Blog Post

Zurab Rtveliashvili and Shmazi Transformational Street Theater

Zurab Rtveliashvili is one of the authors of polyphonic discourse poetry and shmazi transformative street theater.  His books are widely read in Georgia and in Europe and he is a prolific performer.  His book Anarx and his street theater performances have influenced very much the events at Georgia's 2003 "Rose Revolution".

One of the most vivid episodes from the "Rose Revolution" was Rtveliashvili marching into the Fine Arts Academy of Georgia with his poem "I am the Vine". Through the first decade of 21st century and together with his colleagues,  Rtveliashvili pioneered and championed Polyphonic Poetry and Revolutionary Street Theater.  Different discourses need to be heard and different pictures need to be seen.  The poet himself spend a lot of time in his own life in the conditions of subaltern, living just like Modigliani or Edgar Alan Poe in very difficult conditions.  But this really empowered his creative work, since he was able to better grasp the poetry of an underclass and language of difference.  And then came the time of exploring different linguistic experiments in poetry.  Instead of direct translation, Rtveliashvili and his colleagues offered simultaneous readings of poetry in different languages transcending cultural conditions through the language of universal poetry.  The new language of universal multiplicity is being born through those performances.

Here Rtveliashvili offers a Polyphonic Performance with his Swedish Colleague that is emphasizing the new meaning of culture—a new universal semantics of power.



Through street theater, Shmazi technology has advanced to break the silence about the underlying causes of violence.  How is this today that our patriarchal, bourgeois civilization is promoting the values of Pig Culture that have been associated with greed, careerism, zero-sum approaches that have left so many people overboard—the individualistic attitude of 'success' that has in many cases ruined human solidarity—Big Pig Culture of consuming human suffering and emotions.  It is many selves that speak:  his self as a nonviolent anarchist, his self as a member of underprivileged subaltern, his self as Dada-King-President, his self of Dionysian Poet, who intends to get drunk in human emotion, his environmentalist self and his many other selves.  All of them are present there. 



What are the main ingredients of Street Theater?

1. It is in any way acknowledging the presence of Aristotelian Tragedy.  Tragedy as music in poetry is present there and there is no point in denying this.  There is a tragedy of murder—even if it is a pig that is murdered in the name of human desire.  To avoid the tragedy and to simply deny that fact of it existing in this world would be absolutely false statement.  So therefore there is a big part of Aristotelian Tragedy is comes in the first half of the performance.  Sometime though the elements of Antonin Artaud performance style could be detected in this first part.  The contemporary world is very multidimensional in its tragedy as well as in the ways to overcome this fatalistic finale. 

2. Taking up the Futuristic Tradition approach.   Coming out of the tradition of Georgian/Russian Futurism of early 20th century the participatory artistic project is filled with spirit of the community building and overcoming tragedy when possible.  Mayakovski has been the author that is closer to this style of artistic performance—in terms of social engineering as well as in artistic terms.  What is simply needed is the understanding that art can foster new types of relationships and at the same time preserve most fundamentally human traits that are here for a long time.   Futurists liked to link social sciences with arts and that is still the case with the transformational theater—this is the enterpreneurial entereprise to ivercome bourgeois consciousness.  

3. Looking for a new paradigm in the sense of Thomas Kuhn, but also approaching it from intuitive points of view that could remind of Bergson and even in some cases Dionysian spirit of Nietzsche.  This new paradigm can be found through artistic creativity no less than through scientific research—art is an avenue for Gandhian "Truth".  More than that—it is a safe avenue and as Bergson says it is true sense of spirituality.  Last 20 years have particularly diminished the relevance of artistic medium as  a conveyor of spirituality and progress.  As a result we have seen many fundamentalists springing up with no room left for creativity.    The new street theater asks the legitimate question:  should we bury the art now?  And provides the negative answer.  And the answer is affirmative to artistic medium—but to public arts medium—art de-linked from the commercial individualistic sphere.

The new street theater is pragmatic idealistic vision in practice—this is a try understand human tragedy and an attempt to transform the tragedy into Dionysian joy of arts. 

The ontemporary world is filled with many new challenges.  Overcoming these new challenges invites an artists spirit in each of us.

Every human being has artistic genius in herself—we just need a big effort to unleash it.

Irakli Zurab Kakabadze's picture

Irakli Kakabadze has been a leading figure in the nonviolent movement for social change in Georgia for more than two decades. 

A member of the Civic Disobedience Committee in 1989 and during the Rose Revolution in 2003, he has since been harassed and detained repeatedly by authorities. 

He is the author of five books and hundreds of essays in English, Georgian, and Russian. His play Candidate Jokola controversially depicted a love story between a Georgian presidential candidate and an Abkhaz woman. He is also an author of lyrics for “Postindustrial Boys,” and, together with Zurab Rtveliashvili, practices a literary performance style called Polyphonic Discourse. 

He taught art and peacebuilding at Cornell University from 2008-2012 and currently teach at the Georgian-American University in Tbilisi, Georgia..