Sophia Tabatadze

Curated by Nini Palavandishvili, GeoAIR

Artist Sophia Tabatadze

23. - 25. 12. 2011

Tbilisi, Georgia

A presentation of the research phase and lecture series to a Georgian audience in collaboration with the architect Levan Asabashvili (Urban Reactor, http://urbanreactor.blogspot.com)

The Pirimze building was built in 1971 in Soviet Georgia. The six-storey building provided working space for all kinds of handicrafts. Basically everything could be repaired there: shoes, watches, glasses, jewellery, bags, suitcases, belts, hair dryers, kitchen machines, etc.. Knives and scissors were sharpened, hair was cut and shoes were polished. Tailors and sewers of fur and leather created individual garments for customers. Pirimze was well-known and its services were used by everyone in the city and the surrounding villages.

The interior of the building was amazing. All the craftspeople had their own private booths. These booths had personalized interiors - decorated with snippets from glossy, foreign magazines, pin-ups and hand-drawn advertisements. As a result of her visual fascination of the site, Sophia Tabatadze decided to reconstruct it while the memories of the people who once worked there were still vivid. After meeting with them, it became clear that the destruction of Pirimze, viewed in a larger context, concealed alternative motives as well as social and political agendas of the different players involved in this process.

All of the craftspeople were ejected in the summer of 2007, and Pirimze was torn down. The Pirimze Plaza now stands in its place. The word “plaza” is a foreign word in the Georgian language and it is an expression of the direction the country is taking by altering names and replacing them with exoticsounding definitions without changes in the social or fundamental direction. Pirimze Plaza will be yet another shopping centre with offices, and one wonders how many successful businesses there are. Some of the craftspeople that used to work in the old Pirimze will also work there. Those who are willing and able to pay a high rent are given a small workplace in a windowless cellar.

The interviews with former Pirimze employees reveal an interesting parallel between what has happened to the building and what is happening to the whole country. Sophia Tabatadze collected a variety of information about Pirimze during the project’s research phase (October 17- December 21, 2011). At the moment the collection consists of architectural sketches showing the old Pirimze and the new Pirimze Plaza, as well as photographs and videos of the small workshops that have emerged scattered in the neighbourhood surrounding the old Pirimze and carry its former name: PIRIMZE. It also includes information about the location and photographs of old Pirimze from architectural books and newspapers, drawings of the construction during the transition from old to new Pirimze as well as photographs and video collages made by former workers. There is an interview with Koki Beridze, a former Pirimze worker and an active fighter for workers’ rights, and his counterinterview with Sophia Tabatadze. The collection is rounded off with TV features and newspaper coverage about the workers’ struggle, the unfairness of new owners, and pictures of the interior and exterior of the building.

Parallel to the research presentation, lecture series were organized by the architect Levan Asabashvili: December 22: Architecture as result and definer of social processes - speaker Levan Asabashvili, architect. December 23: Collective effort - good case scenario meeting with dentist Nana Mumlauri, whose colleagues were able to keep their workspace after privatization. Argentina Worker Cooperatives – Industrias Recuperadas – excerpt from the film about an Argentinian aluminium factory, in which the workers were able to occupy the factory where they worked and are now collectively managing it. December 25: Collective and post-Soviet reality – speaker Zviad Avaliani, political studies.

This project was supported by: Fonds BKVB