23

– Spring 2010

Tokens of Sense: The Work of Thea Djordjadze

Sarah Lowndes

Tags: Rosemarie Trockel, Thea Djordjadze

Thea Djordjadze, Deaf and Dumb Universe, 2008, iron, foam, rubber,plaster, paint, ceramics. Installation views, Neue Nationalgalerie, 5th Berlin Biennial. © Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art, Uwe Walter, 2008. Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London

Thea Djordjadze, Deaf and Dumb Universe, 2008, iron, foam, rubber,plaster, paint, ceramics. Installation views, Neue Nationalgalerie, 5th Berlin Biennial. © Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art, Uwe Walter, 2008. Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London

Visiting Thea Djordjadze's new apartment in Berlin last spring, I came across a strange blue-green object on her bedroom windowsill. It was a curious shape - a half sphere, with a complex crisscross pattern embossed on the curved surface. It was about the size of my hand and looked like a coral specimen from a natural history museum, except that it was the colour of oxidised bronze. Unable to resist touching it, I picked it up. The thing had a flat and smooth underside, onto which a serial number had been written in black pen in Djordjadze's hand, which gave me to understand that this was an artwork. It was lighter than I had expected, and made not of some mineral substance but of moulded plaster. The grooves in the striated curved surface felt lovely to touch in comparison to the cool flatness of the base. Still no closer to understanding what the thing was, I carefully replaced it on the windowsill.

That evening Djordjadze mentioned how several of her recent works had been damaged by gallery visitors seemingly incapable of withstanding the impulse to touch or re-arrange them. The previous autumn, when she was still living in Cologne - where she had been based since 2001 - she twice had to travel back to Berlin to repair Deaf and Dumb Universe (2008), her work for the Berlin Biennial. Spectators had repeatedly poked and prodded the work's chair-like sculptures, which were made of sponge covered in plaster and paint; she showed me a photograph of the surface of one piece that was pitted with fifteen depressions made by other people's fingers. A few months

Footnotes
  1. All quotations from the artist come from conversations with the author, 15 April and 26 September 2009.

  2. Walter Benjamin, 'The Task of the Translator' (1926), Illuminations (ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zorn), London: Pimlico, 1999, p.73.

  3. Vladimir Nabokov, foreword to Mikhail Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time (trans. V. Nabokov), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984, pp.xiii-xiv.

  4. Adam Szymczyk, 'A Soul Admitted to Itself', Endless Enclosure (exhibition booklet), Kunsthalle Basel, 2009, n.p.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (trans. Maria Jolas), Boston: The Beacon Press, 1994, p.113.

  7. This description of the contents of the installation is based on that given by Catherine Wood in her essay 'Thea Djordjadze: An Archaeology of the Interior', in Kathleen Rahn (ed.), Thea Djordjadze, Nuremberg: Verlag für Moderne Kunst, 2008, p.34.

  8. Joseph Brodsky, 'A Place as Good as Any', On Grief and Reason: Essays, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1996, p.35.

  9. Georgia's independence from Russia was declared by the anti-communist government of Zviad Gamsakhurdia on 9 April 1991, but fighting broke out again in the separatist state of South Ossetia in 1991-92 and in the breakaway region of Abkhazia in 1992-93. While the Georgian economy struggled in the aftermath of these wars, former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze took power, and stabilised the political situation to some degree, but also presided over a continuing period of economic downturn and increasing corruption.

  10. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture (1949), London: Maurice Temple Smith, 1970, p.15. 7 This description of the contents of the installation is based on that given by Catherine Wood in her essay 'Thea Djordjadze: An Archaeology of the Interior', in Kathleen Rahn (ed.), Thea Djordjadze, Nuremberg: Verlag für Moderne Kunst, 2008, p.34.

  11. Walter Benjamin, 'On the Mimetic Faculty' (1933), Reflections (trans. Edmund Jephcott), New York: Schocken Books, 1986, pp.333-34.

  12. Claude Lévi-Strauss describes ashes as an intermediary form 'between nature and culture, ground and sky' in 'The Structural Study of Myth', Structural Anthropology (trans. Claire Jacobson and Brooke Schoepf), New York: Basic Books, 1963.

  13. Dan Fox, 'Thea Djordjadze', frieze, issue 111, November-December 2007, p.187.

  14. For a discussion of such an idea of time, see Christopher J. Isham and Konstantina N. Savvidou, 'Time and Modern Physics', in Katinka Ridderbos (ed.), Time, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002,p.9.