Updated: May 22
They say the world is a canvas. Tbilisi is certainly one corner of this immense art piece.
Walking through the streets of any large European city, it is something that most citizens become numb to. Various tags from hopeful social up-and-comers, statements against authority, and even elaborate art pieces aimed at making some kind of statement.
These in the latter category are often a unique form of art unto themselves. The naturally rebellious inclination of the youth engaged in these “paintings” lends to their anti-establishment themes. However, that’s not to say all of them are of this strain.
The social commentary embedded in many of the pieces are widely varying. Socio-political issues, cultural tribulations, and traditional values are imbued varyingly. One theme that seems to permeate almost every piece is the near surrealism used.
Admittedly, I am not a serious art critic. I have a fundamental level of appreciation for art, particularly classical works. Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, usually known more popularly as simply Rembrandt, is my favorite due to the realism and use of realistic lighting in his works. More modern pieces with nuanced meanings and hidden “Easter eggs” generally go over my head, only given a low level of interest by myself.
Street art is however something easier to consume. Despite this low bar, it nonetheless strikes a more poignant tone of the times. Georgia has been no stranger to socio-political strife. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia has struggled to separate itself. The typical divide between the youth and the old guard is certainly present here, and the art represents that.
Youth movements have been transformative in the country. In 2016, Tbilisi State University was the site of a week-long student protest demanding a reformation of the school’s structure and government relations.
The next year, another movement took to the streets protesting the arrest of a popular rap duo, Birja Mafia. The police arrested them on charges of possession of “party drugs.” It was the youth movement that claimed the drugs were planted by the police themselves, supposedly in retaliation for the depiction of a police officer on a dog leash in one of the duo’s music videos.
More recently, youth movements have been at the center of the 2019 riots at the Parliament building. After Russian Member of Parliament Sergey Gavrilov gave a speech at the chair of the speaker of parliament, these movements were not shy about their position. Several images of police rubber bullet wounds on protesters only cemented their impassioned stance.
The counterculture and anti-authority sentiments are nothing new of any youth organization. There is always a yearning to make change and progress, while the powers that be are motivated to appease the larger populace and secure their authority. Of course, it's unlikely this will stop, but the street art will be a daily reminder of this everlasting schism in the cultural milieu.