARCHIVE / series “To Town its Places; to Places their History” #2 / Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography, Tbilisi
2013 RETROSPECTIVE MIKHAIL KALATOZOV 1903 – 1973 / film event / Filmforum Museum Ludwig, Cologne
2010 HOMAGE SERGEI PARAJANOV 1924 – 1990 / film event and photo exhibition / Filmforum Museum Ludwig, Cologne
2002 – 2008 MADE IN GERMANY / showcase of German film at the Tbilisi International Film Festival
2007 LOCATION:GEORGIEN – CRISIS AND PERSPECTIVE OF THE FILM COUNTRY / photo exhibition and film event / Link to the project web-site
2007 LOCATION:GEORGIEN #3 / Georgian National Museum / History Museum Karvasla, Tbilisi
2007 LOCATION:GEORGIEN #2 / Willy-Brandt-House and Kino Arsenal, Berlin
2007 LOCATION:GEORGIEN #1 / Trinity Church and Filmforum Museum Ludwig, Cologne
1993 GERMAN ARCHITECTS IN TBILISI 19ST CENTURY / photo exhibition / Georgian National Library, Tbilisi
2016 EUROSTYLE / series of exhibitions “A Private City” #3 / A Trans, Berlin
2016 TBILISI / ARCHITECTURE AT THE INTERSECTION OF CONTINENTS / series “Architecture at the Ringturm” / Exhibition Centre in the Ringturm, Vienna
2012 BETWEEN YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW / undergo. the parallels / series “To Town its Places; to Places their History” #1 / project in a public space, Tbilisi
2009 TBILISSI UNDERGROUND / exhibition / Espace Cosmopolis, Nantes, FR
1997 ICH NARR DES GLÜCKS: HEINRICH HEINE 1797-1856 / exhibition / Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf
LECTURES, WORKSHOPS & PANEL DISCUSSIONS
2019 – Architecture talks 2019: GREETINGS FROM TBILISI / Recyclart, Centre d’Arts / Brussel
2019 – Architecture tour / Collaboration with Hochschule für Architektur, Bau und Geomatik FHNW, Basel / Tbilisi
2018 – Architecture lectures / The Ungers Archive for Architectural Studies (UAA), Cologne
2018 – Panel discussion / Museum Angewandte Kunst (MAK), Frankfurt am Main
2018 – Symposium ENRICHING BOOKS AND BUILDINGS: New Publications on Architecture in Georgia / Berlin
2018 – Panel discussion with Stephan Böhm, Peter Böhm and Paul Böhm / Tbilisi History Museum
2014 – Artistic workshop at the CCA / Center of Contemporary Art – Tbilisi
2004 – 2006 International Artists Workshops. Collaboration with State Academy of Fine Arts Tbilisi and Goethe Institute Georgien
2003 – 2005 Guest lecturer at the Institute for Media Studies / Ruhr University Bochum, Germany
1998 – 2005 Guest lecturer at the ifs International Film School Cologne, Germany
2018 HYBRID TBILISI. REFLECTIONS ON ARCHITECTURE IN GEORGIA / DOM Publishers, Berlin
2018 GEORGIEN IM WANDEL. WIND, DER WEHT / Fried Nielsen (Ed.) / third edition, Wieser Verlag, Klagenfurt, Austria
2018 GEORGIA IN FIVE STATIONS / Adolph Stiller (Ed.) / Müry Salzmann Verlag, Salzburg, Austria
2016 EUROSTYLE / Irina Kurtishvili (Ed.) / Booklet, bilingual edition / A Trans, Berlin, Germany
2016 TBILISI / ARCHITECTURE AT THE INTERSECTION OF CONTINENTS / Adolph Stiller (Ed.)/ bilingual edition / Müry Salzmann Verlag, Salzburg, Austria
2014 HOTEL ORIENT / HAUS DER KÜNSTLER / Irina Kurtishvili (Ed.) / bilingual edition, State Museum of Literature, Tbilisi
2013 PAUL(A) STERN – UNKNOWN ARCHIVE / Irina Kurtishvili (Ed.) / brochure, State Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography, Tbilisi
2013 HAUSKOCHBUCH / Fried Nielsen (Ed.) / German edition, Nieswand Verlag, Kiel, Germany
2007 LOCATION:GEORGIEN / Irina Kurtishvili (Ed.) / brochure, German edition, Medea publication, Cologne
2000 WIND, DER WEHT. GEORGIEN IM WANDEL / Fried Nielsen (Ed.) / first edition, Societäts Verlag, Frankfurt, Germany
FILM & TV
2012 FROHES SCHAFFEN / production design / produced by Hupe Film in co-production with the ZDF (broadcaster), Germany
2009 JAGD NACH DEM GOLDENEN VLIES / production management in Georgia / produced by Ilona Grundmann Filmproduktion for Terra X / ZDF, Germany
2007 MADE IN BERLIN / graphic design / Morgenmagazin / ARD (broadcaster), Germany
2005 DIE GROSSE DEPRESSION – MADE IN GERMANY / production design / produced by Una Film in co-production with the ZDF, Germany
2004 – 2005 SERVICEZEIT / graphic design / WDR (broadcaster), Germany
2003 SWISS INVESTMENTS IN TRANSCAUCASIA / production and management in Georgia / produced by Crossborder, Basel, CH
1999 HERE COMES THE DAWN / production design / produced by Studio Georgian Film, Tbilisi
1996 RED BALLOON / author / art and culture magazine for children / Academy of Media Arts Cologne / supported by DAAD Foundation, Germany
1992 SPIRALLE / production design / produced by Studio Georgian Film, Tbilisi and the Ostankino (broadcaster), Moscow
2013 COMMEMORATIVE PLAQUE in memory of the destroyed German Protestant-Lutheran Church, Tbilisi
2010 THE TREE OF DESIRE / exhibition premises for the Georgian National Film Center at the EFM European Film Market / 60. Berlinale, Berlin
2000 BRUCK LICHTSYSTEME / exhibition premises for Bruck Lichtsysteme GmbH & Co.KG / Light + Building international Trade fair for Light and Electrical Technology / Frankfurt, Germany
2015 CARTE BLANCHE / Hans Ulrich Reck (Ed.) / book, p. x-x / Verlag der Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln /Academy of Media Arts, Cologne, Germany
2014 SPACES. CULTURAL PUBLIC SPHERE IN ARMENIA, GEORGIA, MOLDOVA AND UKRAINE / Nataša Bodrožić, Nini Palavandishvili (Ed.) / book, p.33, 47-48 / Verlag Bibliothek der Provinz, Weitra, Austria
2013 PHOTAGRAPHY IN GEORGIA 1955-2012 / Yuri Mechitov, Tamar Sulamanidse (Ed.) / book, p. 544-545, Pilots, Tbilisi
2012 OFFSIDE EFFECT. ACADEMY AS EXHIBITION 1ST TBILISI TRIENNIAL / Henk Slager (Ed.) / book, p. 24-27, Metropolis M Books, Utrecht, Netherlands
2010 ÜBER DIE VERWANDLUNG VON ZEIT IN GEGENWART IM FILM / Vorlesungen an der Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln 1995 – 2005 / Hinderk M. Emrich (Ed.) / book, p.138, Cuvillier Verlag, Göttingen, Germany
2008 COLOR DESIGN / A REAL-WORLD GUIDE TO USING COLOR IN GRAPHIC DESIGN / Sean Adams, Noreen Morioka and Terry Lee Stone (Ed.) / book, p. 122-123, Workbook, Rockport Publishers, Beverly, USA
2005 GRAPHIC DESIGN FOR THE 21ST CENTURY / Charlotte & Peter Fiell (Ed.) / book, p. 177, Taschen Verlag, Cologne, Germany
1997 ICH NARR DES GLÜCKS: HEINRICH HEINE 1797-1856; Bilder einer Ausstellung / Joseph A. Kruse (Ed.) / book, p. 566, Verlag J.B. Metzler, Germany
ARTICLES & REVIEWS
2018 In Georgien bauen sie Kamikaze / Katharina Cichosch, „Spiegel Online“, November 13, Hamburg / article
2018 Zweierlei / Dominic Marti, „Hochparterre“, 2 November, Zürich / article
2018 Vergangenheit, Gegenwart, Zukunft: Ausstellung Hybrid Tbilisi / Juliane Schmidt, „Detail“, October 17 / article
2018 Mosaik der Geschichte / Julius Tamm, „Frankfurter Rundschau“, October 10, Frankfurt / article
2018 Buchtipp: Drei Bücher über Georgien / Mariam Gegidze, „BauNetz“, October 10, Berlin / article
2018 Ringturm lädt zu Georgien-Architekturausstellung / “Salzburger Nachrichten”, October 10, Vienna / article
2018 Ringturm lädt zu Georgien-Architekturausstellung / “Kleine Zeitung”, October 10, Vienna / article
2018 Frankfurter Architekturmuseum würdigt Baukunst in Tiflis / „Frankfurter Neue Presse“, 28 September, Frankfurt / article
2018 Hybrid Tbilisi. Ausstellungseröffnung im DAM Frankfurt / „BauNetz“, September 27, Berlin / article
2018 Exhibition of 2 Families of Architects from Georgia & Germany in Tbilisi / Lika Chigladze, “Georgia Today”, June 28, Tbilisi / article
2016 Tiflis: Hauptstadt der Hingucker / Maik Novotny, “Der Standard”, April 17, Vienna / article
2016 Das Land am Kura-Fluss / Claudia Elmer, “Kurier”, April 16, Vienna / article
2016 Eine Wiener Schau feiert Tbilissis architektonischen Zauber / Roman Hollenstein, “Neue Züricher Zeitung”, March 22, Zürich / article
2009 Black and White Town and its Coloured Protagonists / Ia Wekua, “24 Saati”, Issue 24, Tbilisi / article
2007 Parajanov, Sheep and Women at Berlin International Film Festival / Lily Khositashvili, “Georgia Today”, issue 345, Tbilisi / article
2007 LOCATION:GEORGIEN – German Photographers´ Works on Georgia Presented in Berlin / Lily Khositashvili, “Georgia Today”, 7-13 December, Tbilisi / article 2007 LOCATION:GEORGIEN – International Photo Exibition in Karvasla / Ana Tsimintia, “Georgia Today”, 7-13 December, Tbilisi / article
2007 LOCATION:GEORGIEN – The Microscopic Image of the Country / Irina Kurtishvili, “24 Saati”, Issue 66,Tbilisi / article
2007 LOCATION:GEORGIEN – The Microscopic Image of the Country / Irina Kurtishvili, “Cinema – Ckheli Shokoladi”, Magazine, Issue 5,Tbilisi / article
2004 ART FAR FROM HOME: The Life of a Georgian Artist in Germany / Rebecca Gould, “Georgia Today”, 24-30 December, issue 235, Tbilisi / article
2004 New German Film / Vera Neparidze, “24 Saati”, issue 19,Tbilisi / article 2003 German Film Showcase / Teo Khatiasvili, “Kakadu”, 4-10 June, Tbilisi / article 2002 Deutliche Orientierung nach Westen / Georgien öffnet seine Filmindustrie für Koproduktionen / Norbert Raffelsiefen, BLICKPUNKT:FILM, issue 25, Munich / article
2001 Kapazitäten sind noch nicht ausgelastet. Medea Filmproduktion präsentiert Georgien als Drehort / Martin Block, BLICKPUNKT:FILM, issue 50, 1-10 December, Munich / article
1996 Spazieren im Computer-Park / Reiner Thies, “Köln Rundschau”, 12 July, Cologne / article 1996 Big play / Eteri Eradze, “Georgian Film”, issue 33, Tbilisi / article
1996 MEDIEN / Kreatives Potential, Christian Knull, „markt + wirtschaft“, issue 6, Cologne / article
Irina Kurtishvili during the interview in her atelier in Tbilisi / Photography by Gia Chkhatarashvili / 2007
ART FAR FROM HOME: THE LIFE OF A GEORGIAN ARTIST IN GERMANY
Most commentators on the political situation in Georgia who reside outside her borders speak of the country as a burgeoning democracy, on the verge of becoming part of the “west”. Their optimism, however, doesn't take account of the difficult conditions facing the working artist in Georgia. I spoke with Irina Kurtishvili, a Georgian artist and set designer, who spends most of her time in Germany, on the current conditions for the creation of art in Georgia. Her diagnosis was quite differently from the ringing endorsements that are found in many accounts of contemporary Georgia by experts based in the West. Irina didn´t speak about politics; she spoke about art. Her voice is that of the unaffiliated commentator, the person who has nothing as stake other than her love for her country and her profession.
GT: Let´s start with some background about yourself. When did your move to Germany?
IK: It was during the civil war. I was studying at the Academy of Arts in Tbilisi, but conditions were very difficult in Georgia at that time. I had no choice but to continue my studies abroad. I enrolled in the Academy of Media Art in Cologne. It was difficult for me to adjust to the different system in Germany. The school I attended expected students to know computer technology well and I had no experience of that in Germany. So I had to learn a lot. But I adjusted and soon felt at home living abroad. After finishing my studies in Germany I was working as a set designer and TV graphics for German television. Also I was giving lectures on set design at the Cologne international school of film. Even now I give lectures on media- and set design in Germany, though I have an atelier in Tbilisi as well.
GT: Why did you choose to go to Germany rather than another country?
IK: I can say now publicly what I wasn’t able to say before, during the Soviet period. Germans attached to the embassy struck up relationships with promising young students and encouraged us to come and live in Germany. I did not move there at the time, but that planted the seed for my ultimate decision to go to Germany.
GT: What influences have had an impact on you as an artist?
IK: Literature is a big influence for me. I had my students in Germany create a set design for William Faulkner's The Sound and Fury. Faulkner is one of my favorite authors, and this book is his most important work. My students' project was purely hypothetical – no film was ever made – but the results were quite interesting. I had the students use three colours to signify different scenes in the novel: red, blue and green. Red signified all the blood shed and the rage which characterizes the book. Other literary works have also had an influence on me. My thesis project was a set of illustrations for a novel of Julio Cortázar.
GT: How do you feel about the present-day situation for artists in Georgia?
IK: The art scene is quite stagnant. The old nomenclature is still in power, and makes all the decisions. The Academy only deals with the art that was in style over a century ago. A young artist has nowhere to turn, no forum to exhibit his or her work. When I compare the conditions for the creation and study in Georgia to those in Germany, I get quite depressed. The standards and level of technical expertise are much higher there. Perhaps, because students know there is a good chance of working in their field when they graduate, they are more excited about what they are studying then most of the students I have met in Georgia. Perhaps the stagnation of the art scene in Georgia is due to economic stress. When people have to worry about what they will eat the next day they do not have time for art.
This is true. Artists have always been poor, everywhere, and at every time in history. The difference in Georgia is that everyone is poor. I have many friends in Germany who also have to work as taxi drivers or in similar jobs – which enables them to make their living and continue their artistic professions.
GT: What advice do you have for the young Georgian artist? Would you advise them to study abroad?
IK: Absolutely. The conditions for studying art are far superior in Europe. At the academy where I gave lectures every student had a mentor, who helped in the search for jobs after they graduated. In Georgia, when an artist graduates from the Academy, they rarely have jobs or the means of continuing to pursue their dreams.
GT: It sounds like you are quite pessimistic about the prospects for a flourishing art scene in Georgia in the next future. But what happens when Georgia's artists and intellectuals all emigrate en masse? What does this phenomenon mean for the future of Georgian culture?
IK: I love my country and my language, and I never wish to be parted from it. My family has very strong roots here. My father was an architect who designed many famous buildings in Tbilisi. My sister is also an architect and lives in Tbilisi. But an artist must go to the place which will permit him or her to develop his talents. If this country does not give me an offer to work or teach here, then I waste my time in Georgia. I say this to my regret, but it's true. Some Georgian artists abroad hat I know would like to work here or teach. But, as far as I can see, there is no request on our abilities. Georgians have faced of emigration many times before in their history. After Soviet Power took over in 1921 many Georgians who were active in Menshevik government headed by Noe Zhordania left Georgia and spent the rest of their lives in emigration, largerly in France and Germany. Many famous Georgians spent the last years of their lives abroad, among them the writer Grigol Robakidze, who wrote in German as well as Georgian and was better known during his life in Germany than in his homeland. Robakidze is read by Germans even today. Giorgi Balanchivadze (George Balanchine) spent most of his life in America and founded a world-famous school of ballet though he was Georgian. So you don't necessarily have to leave in Georgia to help the Georgian people.
The best way I can serve my country is by connecting foreign artists and Georgian artists. I recently initiated a scholarship program to support Georgian art students. All their expenses will be paid for and they will find mentors in Germany. I am still a citizen of Georgia. I have a film production service called Medea, which seeks to bring foreign filmmakers to Georgia. I believe that interaction with other cultures is Georgia's best hope for the future. When artists in Georgia are aware of what is going on outside their country, they will develop as artists. But there is a class of people who are not interested in such intercultural connections. This class is largely Soviet educated and unfortunately they are still in charge of most of the decisions about art in present-day Georgia.
GT: Some artists create better in exile. Is this the case with you? Do you consider yourself an artist in exile?
IK: No. I wouldn't go that far. There are many artists who are forced into exile and I am not one of them. But, yes. I do believe that exile is important stage in the development of any artist. Many of Georgia's greatest modernist painters – from David Kakabadze to Lado Gudiashvili – spent their formative years abroad in Paris. You can better understand yourself and the place where you come from when you see it at a distance. Exile distances you from the prejudices of your country and gives you a chance to appreciate what others take for granted. Sometimes I feel like I understand Georgia best when I am far away, just as I understand Germany when I am in Georgia.
I have no simple answer to your questions about exile, but for me a divided life feels appropriate. It is hard to say to what extent my life-style is determined by the poor working conditions in Georgia and to what extent I live in Germany because a life in exile suits me. I suppose the truth lies in the middle. I do not want to give you the illusion that the exile is easy or romantic. Many of my Georgian friends in Germany have to struggle to make ends meet. However, all of them live better then they do in Georgia and they all find a more receptive audience for their work in Germany than in their homeland. I guess there is something in human nature which makes it easier for people to appreciate that which is far away. Otherwise I can't make sense of this phenomenon. You know that saying from the Bible „A prophet is without honor in his own country“.
GT: What about the difficulties of learning a foreign language? This is one of the biggest problems faced by immigrants.
IK: Most of my Georgian friends in Germany know at least enough German to get by. Many have lived there for over ten years, so they have had time to adjust. It is true however, that this is a problem for many immigrants. But nowadays, it's enough to speak English if you want to live in Germany. The Georgian students who I will be bringing to Germany on scholarships all speak English, so they should have no problems finding their way. Of course, if you really want to assimilate into a foreign country, you have to know the official language as well as any native speaker. That doesn't happen in a matter of months, or even within a few years. Since I have lived in Germany for over a decade, I am as comfortable speaking and lecturing in German as in Georgian.
GT: What is the reaction to contemporary Georgian art in Germany? In general, what do Germans know about Georgians?
IK: The only thing most Germans think of when they think of Georgia is the Rose Revolution. Before that, when they saw my passport they would automatically associate it with the Soviet Union. Georgia was seen as part of Russia if not officially, then at least in the culture sense. In recent years the German public has learned more about Georgians and does not imagine Georgia as part of Russia any more. Now they tend exoticize it as part of the East, and oppose it to Western culture. Therefore, at least on a superficial level, Georgian art is very popular in Germany. It is a sort of fad. When Westerners view Georgia as part of the East, they aren't necessarily wrong. It is just that this too often takes the form of stereotypical divorce between Western and Eastern culture, although the two were polar opposites and had nothing to do with each other. I believe it's more accurate to see the West and East as complementary to each other rather than opposed. And there are many other ways to divide up the world than by using categories like „East“ and „West“. I believe that I grew up in a great country, which taught me a lot, but I am less optimistic about the future.
GT: If the popularity of Georgian art abroad is based on its exoticness, isn´t there a danger of such art becoming over-commercialized?
IK: This has already happened. The market is an inexorable force in the production of art. All contemporary artists produce their work in the context of globalization. People around the world are better informed about the latest news in American politics than they are about their own local events. The pervasiveness of American culture and the English language is commercialization of the kind which is impossible to ignore. It is a danger, and it should be resisted to the fullest extent possible, but we also have to realistic and not get caught up in romantic notions about the alienation of the artist from society.
GEORGIA TODAY is one of the only independent English newspapers in Georgia with almost fifteen years of successful operation
Editorial and concept: Irina Kurtishvili, Irakli Kiziria
Design: Irakli Kiziria / Deignprovocation, Berlin /
Photos: Gia Chkhatarashvili, Jonas Gerhard, Andreas M. Kaufmann, Yuri Mechitov, Nugsar Nosadze, Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk, Sandro Sulaberidze, Timo Vogt, Werner Wöll
Texts by Irina Kurtishvili, Dr.Wolfgang Till Busse
English translations by Alexander Nitussov, Manana Odisheli, Michael Vickers
French translation by Marie Christine Fischer
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