I Am With Chubik: Faces of Georgian AlterModernity, Modernity and Anti-Modernity


by Irakli Zurab Kakabadze

Nino Chubinishvili has created her own Alter-Modern world in Tbilisi. She is not a self-described adherent of Deleuzian Multiplicities or Hardt and Negri’s Multitude. She has just created her own world. Sometimes this happens at her own studio in Arts Academy, in some cases in her own house on Mtatsminda region, or sometimes even at “Mukha Tsakatukha” Café, where many alternative artists visit and chat. She smoking a flower like an Eastern woman and is dressed like a Western Woman. But she does not identify with any of those worlds necessarily – she has created her own. One can’t help but think of Frantz Fanon’s “Algeria Unveiled” – the protest of women, who sometimes hid behind the veils and sometimes dressed totally like European women in order to confuse colonizers.  In the face of liberal cultural colonization of Georgia, Chubik (as her friends call her since childhood) has discovered her own identity, which is different.

“It does not make any sense to get involved in those bitter arguments between Modernizer-Colonizer Liberals and Anti-Modern Conservatives. I don’t see any difference in them. They all agree on hierarchical structures and are fighting for power and resources. That’s it. I want to focus on creativity, something that gives much more power than those senseless arguments. I create a different world. Less hierarchical, than liberal or conservative world. And that is where I find my happiness.”

Very eloquently said. Chubik does certain interdisciplinary arts, which is participatory. She includes and involves her students in creation of new work. Everyone is co-creating – and therefore creating peace. Peace of mind – which is so difficult to find in contemporary bourgeois discourse.  Participation is something that is lacking around us. The new discourse is a language of complete exclusion.  Chubik’s approach is inclusion. When her students and participants of workshops come, she treats everyone with same respect and gives them a chance to show their talent in ‘building a new world’, but very different one from the mainstream culture. It is not easy – but it is pleasurable. This is a different road to take – and it gives participants much greater joy than following already taken paths of careerism.  That is why many people are attracted to Chubik. They just want to go to “Mukha Tsakatukha” and watch her smoke, talk and work. Her life is art-work in action. That is truly a face of Georgian Altermodernity. One of the most creative faces of this movement.

But there is also a very strong and financially very much backed modernizer-colonizer movement, that is also operating within the Georgian society and proliferating very different values from Nino Chubinishvili’s creativity.

Tamara Chergoleishvili, known in Georgia as an “Angry Bird” after the cartoon character, with her magazine “Tabula” is considered one of the most ardent protagonists of Western Colonialism and Modernity. Her narrative is close to contemporary neoconservative+neoliberal circles in America.  Militaristic modernization and instituting the notions of “Republic of Property” (Hartd&Negri) are main features of her magazines writings, where leading Georgian Neoconservatives Ghia Nodia, Levan Ramishvili and others publish their opinions.  Russian Oligarch, Kakha Bendukidze, who moved to Georgia right after ‘Rose Revolution’ is also aggressively promoting right wing libertarian ideas in style of late Milton Friedman and Austrian School. “Tabula” and “Agrarian University” led by Mr. Bendukidze are backed by large financial base, mostly accumulated by the National Movement Oligarchs such as Mr. Kezerashvili, although Mr. Bendukidze has earned his fortune in Russia long before 2003. Their ideological allies are also in the Ilia State University, led by another Neocon, Gigi Tevzadze. The discourse is very clearly articulated agenda of Georgia becoming part of the West. Members of the ‘Angry Bird’ political clan do not hide their preference towards Western Imperialism in style of Dick Cheney (former American Vice President). In fact, Dick Cheney is considered a good example of state building by the “Tabulistas”.

The ‘Angry Bird’ coalition is acting like a Western Corporation, it uses resources and establishes franchises everywhere it can. It proliferates a simple and easy to grasp message of Bourgeois Success, that is attractive to middle class.  “Angry Bird’ is also flirting with left wing liberals. Their alliance is based on their joint anti-religious and namely anti-Orthodox appeal.  This coalition of intellectuals is what Frantz Fanon calls colonizer-collaborators, local women who are trying to be more Western than Western women. And because of that some Western women have some criticism of “Angry Bird’ as too aggressive bunch, who is not hiding their desire to give in to imperialism.

By September, 2012, when another scandal erupted around Saakashvili government where tapes surfaces where prisoners where tortured and raped by police guards, Saakashvili’s modernizer government lost support even by allied identity groups such as Women and Homosexuals. His party narrowly lost the election, October 1, 2012 and the eclectic coalition “Georgian Dream” became the majority in Georgian Parliament. This coalition that is led by billionaire, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is comprised of different political forces, where Conservatives share the power with Social Democrats, Republicans, Free Democrats and People’s Party. This coalition of liberals and conservatives has some elements of anti-modern coupled with more or less progressive Social Democrats and Republicans and pragmatic Free Democrats.

So who are the anti-modern forces in Georgian politics?

Anti-Modern movement in Georgia is mostly based on traditional notions of resisting spiritual corruption brought by globalization. This movement is not entirely new, since there were anti-modern sentiments starting from 19-th century when the serfdom was abolished by young reformers in Russian Empire. Corruption of Spiritual values is opposed by the forces allied with an Orthodox Church and ethno-nationalist groups. In some points they have some very legitimate concerns about the effects of modernization. In a sense, like Hardt and Negri suggest anti-modern forces here are clearly anti-colonial, but they lack their positive agenda for the future. These forces are looking into the past – and that is why conservative forces in Georgia are always losing the battle for creative ideas for the future of Georgia. One of the examples of their failure is their large campaign against identity cards, based upon the false premise that those electronic identification cards contain the sign of a Satan. In the end the leader of Georgian Orthodox Church came out in public to suggest that this was not true and asked everyone to make his or her own decision on this matter. Lack of creative thinking is crippling conservative movement in Georgia and therefore is making it more vulnerable to ridicule from its opponents.

Anti-Modern movement has its popular leaders, such as Zviad Dzidziguri and Gubaz Sanikidze (above), who appeal to large parts of Georgian population. They do have a chance to succeed if they adopt more creative ways of addressing their constituency. But in general, Anti-Modern, Anti-Colonial Movement is not going to succeed if it is not going bring creative, new ways of continuing life in this multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, that has a tradition of coexistence lasting thousands of years. Tradition of coexistence sounds like the best tradition for conservatives to find the ways out of their ideological impasse.

Anti-Modern forces usually rely on the votes and support of subaltern population that is the most disenfranchised part of the Georgian Society.  It is very well known that different reactionary ideas are mostly popular and easy to sell in these parts of the population. Leading modernizers however successfully compete in some cases for the votes of Georgian subaltern appealing to the ethnic nationalism, especially during and after the war with Russia colonizing forces of Saakashvili were able to significantly cut the number of Anti-modern supporters. Saakashvili was also able to successfully use conspiracy theories about “Russian Spies’ thereby arresting number of people on unsubstantiated charges and getting general support from the very poor population that is usually anti-modern.

But when was the contemporary Alter-modern Georgian art and lifestyle born?

In 1960s the new authors and artists came to the scene in Georgia, who have shown the vision for alternative world. Film director Othar Ioseliani, Theater Director Robert Sturua, Writers Guram Rcheulishvili, Erlom Akhvlediani, Jemal Karchkhadze, Philosophers Merab Mamardashvili, Zurab Kakabadze, Tamaz Buachidze and others started to articulate the vision for the new Georgian ‘Alter-Modern’- that was not saying no to progress in general, but was not talking the element of love completely out of occasion. Georgian alter-modern was constantly struggling with “Deinstitutionalization of Love’ that was one of the main features of technocratic Soviet reality. Even since Lenin’s time this was called a “Bourgeois Sentimentality’ and was downgraded. Georgian ‘Alter-Modern’ started to reconstruct the notion of love within the industrial society and it proved to be quite successful. The works of Ioseliani, Sturua, Mamardashvili and their partners became well known through the world. Brechtian hero, Georgian Judge Azdak (below) became one of the main escapes in Georgia’s reality of State-Capitalism in 1980s. This was truly Delleuzian notion of escape from Capitalism through arts – or for that matter through Bakhtin’s notion of Carnival.

In 1980 Georgia resisted Soviet authoritarian system through Bakhtin’s Carnival and Brecht’s Azdak played by late great Georgian Actor Ramaz Chhikvadze (above), but in 1990s and 2000 different reality required a different alternative. That is where the group of writers led by Naira Gelashvili started to publish a magazine called ‘Alternative’. Edited by Shota Iatashvili, this publication also became one of the niches of Georgian Alter-Modernity.

It could be argued that Alter-Modern artistic and scientific narrative was more responsible for bringing Soviet Totalitarianism down than Anti-Modern forces of reactionary Churches or Ethnic Nationalists. Alter-Modernists played a very important role in deconstructing Soviet hierarchical system. Unfortunately their voice became less important during and after the Velvet Revolution of 1989. As we have said, either Anti-Modern forces of isolationist religious nationalism or modern forces of colonialism occupied the whole stage leaving very little space for creative vision of society.

Now, at “Mancho’s Place” and “Mukha Tsakatukha” Georgian Alter-modern is gaining strength. It is creating a new life – a new carnival against careerist consciousness. Nino Chubinishvili with her friends is one of the champions of this new narrative. Just like Algerian women during a revolution, sometimes she has a veil and sometimes she is undressed like a European woman. But what is the main point in her creativity is that she is never a hostage to liberal-conservative dichotomy and to new neoliberal colonialism. She has a power to strike with her art that is more dangerous than any political party. It is a creative and unexpected strike, which is driven by creative spiritual values.

Piece originally published at Arcade | Creative Commons License