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I_Residency: Projects created by female artists duos during isolation
Photographs: Marika Kochiashvili
Text: Salome Jashi
This series represents the study of self-identity – body and sexuality – and is an attempt to rid oneself of stereotypes, cultural taboos and restrictions.
My first long-term relationship is part of this study. I and Jenny broke up few days before the quarantine. The photos taken during two-year relationship and the emptiness left in me after her departure is a part of this series and represents the observation over my feelings, search of sexual identity and insight into the partner.
The essay was written based on a dialogue with photographer Marika Kochiashvili.
Recently I came across the old photo. I am 19 and trying to dance Shalakho (Georgian folk dance) at my friend’s wedding. I am a maid of honour and it’s my duty. My curled black hair is ironed. I wear the artificial silk dress and high heels. I notice photographer taking my picture and try to smile awkwardly. I feel very awkward in general. This shoulder-strapped dress and heels are not mine. I mean, they’re mine. I have bought them the last week. But they don’t suit me. I am dressed exactly like my friends are, like the women shall be dressed, especially at the friend’s wedding. I am trying to resemble woman. That’s unhandy.
I go to the church every week, but I have never confessed of my main sin. I don’t even know what to call this thing I am doing with my teacher. She tells me that this relationship is a fairy tale, each day is a miracle. But nobody shall ever know about this. That this is the biggest sin and such thing shall never happen again. She begs for my forgiveness. She begs for god’s forgiveness for her and for me too. She says the snake got into her brain and does not give her a rest.
My teacher is a much older women than me. I can’t say that I am too young, soon I will be graduating from the university, but I don’t quite understand, what’s happening between us. I also think that what we are doing is a shame, and that it shall remain the secret forever. To put it shortly, we are worried, both of us, terribly worried, worried to the point of self-flagellation, worried that we’re so pervert.
Before I got entangled in such misbehavior, I can recall one night. I lay down in my small dark room and feel distressed, I can’t sleep. I can feel with my entire body, how my best friend leans upon me. I am imagining this, she’s not there really. She leans upon me, and I try to repel her. Seems like there is some magnetic force between us, with positive and negative features at the same time. I cannot understand what’s going on. I have seen her last morning at the lecture. Words were slipping out of my mouth, I was shrugging during the conversation and was unable to look into her eyes. I could not even sit next to her, like I always did before. And now, this night, I am feeling the passion that possesses my entire body. It is a strange feeling that cast upon my head. It is an attraction with no apparent goal.
I am sweating. I struggle this passion, with eyes wide open. Because I really, really do not want to be called lesbian, which, in my perception, is some man-like creature, with the hoarse voice and facial hair here and there. I don’t want to be associated with this notion. Just like anybody else around me, I hate this word meaning only disgusting, pervert things. Before that night, I have never even thought about this. I have never even really met lesbian. I have only heard this word in the sense of something loathsome. And now, one of these nights, after going to bed, unexpectedly I am feeling the passion I have never heard anything of before, and I am ashamed. Afraid.
Shame is my fellow traveler throughout my life. I was always ashamed of my hips. When I say this, I try to find some other word, less vulgar, but I can’t find any. Hip… thigh? – even worse. Upper leg muscle? – WTF?!
I was ashamed of my fluffy bottom, arse, ass – all of them sound somehow weird – inconvenient. I am trying to list the parts of my body I was ashamed of, and all of them make me uncomfortable. All of them have negative connotation. All of these body parts should be condemned and, respectively, my body shall be condemned too, body that I cannot even see naked in the mirror because of the shame I feel. I hate swimming pools, because it’s extremely difficult to change without somebody seeing you.
With this terrible guilt, with my pervert stories, which I don’t even want to recall and which I am hiding from everybody, I found myself in the different city. For a long period. I have taken with me my dresses that I’ve been wearing only at weddings and birthday parties. I have taken my high-heel shoes too. I was thinking: here I will see what the real women look like. Here I will come to my senses. Here I will fit into my dress. Here I will walk head-up. Will apply varnish to my nails. Will use the perfume. And at last, I will do my hair!
Now, I live here. Far from familiar sidelong glances. From judgments. Seven years later, I gave my dresses and the only pair of high-heel shoes that I was carrying from the flat to flat and was hanging on the hanger with the hope to the charity yesterday. Somebody will make use of them. Their coloring was fine.
I_Residency (inside, isolation residency) project was created in partnership with the Tbilisi Photography and MultimediaMuseum and Tbilisi Photo Festival with support of the UNDP and the Governmentof Sweden through the UN Joint Project for Gender Equality.