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Installation view of VAJIKO CHACHKHIANI‘s Flies Bite, It’s Going To Rain, 2019, mixed media, dimensions variable, at "Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain," Yarat Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, 2019. All installation photos by Pat Verbruggen; courtesy the artist and Yarat unless otherwise stated. 

Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain

Vajiko Chachkhiani

Yarat Contemporary Art Centre
Georgia Azerbaijan

Vajiko Chachkhiani is preoccupied with memory, the possibilities of reconciling past and present, and probing time as a cyclical loop. For his presentation at the 57th Venice Biennale’s Georgia Pavilion, for example, he installed a wooden house, transplanted from the Georgian countryside, with an irrigation system fixed to the roof, creating the effect of continual downpour within the structure. A metaphor for the ongoing impacts of traumatic histories, the rain gradually flooded the house, but also gave life to moss. Continuing his endeavors to uncover how the past is replicated in the present, in “Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain,” his solo exhibition at Yarat Contemporary Art Centre in Baku, Chachkhiani mined Caucasian myths and historical narratives, and their impacts on the region’s contemporary consciousness. 

The central installation in the exhibition, Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain (2018), comprises a dense forest of dead trees. Hiding between the bare branches was a sculpture of a headless horse, effaced classical statues, and decorative reliefs overgrown and embedded within the soil. It is an eerie, viscerally affective piece that questions the place of mythological figures and classical knowledge within our memories and lives today. While the work suggests the fragmentation of historical narratives and a sense of loss, it also evokes a burial for the notions that no longer serve to guide our futures.  

Elsewhere in the gallery were three traditional Georgian structures, including two glass-and-wood porches and a barn made of rough-hewn logs. Presenting these architectural elements as sculptural objects, the artist highlights the elegance of the designs, and the fact that such features are fast disappearing from the Georgian landscape. At the same time, the porches—commonly representing a space for family and community interaction—are markedly void of people. Much like with Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain, Chachkhiani asks viewers to consider what is lost when we allow cultural memories to vanish.

Detail installation view of VAJIKO CHACHKHIANI’s Flies Bite, It’s Going To Rain, 2019, mixed media, dimensions variable, at “Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain,” Yarat Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, 2019.
Detail installation view of VAJIKO CHACHKHIANI’s Flies Bite, It’s Going To Rain, 2019, mixed media, dimensions variable, at “Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain,” Yarat Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, 2019.
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Installation view of VAJIKO CHACHKHIANI’s “Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain” at Yarat Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, 2019.

Installation view of VAJIKO CHACHKHIANI’s “Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain” at Yarat Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, 2019.
Installation view of VAJIKO CHACHKHIANI’s “Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain” at Yarat Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, 2019.
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Chachkhiani is particularly adept at recasting fairytales as a means to reconsider how these stories contain seeds of truth. Within the wooden barn, he presented the film Glass Bones (2018). Entering the space through a small opening and traversing up a short flight of stairs, viewers were invited to sit on benches to view the contemporary retelling of a well-known Georgian fairytale, set in present-day Tbilisi. In the story, a young man lusts after a beautiful but indifferent woman, who taunts him to make the ultimate sacrifice to prove his love to her. Back at his home, his devoted mother cleans his room before retiring for the evening. What follows next is gruesome—desperate to prove his devotion to the girl, the young man suffocates and then violently stabs his mother, carving out her heart to present it to the young woman. The shocking act serves to represent the pain that is inflicted by the selfish desires of one generation, and the sacrifices of another generation to make these wishes possible. There is no happy ending here, only hurt, regret, and the weight of generational trauma. Chachkhiani leaves us to consider how we contribute to the perpetuation or destruction of historical memory, cultural expectations and their contemporary manifestations. “Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain” was emotionally demanding and extraordinary in its impact.

Vajiko Chachkhiani’s Flies Bite, It’s Going to Rain” is on view at Yarat Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, until April 14, 2019.

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