During Soviet times, the city of Sukhum*, on the Black Sea, was a popular holiday destination. Today, it’s the quiet center of a disputed region; depending on your point of view, either a break-away part of Georgia or the capital of independent Abkhazia*. For twenty years, the approximately 240’000 inhabitants of Abkhazia have lived under economic hardships, with restricted mobility and virtually no contact with neighboring Georgia, which has, on its side, lost its most important touristic destination.
What's on the minds of the artists living in the region, caught between Russia’s and Western Europe’s power struggle? The role of art is understood differently in every society – yet, is it still possible for artists to create opportunities for the exchange of ideas on a transnational level?
The project “Connecting Spaces” began in May 2014 with a workshop in Sukhum. Initiated by Dagmar Reichert and supported by Adgur Dzidzaria and Maria Magdalena Z'Graggen, twentytwo young artists from Basel and Sukhum worked together for two weeks, developing sketches for own works.
The project continued in November 2014, when the participants from Sukhum came to visit their colleagues in Basel. Together, and with some further artists from the Southern Caucasus, they presented their finished works in an exhibition at Basel's Ausstellungsraum Klingental in Basel. They addressed the issue of public space in their respective cities and societies: the public space of streets and squares, but also the virtual public sphere of encounters, critical practice and dialogue.
As a part of the REGIONALE 15 the exhibition was open from 30. November 2014 until 2. Januar 2015 and attracted a wide audience. The participating artists were
David Bostanashvili, Elene Chantladze, Lado Darakhvelidze, Adgur Dzidzaria, Tatjana Ergunova, Galaqtion Eristavi, Constantin Gretsoff, Sara Grütter, Silas Heizmann, Marc Hörler, Sabina Kvarcheliya, Archip Sipa Labachua, Jemina Läubli, Céline Liebi, Sonja Lippuner, Julia Minnig, Deirdre O'Leary, Lali Pertenava, Philip Matesic und Linda Pfenninger, Aron Rossman-Kiss, Lea Rüegg, Aleksi Soselia, Beslan Tarba, Guram Tsibakhashvili, Manana Tsvishba, Tanja Weidmann, Natascha Nüesch, Koka Vashakidze, Maria Magdalena Z'Graggen.
The exhibition was curated by Maria Magdalena Z'Graggen and Annina Zimmermann in cooperation with Asida Butba .
* 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.
The workshop of artists from Suchum/i and Basel was held in Suchum/i in March 2014. It was initiated by artasfoundation, Dr. Dagmar Reichert and organized together with the Academy of Art and Design Basel (Maria Magdalena Z'Graggen), Sukhum Artist Union (Adgur Dzidzaria), the journalist Nadja Venediktova and Asida Butba.
The project is financed by the task force Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Chairmanship 2014 of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and artasfoundation. The Southern Caucasus is one of the priorities of the Swiss Chairmanship in 2014.
The exhibition is presented during the time of the OSCE Ministerial Council 2014 in Basel, held on December 4/5 this year. On this occasion Swisspeace organizes an accompanying program for the Basel audience.
Ausstellungsraum Klingental Basel
Task Force OSZE Chairmanship Switzerland 2014
Photos gallery: Maria Magdalena Z'Graggen