Boris Shaverdyan - A Pioneer of Georgian Conceptual Photography

A Suitcase With Dad's Negatives

"I am a deserter from existence" and "I live in an era of cultural decline" - it was only recently that Boris Shaverdyan made these inscriptions on his black-and-white photos. Indeed, we could consider the post-modern era to be the one of "cultural decline" while Shaverdyan's art - an attempt to get away, flee from the world. In 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, when Shaverdyan lived in Tbilisi, photographers did not belong to the elite caste of artists, and no one knew about the existence of this interesting "deserter". However, almost no one knows about him nowadays either. Today, Boris Shaverdyan's art is nothing but history, he no longer takes photos or lives in Tbilisi...


The Suitcase With Dad's Negatives exhibition is the first complete show of the works by Boris Shaverdyan, one of the pioneers of conceptual photography in Georgia. In addition to two photo series created in 1987, the exhibition also displays Shaverdyan's hand-made photo albums. Or, rather, "the series combined into thick albums that are made up from a complex and interesting synthesis of black-and-white photos and texts, often quite lengthy, scribbled on them or Russian poems written on the side. In case of Boris Shaverdyan's art, it may not be possible to give an exact definition of the album author: a poet who enriches the texts with visual material, or a photographer for whom the introduction of verbal parallels, information is simply a necessity, an important part of his own photography." The only album which Shaverdyan did not illustrate with texts is Suitcase With Dad's Negatives. He simply does not touch his father's negatives, to him, it seems to represent the genetic history he should not temper with, should avoid interfering with its fabric and ought to simply document it by putting together as a single album. However, photography is exactly this - documenting things - and this is why he probably involuntarily becomes the co-author of his dad's negatives giving old photos a completely new value, using them to recount his own past, completing the album with the photos from his own childhood where he is looking at the world through the bars on his window. This photo seems to show the beginning of a relationship between the author and the world, a starting point, a basis for creating other albums. And this relationship has always implied thick bars and a desire "to desert" because the city was a ghetto populated solely by uniform mannequins, an "old pregnant woman" whose "hands are often tired and hurt" and where "only stray dogs have heard about love". In these surroundings, he perceives himself as a small, broken doll prevented from "fleeing into space" by those who are stronger.


Natia Tsulukidze