Dec 30 2016

Vajiko Chachkhiani to Represent Georgia at 57th Venice Biennale

by HG Masters

Vajiko Chachkhiani with his sculpture, “Many Lives Pass By While Imitating Death” (2015). Photo by Annika Middeldorf via Freie Universität, Berlin.

The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia announced on December 29 that Berlin-based artist Vajiko Chachkhiani will represent Georgia at the upcoming 57th Venice Biennale in May with his installation A Living Dog in the Midst of Dead Lions, a newly created work whose title echoes the New Testament verse Ecclesiastes 9:4: “But whoever is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.”

Chachkhiani’s work was selected by a jury of five art professionals—including artist and former Venice Biennial participant Akaki Ramishvili, Getty Foundation advisor Charles Merewether and Pinchuk Art Centre curator Bjoern Geldhof—from more than 20 submissions by Georgian artists. In the same announcement, the cultural ministry also named Lado Darakhvelidze’s project “Caucasus History Lesson” (2016) as the runner-up and the named the project “The Fourth Room,” curated by Tbilisi-based Centre of Contemporary Art founder Wato Tsereteli and painter-designer Nino Chubinishvili, as its third choice.

Born in 1985 in Tbilisi, Chachkhiani is a graduate of Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam (2008–09) and was then a student of Gregor Schneider at Universität der Künste (UdK), Berlin, from 2009–13. His sculptural works incorporate performative elements or make reference to real-world interactions. For example, his work Each Touch of Fallen Ash (2014) consists of a pair of burned leather shoes that the artist had originally acquired from a laborer in exchange for a video camera. At other times, his projects make explicit references to Georgia’s political history, such as the sculpture Hidden Under the Pillow (2014), a branch from a tree burned during the 2008 war with Russia over the South Ossetia region, with a portion replaced by a metal cast made from melted bullets. In 2014, he received the 7th Rubens Promotional Award of the City of Siegen and held an exhibition, entitled “Both,” at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen. In addition to showing at the Venice Biennale in May, Chachkhiani has been shortlisted Future Generation Art Prize 2017 at the Pinchuk Art Centre in Kiev.

In an artist statement for his 2016 residency at Yarat in Baku, Chachkhiani wrote: “My work operates somewhere between the outside world and the human psyche bringing the shadowy aspects of our Conditio humana to awareness through a subtle and intriguing visual poetry. Frequently based on performances or transformative actions, many of my sculptures have an affinity to minimalism but at the same time they are charged with narrative meaning.” His work for the residency exhibition at the Artium project space was Both Ends, Shadows and Mirrors (2016), created from green pigment scraped from a fence in an abandoned Georgian village, spread over an elderly man living in a nearby retirement home.

Georgia has had a national pavilion at the Venice Biennale since 2011, and it is now located in the Sale d’Armi, in the Arsenale, near the pavilions for Singapore and Turkey. The 57th Venice Biennale opens to the public on May 13 and runs through November 26.

H.G. Masters is editor-at-large of ArtAsiaPacific.

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