Irish artists in Tbilisi, Georgia

view of Tbilisi, Georgia photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Claire Halpin and myself travelled over to Tbilisi recently on belhalf of Cló Ceardlann na gCnoc, to install an exhibition – The Palimpsest/ Rianú Project – the Irish representation at Artisterium, an international art event which takes place annually in the Georgian capital. I’ve written about this project before, see:

So we brought all the work over with us on the plane to Tbilisi. That was an adventure in itself. Luckily we had met with Turkish Airlines beforehand and they’d agreed to let us take it on board the plane.  It’s difficult to think of everything in advance but it is a good idea to bring as much as possible with you on this sort of excursion – hammers, nails, pinchers, pins, screwdrivers, awls, blades, clips, velcro and tape, plenty of tape.  As the boy scouts would say: Bígí ullamh!- and we thought we were. But then, who would have thought that we’d need a sweeping brush? And where would you find a sweeping brush in the city centre? We were installing the work in the Tbilisi History Museum, the main location of Artisterium but… well, let’s just say that it could have done with a make-over. This is the way with much of the city of Tbilisi. It has many beautiful old buildings from the 18th and 19th century but they are mostly in need of repair and renovation. Take the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts (ie: the Georgian National College of Art). There it is pictured below – hoardings, broken windows – from the outside, it looks like a building site

Tbilisi State Academy of Arts Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

but then here below is a photo that I took in the hallway inside! Chandeliers and beautiful plasterwork. Of course, it  wasn’t all like that, several of the rooms were dusty and crumbling – but it must’ve been a beautiful building once upon a time.

Tbilisi Ceiling Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

However, our space in the Tbilisi State Museum was not so grand.  We arrived with our hammers and nails (and sweeping brush) and all around us, in the various rooms of the Museum, there were other artists working frenetically to complete their installations. The one electrician was going from room to room like a man, obsessed. We had 3 videos to install and only one socket that worked. But we got it all done in good time for the official opening on Friday night.

Now I won’t write a review of the whole arts festival. There was so much happening there but here’s a link to the full colour, 140 page catalogue. (We’re featured on pages 16-25)

There was a strong element of Film this year, with “Difference Screen”, a 3 day programme of short films and videos, running at the Georgian National Museum. The panel discussions with curators Bruce Allan and Ben Eastop, led by Gareth Evans, curator of film at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, were very interesting. There was about 30 films in all, which had been collected over several decades, reflecting on the changing political landscape in various countries. Dan Shipsides had an amazing piece which he had created by swinging his camera round and round above his head. Desert Rose by Cordelia Swann was a chilling account of atom bomb testing in the Nevada desert in the 1950s.

Finally, here’s a link to a short film (50 seconds long) of our space, made by Claire Halpin. Watch out for the artwork on the floor, a moving, collaborative piece that she made with Kate Murphy.  If you’re wondering about it, I’ll elaborate in my next post

also, a link to Claire’s blog:



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