Comissioned by artasfoundation
together with SKLAD
Photos: Frank Lorin Ellenberger
The “Institute of the Visionaries” took place in Sukhum/i, the capital of the Republic of Abkhasia.
This country does not exist on the German worldmap, as internationally, Abkhazia is considered to be part of Georgia, as it was most of the time during the Soviet Union. However, since a war in 1992-93, most inhabitants of Abkhazia consider their land an independent country. This is recognized by Russia, Nicaragua and some very small countries very far away. Sukhum/i, which in Georgian is called Sukhum/i, is a beautiful city on the Black Sea. Since the invention of tourism, it was a holiday hotspot. Today, it is a little run down, many properties are abandoned and the undefined diplomatic status, the bad state of the infrastructure and the difficult economic situation keep many visitors away.
raumlabor went with a small team to find out what public space means in this ambivalent situation. Invited by SKLAD, an independ art and culturel space and together with artasfoundation, the Swiss foundation for Art in Regions of Conflict, we developed first strategic ideas and a set of tools to approriate the city’s destiny.
In order to get to know each other, we first created an exchange platform with the local people. 2 Blogs were created: on the first one, the people from Sukhoum/i would publish some photos of their everyday life in “This Remote town”, and on our side we would do the same with Berlin in “This super diverse district in a central city”.
After a first research trip where we got to know the city, visited strategic places and opened discussions about urban potentials, we discovered that even if the cultural scene in Sukhum/i is quite limited, many people wish to enlarge it and have ideas about what could be done. During a first workshop in SKLAD, we collected knowledge and ideas for and about the city.
Visits of local workshop/factories.
SKLAD, cultural space in the city center of Sukhum/i. First workshop with local people.
On this basis, we imagined a project, which would allow us to react to the local situation and the people present on site.
We first realized a big drawing on a billboard in the public space of Sukhum/i. Passers-by were invited to share their ideas and get it drawn into a collective vision for the future. We were positively surprised how people were eager to discuss what could happen in the city.
As a second step we chose one of the spaces in the drawing for instant realization together with the local community. The chosen space was a small abandoned train station with a nice and open architecture. The train station became the “Institute of the Visionaries”, a place to promote, discuss and find allies for ideas within the city. During a week long workshop the different elements that composed the Institute were built.
Some letters and a rocket were placed on the roof, furniture created a discussion area, an inflatable welcomed a ping-pong table and a barbecue+smoking oven provided heat for cooking.
At the end of the building workshop, a lot of people from different backgrounds came to the opening of the “Institute of visionaries”. All the built elements were brought to the train station to making the space manifest and allowing people to meet and discuss around fire, open their imagination while standing in front of the big drawing, or process some ideas by moving their body in the inflatable ping-pong space.
This one-day reactivation of a public space allowed us to test the possibilities of the site and gave a visible impulse in Sukhum/i, opening imaginations for thinking the city of tomorrow together. Through the process of realizing a collective idea, the participants experienced that it is possible to make changes in their living environment.
After the event, the elements were brought back to SKLAD, which will continue being a space of discussion for the local community. The train station got its old status back, waiting for the next re-appropriation.