Thea Djordjadze

Thea Djordjadze, a Berlin-based Georgian artist, is a former student of Rosemarie Trockel at the Kunstakademie Du_sseldorf. From 1999 until 2003, she was part of hobbypopMUSEUM, a collective known for combining different media and artistic strategies. Djordjadze recently stepped forward as a sculptor before a wider audience, with the works Deaf and Dumb Universe and Fold B (Large), both created in 2008 and shown at the Fifth Berlin Biennale. She continues to explore sculpture and installation in three exhibitions this year: the solo show “Capital Letter” at the Foksal Gallery Foundation, and group shows at the Hayward Gallery in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. “Capital Letter” offered mostly new pieces in an original installation; the eponymous capitalization is unknown in Djordjadze’s mother tongue, which has a unicameral alphabet. She proceeds to analyze the capital both as a graphic sign and as an example of the smallest linguistic unit, the phoneme, which carries no meaning on its own.

Untitled, 2010, for instance, is made of chicken wire, clay, and plaster, all of which usually serve as subsidiary materials with which to shape a sculpture before the final casting in a more precious material. In Djordjadze’s hands, this fragile raw matter, of little value, is transformed into objects recapturing the history of the artistic process, an intimate relationship between the sculptor and the material. Other sculptures on view in Warsaw, made of iron bars and metal elements, bear traces of paint, as if Djordjadze had labeled them her own or placed a signature on them rather than actually painting. Leaving traces in this way elevates the material, shifting its status from that of residue, useless debris accompanying a sculptor’s practice as a byproduct, to that of an art object. The works thus gain a personal and lyric value, no longer falling within the “deaf and dumb universe” to which her earlier works alluded but constituting a part of Djordjadze’s private world of significance.

Scattered across this modest exhibition space and set in close proximity, these pieces compelled the viewer to enter the painstakingly arranged installation: Both the method of presentation and the objects’ small format invite closer inspection. Their texture, weight, and material seem no less important than how they look; the sense of sight alone seems an inadequate tool with which to grasp them. Most of the pieces rested directly on the floor. To install one work (Untitled, 2010), Djordjadze made use of an existing recess between two radiators at the gallery. Making the objects available within the viewer’s reach, Djordjadze presents them as a collection of personal souvenirs that hold the imprints of her own fingertips and, most likely, those of exhibition visitors who are likely to have found their haptic qualities irresistible. The private character of Djordjadze’s works places the audience amid the ambiguous aura of art objects that, though freed from their use-value, are subject to gradual decay. In the case of these works, of course, such evanescence is no accident; we are dealing with purposefully fragile substances, entities that defy elevation or, put another way, capitalization.

Sylwia Serafinowicz-Wesołowska

Translated from Polish by Krzysztof Kościuczuk.