ifa: How did your institution cope during the crisis and how has it managed since? How has the current situation changed the work of your organisation and its conception of itself?
Tamuna Gvaberidze: Window Project contemporary art space in Tbilisi had to follow the same restrictions as much of the world. Many plans had to change and we started to think about how we could work if this situation were to last a long time. Our field requires an audience in a physical space. Nothing can replace this. No matter how much we use digital channels, museums and galleries are spaces not only for exploring art but are also for social gathering. They are places where people interact and socialise. So at the beginning of the crisis, we were quite shocked; art without an audience was hard to imagine.
ifa: How do you address your public under the changed conditions? What kind of public do you expect and what do you expect from your public?
Gvaberidze: In Georgia, museums and cultural organizations were only allowed to reopen in July. Before then, we started to use online media platforms to present exhibitions with 3D modelling, allowing people to engage with virtual visits. The situation challenged us to use more technical tools, which we will also use in the future as an additional resource. Crisis can be seen as an opportunity sometimes. Our local public will remain the same, and perhaps the restricted number of visitors during openings will help people see the art better. Usually, openings are so crowded. Maybe some good will come out of this.
ifa: What do you consider to be the primary social responsibilities of your art space?
Gvaberidze: At Window Project, which is a project-based exhibition space, the most important social task is to be a democratic space. With every exhibition, the primary task is to carry the message.
ifa: How should museums convey and reflect stories, images and narrative patterns?
Gvaberidze: When entering a space, the exhibition must be presented as a poem. It must tell you a story with a beginning and an end.
ifa: What concepts do you pursue regarding access to, participation in, and interpretations of the art you display?
Gvaberidze: Most important is the project and the idea behind the project, as well as building bridges between old, forgotten artists and new creative practitioners. We also involve young artists to work on an exhibition's conceptual design, like the art of framing and presentation materials.
ifa: Do you see your museum as a place of political discourse?
Gvaberidze: Yes, I can see our space as part of a political discourse. Contemporary art is contemporary thinking – expressing and translating different protests or ideas. Discourses are expressed in a variety of verbal or visual texts.
ifa: Museums nowadays perform many functions. How would you define what the museum is or should be today?
Gvaberidze: The most important function for a museum is to be a place where we can explore art and acquire knowledge, and where people can meet or spend their time doing other things in an inspiring environment. No digital platform and no digital space will replace physical space, which is so important for humanity.
Tamuna Gvaberidze is founder of the Window Project in Tbilisi.
Under the title 'MuseumsNow', ifa asked actors from international museums about their current experiences, challenges and visions – also against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic. The interviews and reports provide an insight into current museum practices and civil society actions of museums worldwide.