Having some wine, playing nardi with friends, and taking care of the customers
Eliava, GeoAir, and the Images
Below are pictures that I took in a section of the Eliava market in Tbilisi that offers second-hand car parts, as well as some new parts.
They were taken during late spring and early summer of 2014.
I accompanied four GeoAir resident artists who were doing their art work under a project called Discover Eliava. There were two conceptual artists, who did most of their work on in one of the market stalls on the ground level, and two sculptors, who did their work on the second floor of a structure under construction. I stayed at both places in order to observe, interact with people, and take pictures. I also moved around the market and took photos.
I would like to thank GeoAir and the resident artists who let me to join them as an observer.
My special thanks go to those who work at the market and gave me the opportunity of observing and recordings their interactions and bonds of friendship. I observed how they perpetuated their bonds, and produced their place or space on a daily basis, in precarious conditions, in a particular site that is part of a larger market connected to the complex and dynamic global neoliberal capitalist economy in multiple ways.
Meaning is context-bound, but context is boundless – Jonathan Culler
I have organized the pictures with a mobility/immobility framework in mind.
As the below text indicates, the (im)mobility framework has its advantages and challenges:
“We argue for the importance of anthropology to “take on” mobility and discuss the advantages of the ethnographic approach in doing so. What is the analytical purchase of mobility as one of the root metaphors in contemporary anthropological theorizing? What are the (dis)advantages of looking at the current human condition through the lens of mobility? There is a great risk that the fast-growing field of mobility studies neglects different interpretations of what is going on, or that only patterns that fit the mobilities paradigm will be considered, or that only extremes of (hyper)mobility or (im)mobility will be given attention. The ethnographic sensibilities of fieldworkers who learn about mobility while studying other processes and issues, and who can situate movement in the multiple contexts between which people move, can both extend the utility of the mobilities approach, and insist on attention to other dynamics that might not be considered if the focus is first and last on (im)mobility as such.”
Some of the people who operate at the stalls sell second-hand items made during the soviet times, they sell the soviet past, but there are also those who sell new car parts, or a mixture of new and second-hand parts. Many stall-operators have university degrees, mostly acquired during the soviet period, but, for some, during the post-soviet years.
In addition to the stalls, there are newly constructed shops that sell second-hand tires, or new parts.
Construction of new buildings and infrastructure was going on during the time I took photos.
Changing Cars and Shops/Stalls
Two set of connected transformations are noticeable at the market :
1) Transformation Related to Cars (car mobility-related) – A transformation from a soviet-car economy to a post-soviet car-related economy of petty merchants that are connected to the capitalist global economy.
2) Transformation Related to (Immobile) Shops/Stalls – a transformation from stalls created after the collapse of the soviet union (by independent individuals) to newly constructed buildings to be rented as shops (where the state and the finance economy play their dominant roles).
One could, perhaps, talk about the market as a site for multiple ambiguous temporalities.
Mobile and Immobile Economic Actors
Furthermore, those who make a living in the market could also be categorized into two groups:
1) Those who operate via (Immobile) stalls/shops.
These are mostly males, except females who have their stalls cooking or make coffee/tea and could also deliver – their stalls are around the edges of the market.
2) Those who sell their commodities by being mobile at the market on foot (carrying their products or pushing modified baby carts, mostly sell their commodities to the first group). Most of mobile sellers are female. The push-cart operators that carry loads are males.
I like posting B/W pictures, but color pictures may include more
Nardi has its own mobilities/immobilities
Nardi is a popular board game in the Caucasus, and countries around that region.
It is a game that is played by males in urban public spaces (like markets, parks, sidewalks, street corners) by those whose work time is filled with long periods of waiting for customers, or those who are retired. It is also played at homes, in rooms and courtyards.
It is an ancient game, similar boardgames have been found by archaeologist in the Mesopotamia (Ur) and south eastern Iran (Burnt City).
It is considered to be the classic game of skills plus chance, and thus representing real life more than chess.
It is a game played by two, but others join as involved audience.
In the market it is played by neighbors-friends; those who work in shops or stalls situated close to each other.
Playing nardi (or observing it played and occasionally participating) forms a particular punctuated and varied time-period of “play/leisure/social activity/waiting-for-work” that is part of the workday of those involved.
Not everybody at the market plays nardi. Some play more than others, and there are some who don’t play at all.
There are people who are interested in other board games, like chess or dominos.
People at the market do not bet playing nardi (or table boards). Monetary transactions are not involved in these game/play activities.
During the play the bodies of the players (and even spectators of the game) get closer to each other. Playing nardi has its own form of embodiment, skills/knowledge, and materiality.
Punctuating Work day with Nardi (Play/Leisure)
Work – Changing Tires
Playing backgammon is stopped by arrival of a customer.
The shops and stalls are operated by small mercantile owners.
The shop-owners could employ wage labor to complete their transactions with their customers.
Changing the tires is a labour intensive activity with its own skills, and forms of knowledge/skill, materiality, embodiment, and masculinity.
In a hot and slow day workday could be punctuated by siesta immobility.
A supra (feast) also means a halt in playing nardi
A new passage (road) is constructed next to the a building under construction, yet the checkers players continue their game next to the working bulldozer.
The mobile sellers register their credit-based transactions.
One sells cigarettes, the other socks, they are Georgian-Armenians, very close friends. and are usually mobile in the market together.
She got the order, now going to her stall to prepare coffee.
Carrying coffee to the customer
Sunflower Seeds Mobilities
She was a truck driver during the soviet times, and drove even to central Asia.
Now, walks in the market and sells sunflower seeds.
Seasonal (Items of Desire) Mobilities
Khachapori is something desired in all seasons, but there are also seasonal items of desire.
Other mobile sellers
Requires skills and knowledge about the products gathered, and demand for them.
A mobile gatherer and a mobile seller
Mobile Between Europe and China
Car owners come to this part of the market to change their old tires with second-hand tires brought from Europe. It is said that he old tires, like those in the corner, are sent to China.