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
Born in 1969, Irakli Kakabadze is a Georgian writer, performance artist, peace and human rights activist. His first prize was awarded in 1990 by the TSISTAKRI MAGAZINE for the best creation of 1990 - Allegro or Chronicle of one Year. In 2009, he was awarded the Oxfam/Novib PEN Freedom of Expression Prize. Kakabadze's articles and stories have been published in Georgian, Russian, and English newspapers and magazines. In 2007 he received the Lilian Hellman/Hammett grant from Human Rights Watch. From 2008 to 2012, Kakabadze was based in Ithaca, NY, where he developed a new method of integrating performing arts and social sciences, called "Rethinking Tragedy" or "Transformative Performance." Kakabadze has also pioneered a multi-lingual and multi-narrative performing style, called Polyphonic Discourse. Irakli Kakabadze's work as an artist-activist is subject of an American verite documentary At the Top of My Voice filmed by Indian American Director Sudhir Venkatesh and Larry Kammerman. In May 2008 Kakabadze shared a stage at PEN World Voices Festival in New York with György Dragomán, Hasan Elahi, Asli Erdogan, Péter Esterházy, Chenjerai Hove, Jenny Marketou, Ivy Meeropol, Francine Prose, and Ingo Schulze, at the Writers and Artists Against the Surveillance State. In November 2008 at the Miami Book Fair Kakabadze shared a stage with Sarah Mkhonza, Russell Banks and Derek Walcott to perform another piece of Polyphonic Blues. Kakabadze has performed his polyphonic style of poetry at the Frankfurt Book Fair (2009) and “Free the Word” in London (2010) (23). At the 2010 “PEN World Voices” Festival in New York Kakabadze performed Polyphonic Discourse at the Cabaret Show that featured the author with Natalie Merchant, Ben Okri and Ariel Dorfman. He has performed at many literary and peace festivals including in Berlin (2014), Palma De Mallorca (2016), Valencia (2016), ext. His book 'Umberto vs Ernesto' or 'Marginal Delirium' was published and has introduced polyphonic discourse in December 2013. In 2017 publishing house 'Intelekti' has published another book of his essays "Love Doctrine" that is highly influenced by the works of Mahatma Gandhi.