The Dispatch – September 20-21: Art Classes

Art History in Times of Hate – Cocaine Saga Prequel Comes Out – Palm Islands Come to Batumi – Opposition Divided over Summoning SSG Head

As the campaign ahead of municipal elections progresses, more pieces of art catch the eye – some as hate-inspired billboards, others as luxurious promises. Here is Nini, with usual and unusual updates from Georgia.

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TWO PIECES There is a popular story about one of the artworks painted by 20th-century Georgian avant-garde artist Davit Kakabadze, particularly famous for his distinctive depiction of the Imereti region. Unable to evade the Soviet pressure on arts, Kakabadze once had to give up a tiny portion on the painting of one of Imereti landscapes to honor the communist party, drawing a Soviet demonstration at a right corner below, with participants holding pictures of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Lavrenti Beria. Later, after Stalin’s death, the picture fell victim to the so-called De-Stalinization process, and the faces of Stalin and Beria were erased. Restoration efforts many years later could only recover Stalin’s face, with Beria – the feared and hated security chef – was, apparently, beyond redemption.

The story of another art piece plays in the present. This time, the artwork features the ruling party’s enemies on a bloody background. And instead of having to erase their faces one by one, the artists – whoever they are – must tread with attention to leave sufficient blank space for the new enemies. The billboards reading “No to Natsi’s [a shorthand for the United National Movement, made to sound like Nazis], no to evil” first appeared on Georgian streets during the turbulent campaign ahead of the 2018 presidential elections in Georgia. The “Evil Natsis” poster has been the fixture of Georgian elections ever since. The different versions of it were printed: featuring key opposition figures, as well as journalists critical of the government. This year, the “Evil Natsi” billboard has opened the election season, with a nifty addition of the rainbow and featuring LGBTQ movement activists. But the enemy list of the Georgian Dream has been expanding, and a very special place has now been assigned to former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia. He even got the privilege of altering the slogan – it now reads: “No to Natsis, No to Evil, No to Treason.” Fetching.

NO VACCINE FOR HATE The critics of this revolting piece of campaign art say it is not meeting the legal requirements for a campaign poster: there is no indication of who has paid for them, manufactured them, or an explicit message in whose support it is placed. ISFED, a key election watchdog, was among those who appealed to the Central Election Commission to rectify this problem. Many people are also upset that some of these banners were glued over the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) banners, calling people to vaccinate against Covid-19. Responding to media inquiries, the NCDC agency condemned the act “if it is true”.

DECADENCE Speaking of health and hate: after its burlesque pilot episode, the drug-framing mini-series featuring mayoral hopefuls Kakha Kaladze and Giorgi Gakharia turned downright boring. Gakharia showed off his negative drug test results from Vienna’s Rudolfinerhaus hospital. The ruling party googled up controversies associated with the clinic and cast doubts about its credibility. GD Chair Irakli Kobakhidze, trying to save the day, concocted another telenovela-esque plot: when asked by the journalists if Mr. Gakharia was, as Kobakhidze says, a “cokehead”, how come he was made PM by the Georgian Dream, Kobakhidze advanced his theory that the former prime minister only got to powdering his nose after forging ties with a “particular political force” (apparently, a euphemism to the-party-that-must-not-be named, the UNM for you and I). That party, says Kobakhidze, is “intimately linked” to specifically this drug. It is an interesting mind game to try to associate Georgia’s political parties with “their” trademark drug, but we would leave that particular exercise to your vivid imagination.

In the meantime, a note that you no longer have to take our word for it: Mr. Kobakhidze decided to advertise his undoubtedly colorful and imaginative persona directly for foreign audiences: the ruling party’s freshly launched English-language podcast is hosted by MP Tamar Taliashvili (Ph.D., as specifically noted in the titles), with Kobakhidze (also, Ph.D., noted in the titles). Enjoy. It’s Doctors’ orders, right?!

ISLANDS IN THE STREAM Tornike Rizhvadze, Government Head of Adjara Autonomous Republic, spoke yesterday at Imedi TV that Dubai-like palm island is going to be built in the coastal city of Batumi. Soon, the computer-generated sketches were plastered across the internet – some netizens have noted that if they build those islands a bit further from the shore, Georgia might get its bridge to Europe…

DIVIDED WE STAND Georgia’s opposition is good at discord: the latest one came after Lelo for Georgia started advocating for summoning the Head of State Security Service Grigol Liluashvili to the parliament to demand answers about the massive leak of what seems like an equally massive surveillance treasure trove. For this, Lelo needs the backing of other opposition MPs, but the UNM turned them down: no UNM MP has time to take part in “Ivanishvili’s gathering” (the Parliament, for you and I) till after the October 2 elections, party chairman Nika Melia said. So the opposition is still there, waiting for the miracle to come on that magical date, all by itself.

That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Tuesday and Friday!