Alevtina Kakhidze - 2017 - All About a Crisp Balance [EN, interview]
All About a Crisp Balance
A conversation with Alevtina Kakhidze
This year’s special guest of the Art on Paper International Drawing Fair, Alevtina Kakhidze (°1973), is a multifaceted artist whose drawings, writings, installations, performances and videos offer us deeply poetic views of her position as a person and an artist within a world that presents itself as the wondrous arena of an ongoing search for balance between things and beings. The installation in Brussels will mainly consist of a performance and wall drawings combined with drawings on paper. Kakhidze’s drawings are wondrous: crisp, comical and to the point. In one of them we see her mother sitting on a small stool in her garden. In the background we see strange pots with red flowers that seem to be part of her garden, until we realize they are stylized depictions of active artillery. The drawing comes with a jam jar filled with dried Saint John's wort (Hypericum), a yellow-flowered plant that doesn’t like to be told what to do (it is not easily kept in a garden) and is used as an antidepressant. It was harvested by Kakhidze in her own garden.
Kakhidze: The title of the installation for Brussels is “I still draw love, plants and things”. The word ‘still’ indicates that my views on life have been affected by the war (the military actions of pro-Russian and anti-government groups) and the three-year old political crisis in Ukraine. In general, a lot of petty stuff that used to upset me has become invisible compared to the enormous transition my country underwent.
Kakhidze: Love, plants and things have always been the topics of my art practice. But now they present themselves differently. A lot of married couples for instance, went through a hard crisis, because war forces relationship to be true and solid. Busy volunteers, for instance, cannot continue their activities if their partners don’t share their involvement. But love has always been one of the main topics of my work. I like to imply my husband in my work and to negotiate with him. One day I wanted him to have the same haircut as mine (laughs). I asked a hairdresser in Warsaw to help us with this. But because she was rather famous and wanted to do a good job, she also wanted to dye our hair and to put make up on our face. When my husband asked her to remove some make up, I asked her to do the same with me. I wanted us to undergo exactly the same procedure.
Kakhidze: With regard to things, I could say that before the war I used to be preoccupied with consumerism. Shop windows irritated me, because they are arranged to seduce people and because they induce envy and rapture. But when there is a war, shop windows disappear. Everything is hidden. So you start to appreciate a nicely decorated shop window as a sign of peaceful life. Of course, I understand that people around the world can still be critical about consumerism, but now I realize there are people who were forced to leave everything, who lost all their possessions. I told you my website hasn’t been updated during the last years. The reason for this is that the person who created and updated my website has been drafted. He is in the military now. And I am waiting for his return. I cannot ask somebody else to do the work as if my friend didn’t exist anymore.
Kakhidze: To me a garden is a system which reflects human behavior. If you leave them alone, plants will find ways to cohabitate. In gardens, they are brought to agony by the gardeners, who have specific ideas about which plants belong and which don’t, how they are allowed to behave and so on… Gardens have a political dimension. Taking care of them can be a matter of genocide and deportation… I’m interested in wild, aggressive plants. They remind me of intolerant behavior such as homophobia: the incapacity to accept different views on life. At the same time, I appreciate them because they don’t need care like cultural plants. I distinguish five roles with regard to gardens: Firstly, you are an observer, secondly you are a servant, thirdly you are the owner, you are responsible for it, then you are a researcher and finally you are the receiver of its gifts. After the liberation of a Ukrainian city, I started asking people what had happened with their garden during the occupation that had lasted for 84 Summer days. Some of them told me their gardens had been taken over by weeds. I understand this, because it was dangerous for them to be in their gardens, but this forced abandonment revealed the dependent, unaccomplished nature of their garden. I would like to create an adult garden that can take care of itself. In this show, I will be looking at my mom’s garden, my own garden and the botanical garden of Brussels, of which the structure is quite interesting. My mom couldn’t help but visiting her garden during the war, even when this was very dangerous.
My work always starts from my weaknesses. My father was from Georgia, where he continued to live. My mom was from Ukraine, where she continued to live. I grew up in both countries. My father and my mom had very different lives. This difference persists within me. I have to deal with it. To negotiate. To find a balance. Some of my performances are done with dogs. I used to have a dog named Duchamp. Now I have an alabai central Asian shepherd named Bukowski. It’s a huge, very fierce dog. Communicating with him takes more than words. I have to negotiate with him as well…
Montagne de Miel, 17th August 2017