My field of interest is freedom in its broader sense and urban planning. Freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom to gathering are just few examples. In urban planning, the term “third places” is a crucial concept for me that was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg and refers to places where people spend time between home ('first' place) and work/school ('second' place). In my residency, I was based in Khulo while I explored also villages of Tago, Ghorjomi, Beshumi, and the Green Lake. In this exhibition I provide a visual essay of my 4 week stay in Upper Adjara, focusing on third places. Even if the villages are geographically near, their identitiesareverymuchdifferent. ThisisDavis’sdebutinphotographyasafinalmediumofhis narration.
The Bar. (Khulo)
In the central park of Khulo where the local Municipality, a theatre, and a hotel are located, also a small newspaper kiosk can be found. It has become a bar led by Archil, an architecture graduate who has decided to come back to his village. Just behind the kiosk, there is an abandoned two-story building that embraces the vision not only of Archil’s future plans to open a culture center, where besides a bar, venue, and hotel, he envisions also a library as his mom is a literature teacher and they have a huge collection of books. During the residency, I witnessed of these dreams being smashed as the talks with the owner of the building didn’t result in any deal. Archil’s kiosk is a vibrant place where kids and their parents drink lemonade and coffee during the day, while in the evening it becomes the melting point of local youth. It also became my third place and this is where I met wonderful youngsters and discovered a lot of interesting local stories.
The Hotel. (Tago)
One of the longest cable cars in Europe connects Khulo with the village of Tago, located high on a mountain. If the journey on the tiny red flying object lasts 7 minutes, reaching Tago by road requires at least forty and not your average city car. This “isolation” makes the identity of the village very special: it is a very closed community where everybody knows everybody and they operate very close to the subsistence economy model. Yet recently on the top of the hill - a “glamping” has been built. While these white Yurtas have nothing to do with the local architecture, they have created new ideas in the local community - it seems everybody wants to open their Hotel.
I am lucky to be the first client of the freshly opened bar and as I later discovered also Bed&Breakfast ran by Tamriko - a far-east Asian student from Tbilisi and the only not-yet married daughter of a local school director. She is very open and talkative though after some time in conversation, she is been approached by her grandmother, who makes it clear - that the time for talking to strangers has expired.
On another day I met Giorgi, a man from Poti, who has heritaged a house from his relatives in Tago and is dedicating this summer to transforming the house into a family hotel. While Tamriko is still searching for the name of her business, Giorgi has a clear mind about the name - it will be called Hotel Andrea - in honor of his grandson. In Tago, the village is a fusion between first, second, and third place as neighbors help each other to do everything - from building to harvesting, from babysitting to shopping in Khulo. The newly arrived “hotel” concept will be a way to meet up with the outside world and also another source of income.
The Mosque. (Ghorjomi)
Ghorjomi is a place out of time. It has the most authentic houses I have seen so far in Georgia and the least presence of women in public spaces as it is the most traditional Muslim society. I happened to be there on Friday when the special Jumuah prayer was being held and after it, the streets were flooded only with men from all generations. While the Mosque serves as a third place for men I wonder what is the third place for Women - is it nature around the village where they meet to collect herbs, plants, and different flowers? Ironically enough is the fact the town’s most famous appearance outside the region is its unique embroidery that is famous in all of Georgia.
The Lake. (Green Lake)
From the theory point of view - the green lake is a typical third place. It seems that here people from nearby as well as from far away, from all different social classes have the opportunity to meet, interact, and enjoy the view. The space is widely used for different kinds of activities - for family gatherings, sports activities, musical interactions, and also for having chacha together with strangers. Only one person is working here, for whom this is the second place - a sugar-balloon seller.
As I learned - he was also in Latvia for military service back in the soviet occupation time, and I learned that the shoes and winter boots in Latvia back then were of a high quality. There is only one mystery I don’t get - why nobody is swimming in the lake?
The Resort. (Beshumi)
For a Nordic man who 9 months a year dreams of going to sunny beaches and hot weather, the fact that there is a place where people gather to escape sunny beaches and hot weather is already very strange. People expressly come here for holidays - this is an emblematic third space. It is strange that in Beshumi - at least a few thousand people reside at every given time and have had the determination to cross the un-drivable roads - there is NO cultural or event space, public library, or even a decent restaurant. Soon I discover that a house located in the heart of the resort used to be a cinema but has been closed for a while and there are rumors that it will be redeveloped into a hotel. If some entrepreneur is reading this - there is a huge
potential for creating a space for all these people to gather but please make it inclusive, affordable, and cultural and the abbandoned cinema is just perfect for doing one! And then Archil the Genius made me discover the forest just at the end of the road in Beshumi. Deep in the forest after a 5-minute walk, there is an open-air cinema created by him and his brother, as he puts it - the only open-air cinema in Georgia that is operating every day. The seats are almost full and you can hear nice chit-chat noise surrounding them, kids are running around, the drinks have been served even if the movie will start only in about two hours and the sun is still shining.
The Horse. (Photo Saloon)
One evening at Archil’s kiosk(!) I met a young local activist Giorgi Rizhvadze who had recently held the first demonstration (another third place-action) in Khulo protesting the closure of permanent gynaecologist positions in a local hospital. They succeeded in convincing the local decision-makers to leave the position for at least a few days a week as it provides crucial services to the local women’s community. His grandfather Bidzina Rizhvadze was a local photographer who had passed away recently. Giorgi has inherited Bidzina’s archive. We agreed to meet on the next day as I am so excited to see Rizhvadze’s work. While he has been mainly operating as a Khulo’s saloon photographer, he also documented various important events of the village’s life. Going through some albums I notice a horse that repeats in various pictures with different people, mainly kids.
Bidzina had a saloon also in Beshumi during the summer and this horse was a blockbuster for the families vacating in the resort. Giorgi is sure that the horse should be in the garage in Beshumi, so I hit the looong road again. We decide to take it for a ride in the village and soon enough a woman asks if it would be possible to take a picture with her son and the horse - as she has a similar picture of herself in childhood.