Georgian artist Vajiko Chachkhiani takes physical pieces from his country and displays them as sculptures in the purified white box environment of art galleries of the west. Many times these involve performances in relation to these pieces, documenting the void left behind in the absence of the performer afterwards. While this can be applied by anyone to anything, it takes on an added relevance in Chachkhiani’s case as he has re-contextualized himself in the process.
By leaving his country to go to another one (Germany in his case), the emptiness and detachment he felt can be more easily translated and understood in these objects. On a metaphysical level, they raise questions about the permanence and ephemerality of supposedly solid, immovable structures.
In Father (2014) Chachkhiani had a man sit in a chair with his feet encased in a block of concrete, no doubt as a metaphor for how he feels about either how his father was treated or how he chose to behave. The sense of powerlessness and enslavement is also evident in Settle Intimacy (2012), where a young woman is held by her hair to a block of concrete. Both of them in the end, disappear, leaving a trace of their existence behind.
The choice of using a block of concrete as a metaphor for Governmental or systemic injustice in some respects might even have something to do with the architecture of the place, where monolithic concrete structures dictate how people live.
This is not the shiny, fair-faced concrete seen in avant garde buildings, but the rough brutalist type. Out of all the materials he could have used, Chachkhiani chose concrete so there must be some relation there.
But his works are quite subtle and ambiguous at the same time. In Moment In And Out Of Time (2014), a heavy rusting door from a solitary confinement prison cell with a hatch opening for receiving smaller items, is displayed alone. The issue of protection and confinement is raised. ‘Detachment’, from the rest of the world, and ‘uprooted’ are two words that might relate to this.
With Each Touch Of The Fallen Ash (2014), some earth is sprinkled on the floor with the burnt ashes from an old pair of worker’s boots. Chachkhiani bought these boots from a down-trodden worker by bartering his video camera, which he then ‘cremated’ by burning them on the floor. This installation I presume, is a replica of that act which alludes to death and possibly even euthanasia, where the old boots are ‘put out of their misery’.
In To The Bone (2015) a series of curved twigs arranged like a rib cage are mounted on the wall with a light shining downwards on it. The immediate association for this would be that its in a forest where the cold air cuts ‘to the bone’, but can there be another way to see it, another word associated with the phrase? It could be ‘dry to the bone’, indicating a lack of water, or ‘thin to the bone’ a lack of food, which in any event also gives a glimpse into someone’s life that Chachkhiani had known.
In Chapter With No End (2014), a person is sleeping in a makeshift bed in a graveyard. The fact that he is in foetal position suggests a hopelessness, a desire to escape, and this is presumed to go on forever, as the title suggests. There are some issues that can be ascertained from this situation, which has to do with why he is there in the first place. Does he have nowhere to live or is this a commentary on his life, that it is metaphorically like sleeping beside dead people with no hope of ever changing?
These works paint quite a depressing, bleak picture of life in Georgia, where most people are going about their days like zombies, or they’re institutionalized (‘programmed’ by something) to give people a hard time. At 10% unemployment, which in reality means about a quarter of adults have nothing to do, its not hard to imagine the desolation. There is no doubt the local art market doesn’t exist. The military invasions that happened intermittently over the past 2 decades didn’t help.
Still Chachkhiani keeps going back to Georgia, to the void left behind by war, and re-filling the void that he himself left behind by leaving.