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The Opening Response: Uta Bekaia

The Opening Response titles a special series of interviews with artists, curators, writers, composers, mediators, and space-makers around the world. Dialoguing within and around the thematics which have rapidly emerged as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, we offer within this frame a differentiated, honest, and beautiful bid at understanding. Weekly, distinct doors are opened into the lives of the contributors; into their experiences dawning on pleasure, productivity, metaphysics, and paradigmatic shifts. Hopefully, these conversations can act as way-posts and lead to furthered empathy, unison, and co-creation. The Opening Response meets the need for weaving the autonomy of a web of conscious communications in times of extreme perplexity.

Uta Bekaia is a Georgian born (1974) multimedia artist currently residing and working in New York and Tbilisi. He had studied Industrial Design at Tbilisi Mtsire Academy. He debuted as an artist at AMA (Avant-Guard Fashion Assembly) with a sculptural performance. He creates performances and installations inhabited with wearable sculptures, exploring his historical-cultural background, genetical codes and cycles of the universe. Currently, he is a resident artist at ART OMI, New York.

 

Josseline Black – Reflecting on this recent period of forced isolation, how are you articulating your response in public discourse? What is your role in this larger conversation?

Uta Bekaia – Fear of the unknown was the first notion. Researching the history of world pandemics, and how they reflected on humanity, though I have learned that after each pandemic outbreak, there was a time of cultural and social shift. So, from the scare, came something new for me in my life too.

As I found myself in solitude, I started to feel the calm and silence, that was never there in a big city. Meditating, cooking, exercising, reading, I understood that we live in the world, isolated from nature and natural timing. We are always rushing in fear of missing out, never take time to process our actions. Disconnecting from this hysteria was an amazing discovery for me, I understood, that this man-made matrix could be easily manipulated. I found myself as a small, but crucial part of the greater universe. Isolated, I felt more connected to the world, and the people around it than ever before.

JB – Has your artistic practice changed through isolation?

UB – Probably for the first time, I gave myself permission to self-express through my personal experience. Art practice has become a reflection of the time I’m living in, without the madness of pressure from influences of a contemporary art establishment. The dogma of being up to the “standards” lost its input and anxiety caused by it just vanished.

JB – How has your practical capacity to produce work been affected by the pandemic?

UB – Locked up at home, I didn’t have access to my studio, so I started to develop a project there, on my dining table, it was interesting to find a way to work out the project without the resource, but, as every human would in an extreme situation, I found a way to create. Watercolour and paper have become my medium for a project named Sea, Sea, Swallow Me, an escapist project where I want to create an apocalyptic world from a child’s perspective.

JB – What is your approach to collaboration at the moment? 

UB – The dialogue with fellow artists and/or thinkers was amazing to practice for all of us in this period, I have started podcasts in Georgian, where various conversations about deferent topics, starting with spiritual practice, finishing with finances were talked about. For me, this was the biggest and most successful collaboration so far.

JB – How would you define the present moment, metaphysically/literally/symbolically?

UB – As humanity is always in the waiting mode of the apocalypse, the 2020 pandemic gave us a little taste and understanding of what that means. Locked up in our apartments the mini End came with home-studio and toilet paper shortage instead of earthquakes and fire. But like Phoenix, I think we will come out of this wiser than before. There already are big shifts happening in the world, the Black lives matter movement in the USA for instance. And I believe there will be more. This time to ourselves allowed us to contemplate and reflect.

JB – Do you see the potential for renewed support for cultural production in spite of macro and micro-economies which are currently rapidly restructuring?

UB – I feel that changes are coming to the very commercialized contemporary art business. Where no questions were asked before, I think now will be revealed. I feel that the revolution of mind is on its way and what is in dark, shell come to light.

JB – E.M Cioran writes: “in major perplexities, try to live as history were done with and to react like a monster riddled by serenity”, how do you respond to this proposal?

UB – I’m having a hard time understanding this ☺

JB – How is this time influencing your perception of alterity in general?

UB – This is a good time to be able to alter the social construct, to see how it is crumbling down and see what is it made of from inside out, it’s a great time to stop and contemplate the action and reaction to the environment. I think it is a great time to find the serenity in chaos.

JB – How is your utilization of technology and virtuality evolving the paradigm within which you produce work?

UB – Like everyone on this planet, technology has become the biggest tool I depend on.

JB – What is your position on the relationship between catastrophe and solidarity?

UB – In extreme situations, we stand together, over and over again humanity showed that, what makes us whole, is devastation. I guess this is how we are wired.

JB – What is your utopia now? 

UB – My utopia is that world I have a gift of creating around me, for myself and others interested.

Josseline Black-Barnett is a contemporary curator, writer, and researcher. She holds an M.A. in time-based media from the Kunst Universität Linz and a B.A. in Anthropology (specialization Cotsen Institute of Archaeology) from the University of California Los Angeles. She operated for five years as in-house curator of the international artistic residency program at the Atelierhaus Salzamt (Austria) wherein she had the privilege of working closely with a number of brilliant artists. Included in her duties within the institution she allocated and directed the Salzamt hosting of the E.U. CreArt mobility for artists program. As a writer, she has reviewed exhibitions and co-edited texts for Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado, Portugal, Madre Museum Naples, the Museums Quartier Vienna, MUMOK, Guimarães Gallery, Gallery Michaela Stock. She is regular theoretical contributor to the Contemporary Art Magazine Droste Effect. In addition, she has published with Interartive Malta, OnMaps Tirana, Albania, and L.A.C.E (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions). In tandem to her curatorial practice and writing, she has for the past decade used choreography as a research tool inquiring into the ontology of the performing body with a focus on embodied cartographies of public memory and space. She has held research residencies at the East Ugandan Arts Trust, the Centrum Kultury w Lublinie, the University of Arts Tirana Albania, and the Upper Austrian Architectural Forum. It is her privilege to continue developing her approach to curatorship which derives from an anthropological reading of art production and an ethnological dialectic in working with cultural content generated by art makers. Currently, she is developing the methodology which supports the foundation of a performance-based trans-disciplinary platform for a spectral critique on art production.

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