Art Camp

Art Camp I • Khurvaleti • Georgia


Long lasting tensions, and finally a war in this region on the southern slopes of the Caucasus, led to a de-facto separation of South Ossetia from Georgia in 2008. Many people of South Ossetian and Georgian background had to leave their homes. On the Georgian side of the present Administrative Border Line (ABL) today, live approximately 20,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). A small number of these refugees found accommodations with relatives or in private homes, often in Tbilisi, while about 12,000 people live in 38 different IDP settlements of 60 to 2000 small, pre-fabricated houses set up by the Georgian state and international donors in the vicinity of the ABL (the settlement of Khurvaleti, the location of the Art Camp, is one of them). In the present political situation, for most of these people (except perhaps for those coming from the Akhalgori district) the likelihood of being able to return in the near future is very slight.

The refugees receive a very small monthly allowance from the Georgian state and support themselves with crops form the small gardens or patches of land around each house. Their mobility is restricted and the rate of unemployment is much higher than the already very significant unemployment in the country.


In end August 2012, twelve students from the Tbilisi State Academy of Art (TSAA) and twelve students from the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) met each other and travelled together to the IDP Settlement of Khurvaleti, located 70 km away from the city of Gori. They lived in this settlement for 10 days and together, developed diverse small artistic works.

artasfoundation had established prior contacts with the residents of the IDP Settlement as well as the adjacent village through the facilitation of the NGO ‚Biliki’. This organisation from Gori (led by Marika Mgrebishvili) also accompanied in the execution of the project.

The art students from Tbilisi and Zurich collaborated in small groups to conduct art projects, which responded to the specific environment as well as to the resident people. For example,

  • a music, song and dance night with all the residents;
  • a ground plan of the IDP settlement, where information about the residents’ profession, place of origin and nicknames was recorded;
  • markings for a bus stop were painted on a dirt road: Sure that a bus would never arrive there, this became a symbol for the waiting;
  • a video was compiled, based on conversations between students and the residents of the settlement on the topic of "happiness";
  • students and local women sewed together a tapestry (quilt) recording their memories, dreams and everyday situations;
  • based on a study of the village of origin of the refugees, a constellation of the universe was set parallel to the position of these villages; texts and actions were developed from it;
  • using self-built tables and benches, a public meeting space was set up in the central square of the village;
  • using a white curtain as a simple stage design, a small group put together performative scenes and attemptedto change the views of the settlement;
  • and some further activities.

The work was supported by art instructors, who also accompanied the ongoing reflection about working artistically in a region affected by war.

At the end, the evaluation conducted by "Biliki" and ZHdK indicated that the project had created strong and positive reverberations on both, the residents of the refugee settlement, as well as the participating students. To the former it could bring “fresh air” and joy about a foreigner’s interest in their situation. For the latter, the Georgian and Swiss students, it created a deeper exchange in terms of educational backgrounds along with the experience of encountering extreme living situations. The stay also provided insights into the daily life of the residents of this refugee settlement, which can guide the development of a new project for 2013.

The participating students were:
Shima Asa, Nanka Bagaturia, Selin Bourquin, Clifford Bruckmann, Tinatin Davadze, Nona Davitaia, Galaktion Ersitavi (management group), Julia Gehrig, Marekh Gorgiladze, Anna Gzirishvili, Olivia Haggenmacher, Natia Kapanade, Nino Khuroshvili, Niko Kobaidze, Mutsa Metreveli, Thomas Moor, Linda Pfenninger, Sally Schonfeldt, Aleksi Soselia, Paula Tyliszczak, Tim Wandelt, Tamara Widmer, Julia Znoi.

Nino Tchogoshvili and Irena Popiashvili of the Tbilisi State Academy of Art, and from the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) Nadia Graf and, as accompanying instructors, Franziska Koch and Dagmar Reichert, supported the project.

PDF of a newspaper report after the end of the project in Zett (magazine of Zurich University of the Arts) May 2013

Time plan

April and June 2012: Project preparation in Georgia

August/ September 2012: Art Camp in Khurvaleti

October 2012: Project evaluation

* artasfoundation would like to underline that its use of names and titles particularly with regard to the conflict regions should not be construed as implying any form of recognition or non-recognition by the foundation or as having any other political connotation whatsoever.

Society Biliki, Gori

Zurich University Of the Arts

Tbilisi State Academy of Arts

We thank

Nadia Graf, Tamara Janashia and all other supporters of the project

for the additional financial support
SDC-Southern Caucasus

the project-team
artasfoundation and ZHdK: Franziska Koch and Dagmar Reichert
Tbilisi State Academy of Arts: Irena Popiashvili and Nino Tchogoshvili
Biliki: Marika Mgrebishvili