Elene Kapanadze & Gvantsa Jishkariani

Full name: Elene KapanadzeGvantsa Jishkariani

Currently lives and works in: Tbilisi, Georgia
Organization: Tbilisi Photo Festival
Areas of interest: Elene: Post-Soviet contemporary art, video art, photography, installation art. Gvantsa: Art, fashion, economics.
Favorite books: Elene: My current favourite is the book I have just finished by Nino Kharatishvili, called The Eighth Life for Brilka, I am deeply impressed by it and I am so sad I finished it. Gvantsa: Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman.
Favorite films: Elene: One film that got me thinking a lot was Dogville. Gvantsa: Films by Yorgos Lanthimos is what comes to my mind right now. And the Simpsons OFC and many documentaries about Hoarders – my recent addiction.

I’ve graduated from the University College London with a bachelor’s degree in History of Art. Since then, I’ve been researching and working on the subject of contemporary art from the Post-Soviet countries. I have a strong interest in the media of video art and photography. I have worked as an assistant curator at the Yarat Contemporary Art Centre, Baku (2015–2016); I have worked on the exhibitions program on the occasion of Georgia being the guest of honour country at the Frankfurter Buchmesse (2017) as part of the Georgian National Book Centre. In 2017 I co-founded a non-commercial vitrine gallery The Why Not Gallery, Tbilisi. I am also involved in various arts-related projects as a freelance curator.

Why are you a part of MagiC Carpets? Elene: One of the problems of the Georgian arts scene is that it has very little international exchange; there are practically no international art shows. Therefore, I gladly accepted the opportunity to invite an international artist to Georgia and help them produce work here. I am also glad to be given the chance to broaden my curatorial network and be able to meet so many new and exciting artists.

Gvantsa: Because I am curious what can happen and how can I be helpful in it.

Why have you chosen to be a curator or why has curatorship chosen you? Gvantsa: I have not chosen to be a curator. I think it all started during my studies at the CCA Tbilisi, where we all, had to curate our own shows as a group. After that, I had some ideas about exhibitions, and made them happen with visual and sound artists. Then there was Patara Gallery, and the Why Not Gallery which I started with two precious friends of mine, and we have curated more than 20 shows in a year.

I think my moving force was an idea that if there’s lack of something, I need to make it. That’s why I started my galleries, and I think that’s why I am curating shows from time to time. To bring new vision, alternative approach to any subject and to every artist I am working with. To help them be more open and independent, and to challenge myself to learn and understand more.

What do you think is the purpose of art? Elene: The purpose of art is to inspire, provoke curiosity and imagination and to educate. Art also has the unique ability to store information in the most lively, understandable and unconventional way and, therefore, it becomes an invaluable asset through time.
Gvantsa: It is to find the meaning of things and happenings, it is to make you feel.

Past projects you are proud of (before MC)?

The Why Not Gallery. 
The project was a vitrine gallery at the underground passageway in the Tbilisi city centre. The gallery displayed young Georgian artists in conversation with international video art.

The project was born out of my and Gvantsa Jishkariani’s great dissatisfaction with the local Georgian arts scene that rarely hosts any international contemporary art. Therefore, we took the mission upon ourselves. But we did not want it to be an alien intervention, so we displayed the video art with young Georgian artists.

Because it was such a busy location, hundreds of people involuntarily became the exhibition visitors and started reflecting on the works without even realising it. It was very interesting to see art in this context and hear the feedback from such diverse groups.

I co-curated the project with Gvantsa Jishkariani and was involved in every aspect, from choosing and contacting the artists, to working on new commissions, to physically hanging the works and managing the space.

Patara Gallery. Patara Gallery is a 4sq meter exhibition space in an underground passageway. Because it is not a regular gallery space, the work is inevitably shaped by the space – the box that is being viewed from one side, the size of it, location and the audience. That means that art needs to communicate from behind a glass door and with this specific and at the same time random audience – anyone. Because of this, some of it tries to engage with the viewer, interact, involve him or her in the process – thus in art.

But also, as much as it is “reality-forged”, art shown in Patara Gallery is also even more straight forward and without subjecting itself to compromises of being misunderstood or not seen as art because it tries to be pure, be honest with the people that might not yet recognize it as art – it appears there as it is and all is left for the viewer is to accept its existence.

My friend Nata Kipiani and myself, we are making this all happen, starting from selecting artists, working with them on concepts, ending with painting walls and changing flooring.

The Why Not Gallery. The Why Not Gallery, is  a vitrine gallery located in Tbilisi, Georgia. The gallery was founded by me and Elene Kapanadze. The project was conceived out of our endless enthusiasm for contemporary art and equally strong frustration at the local arts scene. Apart from all the problems that outdated arts institutions inflict on the scene, there are hardly ever any shows that present international artists. Which in itself creates a big vacuum and does not allow young artists to have their creativity stimulated.

So, instead of complaining and waiting for others to improve the situation, we decided to take matters into our hands founded a non-profit organization. Our intention with the Why Not Gallery is to showcase and present some of our most favorite artist and share their works with the rest of Georgian scene.

Conceived as an experiment, the project defies many established rules of the art world. For its location, we chose an underground passageway of a busy square at the heart of Tbilisi. The Orbeliani square is famous for its squatted flower market and small repair apprenticeships. Underneath it, the passageway is packed with shops selling fake brands, cheap plastic goods, religious accessories as well as vegetables and fruit stands. The same square houses a glamorous glass business center with international companies’ offices. It is the most unexpected place to come across an art exposition, however, very appropriate for a lively city, where museums feel like mausoleums and the general public is indifferent towards the contemporary art. We feel that by taking art out of its elitist connotations and placing it in the most banal scenario of the everyday life, we will engage more and reach a bigger audience and last, but not least, stir up a conversation around contemporary art.

Currently the gallery is on a long vacation as the space we were renting is no longer ours.