The Radical Republic of Georgia
Something radical is happening in the Republic of Georgia, a sparsely populated, totally charming nation nestled between Europe, Asia and Russia in truculent Transcaucasia. In a far-flung part of the world known for creepy as f*ck despots and ongoing Russian aggression (Stalin cut his totalitarian teeth there as a youngin and just to the north Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s sadistic strongman, rules the place with an iron fist), Georgia sits smack-dab at the crossroads of East and West, post-modern and classical, Soviet retro and sci-fi futuristic. Capitalism flourishes there but not the roughshod, dog eat dog version we’re accustomed to. It’s a politically versicolored, culturally new wave place that contains multitudes.
Led by a new generation of creative youth, there’s a cultural revolution happening on the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia’s kinetic capital city, right now. Across fashion, art, music, politics, and beyond, Georgia’s totally woke ‘Kartvelians’ are staunch defenders of democratic/pluralistic values, bona fide exponents of the West, raving geopolitical disruptors and impossibly warm hosts (unless you’re a rabble-rousing Russian PM visiting parliament; otherwise, “a guest is a gift from God”).
Most importantly, they are artistic-sartorial swashbucklers on an unprecedented level, with mavericks like Berhasm, Beso Tura, Irakli Rusadze, The Situationist, Elene Metrevell, Gigi Jikia/HVL, Sofia Tchkonia, Celia Valverde, Gola Damian, Lado Bokuchava, George Keburia, Salome Potskhverashvili and more lighting up the scene and hacking the creative system wholesale.
Tbilisi’s cityscape collides classical, neo-Constructivist, Suprematist, street, luxury, high, low, Art Nouveau and everything in between. The artistic ethos there encapsulates and propagates this fluxious spirit, situated right at the juncture of Eastern Bloc nostalgia and pomo avant-garde with the gravitational warpage of a Black Hole. It’s fucking insane: old school architecture juxtaposed against spaceship-like architectonics, amidst vertiginous mini-mountains with shimmering, structurally fluid interventions, medieval fortresses, cave complexes, swish basilicas, a sinusoidal river and tectonic logics that boggle the brain.
Looking like a place channeling the collective, drug-addled, hypnagogic works of Zaha Hadid, Massimiliano Fuksas, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and Tadao Ando — all tripping on mushrooms together, engendering some utopian wonderland wavering between ascetic minimalism, eco-friendliness and alien engineering — it makes VIVISXN giddy with satisfaction.
Pioneering designers like Irakli Rusadze of the headline-snatching label The Situationist (and tapped by DSM as a next-gen mover and shaker), conceptual paint-slinger Alexander Berdysheff, rave-maker Naja Orashvili (of Bassiani — Tbilisi’s it-est nightclub), and soundsmith Kote Japaridze, etc. are a throbbing source of this creative energy putting Eurasia (Tbilisi in particular) on the artistic map. Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia (born in Georgia, based in Switzerland) is cool and all, but the local artists, musicians, skaters, designers, and models — proving there’s more to Georgia than a certain Vetements/Balenciaga firebrand — are sending ripples throughout the global zeitgeist.
Thankfully, a number of these whippersnappers were willing to share exactly what makes the place so special with VIVISXN, furnishing us with coveted intel on where to eat the best Khachapuri and garlic-infused aubergine, imbibe shots of chacha late into the night, shop the best styles, drink beatroot/rose lattes and dance to the best music in the dopest underground venues.
There are bustling avenues that are pretty much impossible to cross at night (especially after a day of drinking!), old Georgian villas with charming square courtyards, and Brutalist concrete blocks atop steep hills that cast cool shadows under the twinkling moonlight, all within close proximity of each other. Go-tos, if you’re into romantic adventures, include the Stamba Hotel, the iconic Bank of Georgia, the Wedding Palace and be sure to walk along the mighty Kura river.
Oh, and shop til you drop at Chaos Concept store behind the Stamba, where you’ll find Georgian gems and international brands that are all worship worthy and crackling with coolness. Zines like i-D, 032c and Dust adorn the walls and soothing soundtracks of zoned-out moody trance make for a blissful ambient experience.
In the Old Town, traditional houses with ornamental balconies are strung with random clothing lines, tangled electrical cables and cute cafes (pop by the super-cool Carpe Diem cafe bar, run by hip-hop crew KayaKata, for breathtaking views of Tbilisi and good vibes!), while further downtown, sprawling Soviet buildings and stark glass structures from the 00s loom large.
A few megalomaniac contemporary homes, embedded in the hills and built by moneyed-up oligarchs, are impressive spectacles from most vantage points. It’s all very pretty — a real-time panorama of memory, nostalgia, legend, myth and modernity! There are even stray wolf dog mongrels roaming about the city (vaccinated, of course) affectionately nurtured by both locals and random passersby and considered ‘companion mutts’ in what Georgians call the ‘land of wolves.’
Overseeing everything is a twenty-metre tall statue of Mother Georgia, high on a hill, which you might just recognize from a cult Comme des Garçons editorial from 1989 (below). Tbilisi is a titillating culture clash, manic melting pot and next-level frontier market that straddles the old Silk Road and connects east, west, north and south in a new, cooler than now aesthetic-economic nexus. Just keep your eyes peeled for spontaneous anti-Putin uprisings, especially when Russian MPs come to town. To get really up to scratch on Georgian everything, read our girl Lorraine Vaney’s excellent piece here and check out the pics below.
Photography Brian Griffin + Gola Damian + Irakli Rusadze + Davita + Wikimedia Commons
VIVISXN MEDIA – Art + Fashion + Tech + Music + Pop Culture + 深度学习 + AI + Machine Learning + 音乐时尚 + 艺术 + 高科技 + 流行文化 + 大众文化 + 前卫艺术 + George Keburia + Gola Damian of Chaos + Sofia Tchkonia + Lado Bokuchava + Lorraine Vaney + George Keburia + Kayakata Ft. Coppe + Maxime Machaidze aka Luna + Zurab Jishkariani + Salome Machaidze + David Meskhi + Tamuna Karumidze + Louis Chasserot + Tekuna Gachechiladze + Scalos 2267 + Zaha Hadid + Massimiliano + Doriana Fuksas + Frank Gehry + Rem Koolhaas + Tadao Ando + Frontier Markets + Irakli Rusadze + Salome Potskhverashvili + Republic of Georgia + Emerging Markets