What is the Georgian word for futuristic

Kunsthalle Zurich

Russian futurists and Georgian colleagues pursued their artistic research in Tbilisi in a joint exchange at the beginning of the 1910s. In keeping with Futurism, the artists took the liberty of examining and questioning academic guidelines and languages. This freedom was also reflected in the design, initially in Russia, and later also in Tbilisi. The resulting futuristic books from 1917-1919 are today among the most important artistic artefacts of the time and refer to the cultural heyday of Tbilisi. These are true works of art that account for the collaboration between artists and poets from the most varied of origins.

The poet, graphic designer, publisher and artist Ilya Zdanevič played an essential role within the Georgian avant-garde and in particular for the further development of futurism. As the founder of the organization of "41 °" (41 degrees or latitude, where Tbilisi, Naples and New York are) he was a busy member. The publications and activities of "41 °" are impressive testimonies which give insights into the art scene in Tbilisi. The protagonists of "41 °" include Alexander Kruchenykh, Igor Terentiev, Ilya Zdanevič and Zigmund Valishevski. Between 1917 and 1918 they published a second edition of important original publications from St. Petersburg and Moscow from the years 1912 and 1913. These include Uchites, Khudogi, Ojirenie Roz and Malokholia v Kapote from Kruchenykh, O Sploshnim Neprilichii from Terentiev and Janko - Krul Albanski from Zdanevič. 1919 published «41 °» among other things Miliork, Lakirovannoe Triko from Kruchenykh, Record Nejnosti from Terentiev, Ostrof Paskhi, Zga Jakobi from Zdanevič.


Ilya Zdanevič, Zga Jakobi, Tbilisi, 1919.

The publications each appeared in small editions and are now sought-after collector's items.
In their editions, these publications resembled brochures, which was not very common in this form at the time. These “novel books” were created using lithography, sometimes with handwritten texts by the artists or authors. The stories and illustrations were mostly of secondary importance. The focus was on the shape and the graphic expression.

The transnational language "Zaum", the language of futuristic poetry, was composed of plays on words, whereby the words themselves are not assigned any meaning. In this way improvisation becomes the essence of the «bridle». Language is experiment and its willingness to experiment made new art forms possible.

For the futuristic artists and poets, the handwriting has an idiosyncratic and peculiar character that is lost through the mechanical printing process. In order to escape the "boring straightness" of monotonously printed lines, they used different types of fonts and different font sizes, which in turn alternate with handwritten text passages. The interwoven words and illustrations in their overall appearance ultimately result in a uniform, artistic and graphic image.

The founder of Georgian Futurism, Ilya Zdanevič, is also considered the inventor of Georgian Dadaism. His radical typographic experiments for the publications of "41 °" laid the foundation for Dadaism in Tbilisi. Zdanevič, who was mainly active under his pseudonym «Iliazd», provided prime examples of «bridleful poetry», for example with his text Donkey for rent, which he dedicated to the actress Sofia Melnikova.



Ilya Zdanevič, Donkey for rent (in Russian).

The presented text and the audible form of the poem are abstracted to their limits. What remains from this process is a purely graphic and sonorous text image. The words shown read each other at the same time, as does their graphic representation: As if they were forming a musical chord, two words from two different lines sit vertically on top of each other on the printed paper. If the words are connected by a common vowel or a certain consonant, this appears only once in the text image according to the rules of the game of "bridle", but emphasized and emphasized in its size and weighting. This process unifies the texts into a whole. If the lines of text are now presented simultaneously by two people, their voices harmonize consistently with one another. This is exactly what characterizes the absurd of Dadaism: a verbal, sonorous and artistic expression creates an incomparable, absurd lecture. Zdanevič's piece Donkey for rent is still one of the most radical artistic ventures of Dadaism.
In general, the books of the Tbilisi futurists are diverse and “multinational”. In September 1919, the last book produced in Tbilisi, an anthology dedicated to the actress Sofia Melnikova, was published. To this day it is regarded as an important compilation of futuristic poetry and art and contains contributions from Russia, Armenia and Georgia. The peculiarities of the different contributions are retained and yet it merges into a flowing, flexible and dynamic whole.

Futurism and its futuristic books shaped the Georgian avant-garde until the early 1930s. In 1924 Georgian writers, poets and artists published the futuristic yearbook H2SO4 (H2SO4). Contributing authors also included Beno Gordeziani, Akaki Beliashvili, Simon Chikovani, Irakli Gamrekeli, Nikoloz Shengelaia, and Shalva Alkhazishvili. With H2SO4, the Georgian avant-garde once again explored the formal boundaries of literature, poetry and art, driven by a striving for a new creative “reality” in which unbiased experiments and playful creativity show the way.


Installation view, Georgian Modernism: The Fantastic Tavern, Kunsthalle Zurich, 2018
Photo: Lucas Ziegler.