I am staying as a guest at the Art Villa Garikula, the village of Akhalkalaki in the beautiful countryside 80 km from Tbilisi in Georgia. I am here for a month to attempt to complete a text about Desert Walker; a performance that took place over 2 years ago on the vast Salt Playa, Utah, USA. This historical villa was established as Georgia’s first centre of contemporary art some 10 years ago by Karaman Kutateladze. From the website;
The artist group involved in Garikula shares a dream: to create in Akhalkalaki a self-sustaining functioning infrastructure of contemporary art, an art village gathering the people of fine arts and passions to create a universal instrument of understanding, democracy, and balance through elegance. Everyone who believes in the power of art to shape the time in which we live is invited to participate: meetings, workshops and festivals of art gain international scope; the residency project invites people to witness Georgian esthetics of gardening and agriculture, environment history, and art. Garikula plays its role as the regional base where people of art, culture and science can meet each other and stay in residence.
And the description holds true! To stay here is not like any other residency I have experienced. Here you arrive as a guest, but become a part of a family. To be a resident means simply to be present with yourself and engage in the everyday life in the villa in any which way you will, slowly discovering what that can be from day to day – in dialogue with the people, the location and surroundings.
In the garden are fruit trees, vines for wine production, vegetables of all shapes, colours and sizes. But as Karaman points out, it is not a commune. People of the village are employed here in all manner of ways and with equally many competences. Local products supplement the villa’s own food production. The water, rich in minerals, comes from natural sources.
The villa is in a state of partial restoration, but it does not seem – from an outsider’s perspective – to be in a hurry to become complete, and not just because of economical conditions. It seems more like an emergent process in which the issues of sustainability are being addressed with integrity, with a focus on the road ahead, while keeping a glance in the rear view mirror – and always with the vision described above in mind.
Here is a place to work, relax, to let time dissolve to enjoy the landscape, the flora, the wildlife as they respond to the rhythms of the day. There are sharp minds of creative people to keep the intellect busy too. This is my 4th day at the villa, and my first ever time in Georgia. Gradually I start to understand how and why this place came into existence, and the dedication on the part of the artists who seek to make it “so”.