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Artist profile

  • Profile
  • Jun 20 2023
  • Eliza Levinson
    is an artist and writer based in Berlin. Her work has been featured in publications including Artforum, The Nation, The New Inquiry, Hyperallergic, and ArtReview.

In a new installation by Tolia Astakhishvili and frequent collaborator James Richards, a video of a gray corner of a basement—complete with dusty floorboards and ladders, scuffed white walls and water-damaged cement—plays onto a wall in the same room, blurring the lines between the real and the projected. I Remember (Depth of Flattened Cruelty) (2023) is an unbeautiful optical illusion, but it perfectly distills the artist’s ethos.

If anyone loves a wall [1] —who dissolves concrete boundaries into watery memory—it’s Tolia Astakhishvili, whose deceptively simple multimedia works create vulnerable, personal spaces within the white walls of art institutions, often directly referencing the site’s existing architecture. The artist’s explorations of storage in all its forms (synonyms include art-neighboring words like preservation, warehousing, conservation) is always moving—in the emotional sense, and literally: with her frequent use of homemade collages and packed, plaster-dusted boxes and found material, Tolia composes an ode to the impossibility of leaving something behind.


fig. 1


This is most literally evident in installations like Tenant (2021), in which Tolia Astakhishvili and James Richards constructed an inhospitably small, but life-size, dormitory directly into a gallery space of the Bonner Kunstverein. The “room,” which houses a rickety bunk bed, is boxed in by a chain-link fence on one side and a wall with a wide one way mirrored window—interrogation room-style—on the other. This wall is speckled with taped-up photographs, drawings, and letters. Haunting this hostile, half-imaginary space with homesick ghosts, this installation becomes a temporary resident of the art space, echoing both human and architectural histories. 

It’s fitting, then, that the artist has described such sculptures as “lived in; like a body itself.” In Tolia’s new, two-part exhibition The First Finger—on view at the Bonner Kunstverein until July 30, and continuing at Berlin’s Haus am Waldsee in late June—her installations continue to poetically engage with the built environment (what Haus am Waldsee curator Beatrice Hilke describes as “precarious architecture”), stripped-down reminders that all buildings have memories.


fig. 2


The Haus am Waldsee is no exception: after being constructed for and inhabited by a wealthy Jewish family between 1922 and 1926, the house was home to a high-ranking Nazi civil servant in 1945 before being converted into a center for art exhibitions the next year. Rather than directly articulating these histories, Tolia’s works in The First Finger (Chapter II) will offer subtle, ambiguous, and altogether more universal meditations on the corporeality of architecture, now in dialogue with several other artists. Human engagement with built structures, Tolia Astakhishvili’s work reminds us, is a poignant experience of converging temporalities: as the artist puts it, the idea that “many things can happen at the same time.”


fig. 3





The secon iteration of the two-part solo exhibition, The First Finger (Chapter II), by Tolia Astakhishvili, will open the 22.06 in Berlin’s Haus am Waldsee.

Haus am Waldsee
Argentine Avenue 30, 14163 Berlin

Opening: 22.06 at 7pm

Exhibition: 23.06 - 24.09


    [1] To quote Robert Frost (“Mending Wall”).



    Cover: Tolia Astakhishvili and James Richards, I Remember (Depth of Flattened Cruelty), 2023. Courtesy the artists; Cabinet, London; Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin; LC Queisser, Tbilisi

    fig. 1: Tolia Astakhishvili, Tenant (From Communion to Cannibalism) (with James Richards),  2021-ongoing, slide show (81 Slides), dimensions variable. Detail. Courtesy the artists;  Cabinet, London; Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin; LC Queisser, Tblisi; Rodeo, London und  Piraeus. 

    fig. 2: Tolia Astakhishvili and James Richards, Tenant, 2021. Installation view (detail), The Holding Environment, chapter 1, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, 2021. Courtesy the artists; Cabinet, London; Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin; LC Queisser, Tblisi; Rodeo, London and Piraeus.

    fig. 3: Tolia Astakhishvili, KHISHVI, Ganymede, 2018. Installation view (detail), Ache, Cabinet, London, 2018. Courtesy the artist and LC Queisser, Tblisi.



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