Category Archives: Public Space

Human Devils: Affects and Specters of Alterity in Eerie Cities of Georgia

Human Devils: Affects and Spectres of Alterity in Eerie Cities of Georgia
Tamta Khalvashi and Paul Manning  
2021 
In Modern Folk Devils: Contemporary Constructions of Evil, edited by M. D. Frederiksen and I. Harboe Knudsen, 63–79.
Helsinki: Helsinki University Press

Introduction
Ghosts and ghoulies were once prematurely pronounced dead with the arrival of electrical lights and modernity. Yet, in the wake of what Roger Luckhurst has called the ‘spectral turn’ (2002), inspired by Derrida’s Spectres of Marx (1994), they have made quite a comeback in theoretical circles, and in urban studies in particular. Unlike traditional ghosts, however, these ghosts are usually treated as metaphoric spirits, with more kinship to the Hegelian spirit, an invisible force (similar to capitalism) advancing world history, than the spirits of folklore, implying the animating force of nature.1 “eir haunting thus is very abstract, acting very generally to destabilize all categories of dwelling, presence and totalized urban planning. In this way, the ghost, already a somewhat indeterminate kind of spirit, is reduced to an eerie !gure of ‘spectral modernity’ (Luckhurst 2002, 528). Spectral modernity offers a period in which ‘time is out of joint’, incarnating the uncanny return of the repressed, where the !gure of the ghost is both present and absent. Ghosts can thus be encountered at every turn in the city as a way of capturing the relationship between particular a#ects of haunting and particular kinds of places. Hence, unlike the ‘folk devils’ that are marked by political power or media as speci!c social groups threatening societal values and interests (Cohen 2011 [1972]), here devils and ghosts, instead, appear in their traditional and folkloric forms in the city. “ey surface in times of changing societal and physical structures while creating anxieties and doubts about the present. As such, these ghosts and spirits are both concrete and yet metaphysical. “is chapter is about spectral hauntings in Georgian cities. We argue that some Georgian goblins, just like the cities they dwell in, are experienced as eerie not solely metaphorically but literally. “ere are fascinating ethnographies of devils emerging metaphorically or symbolically in various Georgian cities and semi-urban contexts, such as devils of the refugee camps (Dunn 2018), the persistence of criminal devils in Batumi (Frederiksen 2013), or new elites as devils (Manning 2009, 2014). Yet, none of these ethnographies deal with devils from folklore that become !gures of human alterity in the city, migrating from rural to urban environments to appear as real human beings. In doing so, we argue that human devils produce similar a#ects as Georgian cities, some of which appear empty, half-!nished or broken (Khalvashi 2019). While ghosts are usually considered ex-people who have entered the ghostly estate, Georgian goblins were never originally people. “ey were originally goblins or devils, but in the process of urbanization and modernization terms for goblins became ‘slangy’ terms for kinds of strange people created by sudden urban changes (Manning 2014). “e Georgian goblins, in this sense, are radically di#erent from Western ghosts in that, as non-humans, they might at some point become humans. Western ghosts operate in the opposite manner: generally they are humans who attain a condition that is monstrously opposed to humanity. Georgian goblins hence are a fascinating point of departure. “ey demonstrate how Georgian cities are haunted by spectres of alterity that are felt by their residents to be eerie. As urban geographer Steve Pile puts it, It is easy enough, I think, to see how certain feelings – and their ghostly presences – might appear in cities. Of course, people feel things and if those people are in cities, then they are going to feel them there. And, just as surely, cities might make people feel things: all those strangers, all those dark alleyways, and all those stories of violence. But this hardly means that cities are ghostly – and it certainly doesn’t mean that we have a sixth sense in our encounters with places, does it? (Pile 2005, 243) At the core of spectral modernity then is the eerie sensations produced by speci!c urban spaces. “

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The Decadence of the Late Soviet Georgian Urbanism

Tbilisi Architecture Biennial

The Decadence of the Late Soviet Georgian Urbanism. Its Formation and the Results

Levan Asabasvhili  2021

“We are happy to share with you the news on our new project: Interdisciplinary Talk Series – What Do We Have in Common.
The series of online talks aim at continuing the conversation started during the last edition of the Tbilisi Architecture Biennial (TAB) in 2020 and builds on the already existing critical discourse of the topic. It will bring together various artists, scholars, urban and architectural professionals from Armenia, Belarus, Serbia, Georgia, and North Macedonia.
The talks will be held in English.
Levan Asabasvhili will open The Interdisciplinary Talk Series at the Goethe Institute Georgia with the lecture The Decadence of the Late Soviet Georgian Urbanism. Its Formation and the Results.
Description: In the last decade of the existence of Soviet Georgia, its architectural and urban thinking became overwhelmed by the past. This passion took a form of certain dissidence to the normative Soviet architecture and reflected the contradictions which emerged in the society. However, the attitude was not always present during the entire existence of Soviet Georgia. In his talk, Levan Asabashvili will undertake an attempt to trace the changing attitudes towards the past and the traditions on an example of four Soviet Georgian films and present their influence on architecture and urbanism.
Levan Asabashvili studied architecture at the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts (Georgia) and Delft University of Technology (Netherlands). In 2007 he co-founded Urban Reactor, an organization dedicated to social and spatial research, debate, and education. In 2011 he became a founding member of DoCoMoMo’s Georgian section. Since 2018 he is a partner at Architecture Workshop. He is interested in the interrelationship of politics and spatial practice.

 

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Birzha

“Birzhastation investigates neoliberal ideologies of architectural transparency in the post-socialist world (and in the global “wild capitalist” reality of the 21st century). Named in a fiddly, imaginative cocktail of Georgian, Russian and English, Birzhastation provides an archi-ethnographic exploration of the possibilities and pitfalls of fine ideas (transparency, openness, horizontality, togetherness, the commonness) in a time of an ideological crisis, amid a global rise of the new types of militarized police regimes.
Birzhastation is a place of gathering, commonness, and belonging; a place for the acceptance and sharing of information. This temporary installation is located on the former Academe-city territory and merges with the contextual importance of the place. The project is intended to encourage the rest of the world to learn about Tbilisi’s political-aesthetic experience.
The former Academe-city, in turn, is a place that well reflects the failures as well as success and afterlives of both Soviet (socialist) and post-Soviet (neoliberal) systems. This is a place of the collapse of vertical ideologies. Since the 1990s, under the extreme conditions of Wild Capitalism, this chaotically developed area in itself combines the elements of 1930s Stalinist Soviet architecture, the partially realized idea of the Academe-city itself (1960s and 1970s architecture), and the remains of some slums and barracks.
In the framework of TAB, Birzhastation will host an active program of discussions, debates, and libations (physically and online) to create a zone of openness, publicness, intimacy, perversion, wildness, commonality, and collective social condensation, inspired by the Georgian practice of Birzha. Birzhastation aspires to function as a zone of “real” commonness, standing in opposition to the pseudo-transparency of neoliberal architecture in the post–socialist world. The online and physical space of Birzhastation will also be open to local interventions.”

 

Birzhastation is PiraMMMida’s Georgian operation, realised within the framework of Tab 2020: The Tbilisi Biennale of Architecture 

Birzhastation Program

Tbilisi Architecture Biennial – Birzhastation –   Talk by Evgenya Zakharova

Between the public and the private: Socialism, capitalism and street socialisation in Georgia  Text by Costanza Curro

Informality and Social Embeddedness in Marshrutak Transport

Theorising informality and social embeddedness for the study of informal transport. Lessons from the marshrutka mobility phenomenon

 

By LelaRekhviashvili and WladimirSgibnev

Journal of Transport Geography

15 January 2019

Abstract

“This paper builds upon recent post-structuralist writings on informal economic practices, using most importantly a Polanyian institutionalist framework, to discuss formal/informal and market/non-market practices in the transport sector. The article proposes a critical reading of the literary canon of informal transport, which largely assumes a naturalness and omnipresence of markets. We illustrate how reductionist definitions of informal transport marginalise analytically important empirical detail, and furthermore, lead to misleading theoretical conclusions. In contrast, we analytically de-couple informality and markets, showing that formal and informal economic practices can be embedded in diverse social-cultural institutions. Such a theoretical framework allows for consistent evaluation and empirical examination of transport options, as substantiated by evidence from the marshrutka mobility phenomenon in Bishkek and Tbilisi. We observe marketisation, dis- or re-embedding, formalisation and informalisation as dynamic, inter-dependent and conflictual processes. On these grounds, the article argues for a critical re-appraisal of other forms of informal transport, old and emerging, both in the Global South and the Global North.”

Keywords

Informality
Social embeddedness
Marshrutka
Marketisation
Polanyi
Ride-sharing

 

Marshrutka Stories A Visual Archive

The Marshrutka Project
Marshrutka Stories A Visual Archive

“It is hard to study marshrutkas. ey are elusive; there are no clear criteria on what a marshrutka is or on what a marshrutka is not. They differ by color, size, and shape. They differ in whom they serve, who drives them, who owns them, who governs them. They differ in the ways they operate, the way routes are laid out, the way they are standardised. Rules of behaviour in a marshrutka also dier. They are quietly codified, not easy to comprehend, requiring familiarity and insiders’ knowledge. ey change, adjust, and adapt quickly. ey shrink and expand, they occupy public space but at points become invisible. ey simultaneously enable and confront. ey signify diverse, and at points contradictory, things for different people at different times. ey have been markers of the decay of Soviet infrastructure and of a Soviet vision of modernity. They have also signfied a new entrepreneurial spirit of capitalist modernity, of flexibility, freedom of choice, and the power of consumer demand. They have been demonized for being pre-modern, unruly, overcrowded and dangerous, while simultaneously representing locally divergent forms of solidarity, sociability, reciprocity, and sharing.”

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Tbilisi’s Rose Revolution Square

Tbilisi’s Rose Revolution Square: a Political Showcase

By TINATIN GURGENIDZE and SEBASTIAN WEBER

Published in FA – Failed Architecture

Georgia’s changing political orientation has been continuously reflected in the dynamics of its capital’s former Republic Square: from military parades, to soviet relics and a vertical refugee camp, to sanitised commercial functions.

In the centre of Tbilisi lies the Rose Revolution Square, named after Georgia’s Rose Revolution of 2003. The place has changed a lot during the past decades, but still retained its character as an important part of the city. On the sunny 26th of May in 1995, the Georgian air force planes created a spectacle for the crowd that had gathered for Independence Day. Still called Republic Square back then, the square itself was also the setting for a military parade in celebration of the Georgia’s independence, which it gained shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Although the air still contained the strange scent of war on that day in 1995 after a severe civil war, the young independent country was rejoicing. Yet, right in front of the audience stood the run-down Hotel Iveria, which was now home to over 800 Abkhazian refugees as a silent reminder of the recent conflicts. In fact, that very place had been a battlefield only a few years earlier.

Tbilisi’s Rose Revolution Square: a Political Showcase

Republic Square during a Soviet parade in the mid 1980s.

Almost two decades later, the square is mostly home to noisy traffic and vast empty spaces. The hotel has been emptied of the refugee squat, had a modern renovation and now belongs to the Radisson group. While the square is geographically exactly the same, a lot has changed. The place is not only one of Tbilisi’s few public squares, it is also arguably the place where the political and social transformation are most deeply reflected in urban space and architecture. Here, the country’s and the city’s recent past and present are visibly mixing, creating an absurd, mostly unused transitory space in the heart of town.

The story goes back to 1960´s, when Soviet Georgia was one of the top tourist destinations of the USSR. In 1967, the construction of the tallest building in Tbilisi was finished: Hotel Iveria, a 22 storey high structure designed by the Georgian architect Otar Kalandarishvili in the very geographical centre of Tbilisi and well visible from every point of the city. This prestigious Hotel was clearly not accessible to everyone. In order to book a room one had to make a reservation several months in advance through the official travel agency of the Soviet Union “Intourist”. Only the lucky ones would be able to stay in one of the rooms with a great view overlooking the entire town. Along with the hotel Mr. Kalandarishvili also designed the square in front of the hotel, which was finished much later, in 1983. As described by the architect himself at the time: “In the centre of the city, one of Tbilisi’s most important squares will be established by levelling an existing dip. The so created space underneath the square will contain more than 20 thousand square meters of useful space on three levels that will be used to create a social-cultural centre”.

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Zones of Entrapment in a Yerevan Park

Zones of Entrapment: Yerevan’s 2800th Anniversary Park and the Tyranny of Taste-Fullness

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There is no denying the ecstatic cries of the children and the content faces of their parents who have been flocking with their families to the newly inaugurated 2800th Anniversary Park of Yerevan. The mosaic-laden, grid of fountains, benches and astonishingly schmaltzy statues is a massive success. The general jolliness of the public inadvertently silences those naysayers who decry the supposed ‘tastelessness’ of the park. Just like the derided Northern Avenue, this new initiative by the city’s municipality – realized through the auspices of private capital – has given Yerevan’s residents a much-needed stretch of public space where people can socialize in relative comfort and safety. So what is the issue here and is there an issue at all? If we were to strip back the layers of meaning and intent in this site, what we’d find hidden is not so much herd mentality and tastelessness, but quite the opposite. This park, along with its even more grotesque twin – the recently reconstructed Central Avenue square adjoining Mashtots Avenue – are taste-full. Overwhelmingly so, in fact.

To put it crudely, ‘good taste’ is a historical and cultural phenomenon that evolved in the Western world during the early modern period in the 17th century and served as a way of delineating the aesthetic judgement of the nobility and the upper classes, from that of the ordinary folk. Possessing ‘good taste’ meant being aligned with superior levels of power and political standing – a position reflected through luxurious material objects and richly decorated residences. While it transformed dramatically during the 19th and especially 20th century, the concept of ‘good taste’ was always decried by Marxists and the artistic avant-garde as the epitome of petit bourgeoisie, and was passionately fought through the standardization of mass-culture and lifestyle in communist republics such as Soviet Armenia. Nevertheless, the ambition for social elevation remained an undercurrent drive that exploded with untamed force after the collapse of the USSR. This repressed desire to show one’s ‘taste’ in fine things – and hence, higher social ranking – was reflected in every aspect of everyday, post-Soviet Armenian life: from the extraordinary number of luxury cars to the neo-imperial style of the gargantuan private and public buildings constructed in the last two decades. The two newly reconstructed parks in Yerevan’s center boldly extend this tendency into the development of public space. Attendant political, sociological and cultural implications of such conversions have been ignored by the popular media and despite some critical reactions, the local intelligentsia has passively shrugged the matter away.[1] The present article is an attempt to continue the discussion and examine the wider consequences behind the relentless subjugation and transformation of existing public spaces in Yerevan, under the auspices of private capital and neo-liberal cultural policies.

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Heterotopic Landscapes

Heterotopic Landscapes: From Green Parks to Hybrid Territories

Abstract

“This chapter develops an interest in clarifying the meaning of cyberparks through an interrogation beyond its material preconditions. A cyberpark, as a fold in space generated by a hybrid emergent form of co-mediated space, is a disjunctive combination: it presupposes an encounter between open public urban places and the use of ICT tools. Outstretched beyond its physical manifestation as a place of encounter, a «heterotopic» reading might reveal that the subject is displaced in many different ways, from the analogue to the digital landscape, and from the specificity of the local to the universal of the global web. It is in such transferences that several worlds blend, both in its symbolic function and social significance. Impacts of such «Other Spaces» on the nature of human being’s behaviours can be critically reflected by the consideration of the social role of ICTs as tools of alienation through reinforced governances. Hence the question of creating «non-places» arouses, affording both a consensual appropriation process and the representative commodity networks, that henceforth includes natural, technical and human aspects and at the same time constitutes hybrid identities at the interfaces of its users, subjects, objects and places.”

Keywords

Heterotopia Non-place Technology Experience Hybrid-place

 

Setting «Other Spaces» as a Place Theory

Heterotopias are considered to be aporetic spaces: open and isolated, universal and particular, juxtaposed and disaggregated, collective and individualized. A heterotopia is a place of otherness inasmuch as it raises a certain ambiguity on similitude and emancipation, alienation and resistance. In this regard Edward Soja said it is «frustratingly incomplete, inconsistent, incoherent»1 in spite of him devoting an entire chapter to it in «Thirdspace» (Soja 1996). The term arises for the Social Sciences2 in «Des espaces autres», a conference given by Michel Foucault in 1967 in the Cercle d’Études Architecturales, published only twenty years later3. It is a raw work left in abeyance, perhaps even abandoned by Foucault, but powerful if we confront the public space with the new mediations, plus the so called «Internet Galaxy»4. Although the web renders possible the exploration of Foucault’s diverse notion heterotopia, this chapter works with it to reflect on the potential of the possible engagement of technology with space.

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Yerevan’s Circular Park (Part 1)

Yerevan’s Circular Park: Commercial Interests, Illegal Construction Deprive Citizens of Much Needed Green Space (Part 1)

By Amalia Margaryan and  Ani Hovhannisyan

“Yerevan’s Circular Park was envisaged as a green space, some 2,500 meters long and averaging 120 meters wide, to provide residents with a respite from the noise and fumes resulting from a fast-developing urban landscape in the Armenian capital.

Little of the green remains today. Cafés, amusement parks and other assorted commercial establishments have been built on the land over the years.

Hetq reporters filed a query with the Yerevan Municipality and obtained copies of 57 contracts between private companies and Yerevan Municipality on privatization, construction and rent in the Circular Park.”

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