“I started waking up in the middle of the night again. With the same strange feeling that I was dissociating from my physical body. That night, I woke up at 3 am. I went into the bathroom, with the lights still off, running cold water and staring down at the dark drain, leaning on my elbows. There was something infinite and strangely appealing about it, and I stood there, mesmerized like Mary MacLane. My mind flowed with the water, gushing through the pipes and canals with the speed of sound. The entire system, just like a capillary network, was a part of a larger body that I watched through a hole in my sink.” – Keta Gavasheli (The Bones of February, in: WORMHOLE Newspaper, No. 3, June 2021)
This is how the artist Keta Gavasheli describes a key experience in the winter of 2020 that pinpoints the beginning of their artistic engagement with the motif of the opening. Gavasheli interprets it as a symbol of the symbiotic intertwining of all life on earth. This interpretation is redolent of Daisy Hildyard's study The Second Body (2017). In the course of the book’s four essays, Hildyard develops the theory that all living things have two bodies: a physical (first) body that is simultaneously embedded (as a second body) in a worldwide network and, through its actions, affects ecosystems, among other things, in a broader context. This metaphysical second body is equally capable of acting on the first body – for example, through natural disasters, species extinctions, etc. Thus, the conclusion of the “Second Body” thesis posits the dissolution of the boundaries between humans, animals and nature, which do not actually function as autonomous entities, but form a complex, mutually dependent system.
In this context, the dried flowers that line the floor of the exhibition space are reminiscent of a contemporary, almost apocalyptic memento mori exhorting the viewers to realise that the party’s over! In the case of Undefined Shores, viewers encounter a three-part canvas: in the central segment, Gavasheli has inserted a 3-D printed wax casting of a plughole that marks the transition between the visible and the invisible and, at the same time, represents a direct allusion to the artist's nocturnal memory described at the outset. The canvases, rendered in glazed shades of red, also evoke associations with a bird's eye view of a scarred and bleeding landscape. As a result, the plughole seems almost like a wound gouged into the landscape that can no longer be sutured. In this work, Gavasheli emphasises the role of the earth, i.e., the environment, as a living organism. Linked to this, they raise an essential question: how do we go about handling our second body?
This canvas is directly related to UNTITLED, a manhole cover. Shining like silver, it looks at first glance like a familiar object in terms of its shape and colour. It is only when we look more closely that something disconcerting strikes us about the surface texture. The integrated soundscape, Song of Wholes, is a further source of consternation: the loop begins with a nuclear explosion and is enriched by artificially-generated sounds. The latter were created using found materials from Georgia. Interrupted again and again, acoustic voids – like holes – crop up, thus formally referencing the underlying theme of the exhibition. The manhole cover immediately suggests an opening or conduit into another world – the underworld, with all its interconnected corridors, shafts and bunkers. According to Gavasheli, manhole covers suggest concealed wormholes that connect the private with the public sphere: for example, the way in which the plughole in one's own sink connects with the sewers. They are at once portals to what lies (hidden) beneath and refer to something unknown, which can be interpreted as a kind of ecological subconscious.
The traces of rust in Tear Stains under Ghost can also be understood as a memento mori and, as such, a metaphor for the corrosion of civilization. In this sense, the rust seems almost spectral as it spreads across the aluminium plate, while the mounted paws suggest dogs or cats. Animal paws are a significant and recurring motif in Gavasheli's work. On the one hand, they illustrate domestication, but on the other, they also highlight the autonomy of living creatures. As in Donna Haraway's The Companion Species Manifesto (2003), Gavasheli's merging of fabricated aluminium with the motif of animal paws highlights the significant otherness of different species. In the same instant, however, they unite these supposed opposites, demonstrating the hybridity of culture and nature. Coupled with their adoption of the “Second Body” thesis and the philosophical engagement with the meaning of holes as a metaphor, Keta Gavasheli presents viewers with a complex amalgam that questions the present.
Keta Gavasheli (b. 1990 in Tbilisi, Georgia) lives and works in Düsseldorf. After studying architecture at the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, Gavasheli moved to Germany. They have been studying at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Dominique Gonzales-Foerster and Ellen Gallagher since 2018. Their works have been shown in group exhibitions at the Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf, Mouches Volantes in Cologne and the Goethebunker Essen, among other venues. In addition, they were awarded the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen’s (Düsseldorf) travel scholarship in 2021 and the Deutschlandstipendium in 2022.
RADAR: Access via the Westfälischer Kunstverein, Rothenburg 30, 48143 Münster
A cooperation of the LWL Museum für Kunst und Kultur and the Westfälischer Kunstverein.
Friday, 11 November 2022 at 7 pm
RADAR is an exhibition format hosted by the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur and the Westfälischer Kunstverein. It features emerging, as yet little-known younger artists who stand out and are hence on the “radar”. The exhibited works provide insights into the featured artists’ current fields of interest.
The project space can also be viewed out of hours from outside.