One-Stop Project for Caucasus Biennale – Tram Foundation 2007
TRAM (Transform Art Module) Foundation – a Georgian, non-governmental, non-profit organization, which has several years of experience in the field of contemporary art as an informal group uniting an ever expanding number of artists and organizing cultural events utilizing innovative ideas, platforms and venues. Building on this experience, we have decided to organize formally around same goals of advocating and popularizing contemporary art and supporting its development in Georgia, assisting Georgian artists, promoting cooperation between Georgian and foreign artists, especially from the neighboring countries, and supporting modern practices in the cultural field.
Our team is a group of professional curators and artist, providing and representing multidisciplinary forms of art. The group comes up with different ideas and creates and curates projects through working with other groups, organizations, as well as individual artists.
TRAM is interested in expanding borders of existing art spaces (museums, galleries, theaters, etc) by trying to utilize other social spaces as well as outdoor spaces as much as possible. Through art TRAM tries to focus attention of public on the pressing issues of society and art in wide variety of spheres.
TRAM was founded by Ana Riaboshenko (artist/curator) and Marta Tabukashli, (architect/curator) in 2003. The group has been organizing around its virtual domain – the web page http://www.tram.ge . The idea of this site was to be a medium between different artists, to bring them together for different projects. Since its inception, TRAM has been being utilized by over 20 artists and number of projects has been implemented.
This project announced “six artists bound from London, 10 days, one Caucasian Capital, a large tent; all to create a UK Pavilion (of sorts).”
What might have appeared as an ostensibly nationalistic outpost within the heart of the Art Caucasus 2007 was in fact an entirely fragile and shambolic encampment. Some bunting, a banner, some hastily arranged signposts, perched within Pushkin Square – itself an annex of the grandly renamed Freedom Square (formerly Lenin Square) with its brushed up history and newly appointed street furniture.
A collection of artists – Helena Bryant, David Collins, Jo David, Charlie Fox, Rachael House and Mark McGowan displaying a range of artistic practices – from the gently enticing to the intimate, from the playful to the provocative; Coalescing around the deceptively simple gesture of a ‘Free Tea Stop in Freedom Square’ – Tea making for the inhabitants of Tbilisi, the workers, the itinerants, and passersby, a cross-section of the population of a new European Democracy. The Caucasus, and particularly Georgia famed for its hospitality and cosmopolitanism was being subjected to a reverse exchange. “International” Artists airlifted to central Tbilisi – welcome please – we bring not only gifts of ‘English Tea’ but parcels of cultural wisdom and sophistication.
But this reversed exchange is turned inside out in a web of provisional, chance and prearranged meetings: intimate and vulnerable, genuine and faked, disguised and unmasked, everyday and extraordinary. Not only is the exchange an attempt at dialogue across these forceful boundaries, it is a dance made from the millions of permutations allowed within human interaction; a chance to break the boundaries and transform the space of dialogue: fragments, a drawing, a phrase, a word, that meeting, collide and resonates. Nothing secure here, but the fact that this space opened out might expand and keep expanding in a net of associations and connections.
But what can a bunch of “English” artists give the people of Tbilisi? Was it how to read, to consume, to engage in, even to savour this ‘new art’. This project, if it achieved anything, was to puncture the false boundaries between artist and audience, sometimes quietly, other times forcibly. Unashamed of its simple gaucheness in a mischievous pleasure in blurring categories; asking whose culture is being displayed, how it might appear and perform, or simply for whom this cultural exchange was for?
This project was made possible by the warmth, generosity and commitment of TRAM, especially Ani Riaboshenko and Lado Darakhvelidze.
 The square recently renamed and joined toward the airport by George Bush Avenue.