Follow your inner moonlight: Blake, Bukowski and Ginsberg on the streets of Tbilisi.

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A few years ago, an unknown individual with the initials “A. E.” began transforming the facades of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi into canvases of poetry. Around the city, walls were covered with quotes by poets and artists like James Blake, Charles Bukowski, Patti Smith and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Unlike ordinary graffiti, these fragments appeared mysterious and thought-provoking. Who wrote them and why? What was it that they were supposed to communicate?

A few years ago, an unknown individual with the initials “A. E.” began transforming the facades of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi into canvases of poetry. Around the city, walls were covered with quotes by poets and artists like James Blake, Charles Bukowski, Patti Smith and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Unlike ordinary graffiti, these fragments appeared mysterious and thought-provoking. Who wrote them and why? What was it that they were supposed to communicate?

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“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness” (Allen Ginsberg)

The person behind this mystery was Andro Eradze, a photographer and film student based in Tbilisi. In a blog post from 2013, Andro explains that his first graffiti was the result of him being drunk with a Bukowski book that a friend brought from London. For him, authors like Bukowski have a positive effect on Georgians “who are sad but still hopeful and senselessly positive”. Andro’s work has received considerable attention and RETROGRAD was keen to find out more about the reactions to his graffiti, his artistic aspirations and attitude to the city.

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“Like the fox I run with the hunted and if I’m not the happiest man on earth
I’m surely the luckiest man alive” (Charles Bukowski)

RETROGRAD: You once said that one of the motives behind the graffiti was a “desire to communicate your feelings with the rest of the world”. You said: “nothing was mine in this city so I decided to change it”. Did you notice any reaction to your work?

“I think that in Tbilisi, people agree on some basic things, but they don’t share their true thoughts and feelings with each other. People talk too much about politics, religion and traditions; they have forgotten about the foundation of communication – to communicate without language. For me, poetry is a “form of language without language”. It is not only about sharing thoughts, but a way to communicate impulses, feelings and sensations whose expression is often hindered by the limits of established language.

This is what philosopher Merab Mamardashvili said his whole life – that to express our consciousness, we cannot only rely on traditional terminology. Instead, we have to find ways to create our own meaning. This is why he used poetic metaphors rather than traditional philosophical vocabulary. Unfortunately, nobody in Georgia took that seriously. But after I started spraying quotes around the city, I noticed some interesting resonance on Facebook. People started to share images of it and poetry became popular again.”

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“He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star” (William Blake)

RETROGRAD: How did you choose the buildings that served as canvasses for your graffiti? And which are the buildings that you would never touch?

“I only chose buildings that were familiar to me and that I wanted to be ‘mine’ in a way. These were buildings I would walk past everyday. I wanted to feel that the streets I walked on were talking to me. It is hard to explain what the exact feeling or impulse was, but it felt like a very communicative act.

There are some historical and Soviet buildings in Tbilisi that are strongly linked to my childhood memories and which I would never dare to spray on.”

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“As the spirit wanes the form appears” (Charles Bukowski)

RETROGRAD: What is your favourite building in Tbilisi? Are there any building that you think should be demolished, for example from the Soviet period?

“I do not really have a favourite building but Kiacheli Street is very important to me. It was home to Georgian historian Mikheil Javakishvili as well as Lavrenty Beria who later ordered Javakishvili to be killed. I grew up on this street, so in addition to its historical significance it is filled with many childhood memories.

And no, I don’t think that Soviet-era buildings should be demolished. For me, they are very inspiring. I love the minimalism – it is very close to my artistic views and feelings.”

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“You realised that we didn’t win the war, but yet we can’t stop fighting”
(Irakli Charkviani)

RETROGRAD: You said that you do not consider yourself a street artist. Why?

“For me, street art can be, and must be, more than just writing some quotes on a wall. As a consequence of my project everybody now is writing on walls and nobody remembers that two or three years ago nothing like that existed. It became an ordinary thing. What I like about my project is that people reacted to it, which is much more interesting than the aesthetic of it. And this is interesting for me not as a street artist, but as an ordinary citizen.”

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Green grass made of plastic soldiers. Photo: Andro Eradze. 

RETROGRAD: One of your works was exhibited on Rustaveli Avenue to open the Popiashvili Gvaberidze Window Project – do you have any similar public art projects planned for the future? And how does your graffiti work relate to your work as an artist more generally?

“I am a photographer and film student, so it does not directly relate to my artistic work. Regarding the graffiti,   there is nothing planned but I might do something more with them in the future. Something similar but more artistic that I did was a public installation about illegally acquired territories and miscommunication between people and the government. For this project, I built an army of green plastic soldiers. For viewers coming from the other side of the street, the installation looked like grass. The purpose of the army was to protect the ‘green grass’ or space they formed from external impositions such as ‘mentality’ and traditions. The soldiers are a symbol of my childhood in post-war Georgia. My generation grew up playing with these plastic soldiers.”

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1 Comment
  1. giorgi 5 years ago
    Reply

    ok, it’s fine if one wants to share their thoughts with the fellow citizens, but writing some nice words with ugly typography on buildings is just vandalism, not street art, IMHO

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