Humans as armchairs, cabinets, sofas and curtains; there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place. And no, we are not describing an upgraded version of A Clockwork Orange’s interiors featuring iconic Allen Jones’ female sculptures-furniture. We talk about the latest performance by Ria Keburia, the Georgian gallerist and curator who has just showcased Home my Sweet Home during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi.
Body objectification and gender roles are the cornerstones of Ria’s piece, which created an illusionary home where her workers were transformed into house furniture as if the magic spell of Belle and the Beast spread to real life. We talk with her about the importance of each one’s role, the limits between performance art and fashion, and the ones between reality and illusion.
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How would you describe your performance now that Mercedes Benz Fashion week Tbilisi is over?
Through this performance, I tried to create an illusionary house, a living organism of model objects needed for everyday life. This story was staged in the theatre, which gave it a really big exposure. It was like a traditional theatrical piece, yet still maintaining the contemporary touch. Home my Sweet Home combined four collaborators: Marusia Nizauvtsova went for garments, Anya Mokhova took care of the exterior, Muzaradi came in with hats, and Leather Like Wood’s accessories perfectly decorated the interior. My performance showcased the appearance of a house I would live in, highlighting the human-object relationship. 
How does a presentation like this fit within the format of a fashion week?
Not all my stories fit within the fashion scene or context. I choose the platform according to the designers I collaborate with and the product I obtain. We dedicated this season to the commercial clothing by Marusia Nizauvtsova together with art pieces by Anya Mokhova, which are good for both wearing them and using them as interior decoration. My goal as of curator was to explore various means of using the products, starting from something you can just look at and ending with something you can wear with pleasure. Systematic mixtures of the usage make the gallery flexible for both art and fashion. The performance format just raises alternative emotions in the audience, where the product stays equally suitable for the commercial world. After the performance, the collection was moved to the showrooms obeying fashion formalities.
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In the era of Airbnb and overpopulation, one of the most urgent issues to tackle is living. The rent prices haven't stopped increasing and new constructions are becoming smaller each time. What’s your view on that? Is this performance related at all to this social problem, or is it much more personal and intimate?
Honestly, I feel that it is both social and personal. The desire to portray your inner thoughts arises from self-protest and it is a message transmitted to society. I can say that one follows the other. Nowadays, storytelling is the key to artistic communication, as the problems it inherits can be easily transformed through installation, paper, performance and different kinds of portrayal. Each artist’s problems are easily claimed to the world. That’s what it is all about: to say and to be heard. In my case, the performance does not touch issues of urban living; it’s more about gathering artists into one illusionary scene under the protected roof.
How do fashion and performance art relate to living? What is your approach to mix or blend these categories?
I see a connection between reality and illusion. To me, performance is the realization of hidden illusions in real life. Something untold becomes clear on the stage through the collaborative product and the dynamics. The approach stays the same: the creation of the plot, collaboration and performance. Sometimes I feel that my illusionary world overrides reality, everyday life. Performance helps me keep illusions apart, which are divided into chapters and documented through media. To me, that’s the right classification of storytelling.
METAL readers are familiar with Filip Custic’s and Melanie Bonajo’s works, who emphasize the same topics as you. What do you have in common with these artists and what do you think about the objectification of the body?
I have noticed lots of similarities with these artists. I think it’s about coincident issues we all passed through our lifetimes. What I love in Bonajo’s works is the dynamic and objectification of the story into a picture or installation. That is what I also strive to reach through my performance. Body objectification is a cornerstone of Home my Sweet Home project. Models were transformed into functional objects, creating one big living organism I dreamt of. I also concentrate on gender roles, which have been following me throughout my childhood. In my universe, there exists an androgen family of baby faces, asexual characters. I invite them to become part of my fairy world. In Georgia, there are many taboos and a great misunderstanding of gender roles; young individuals suffer to get proper insight about the issue, but Ria Keburia Gallery is a place where they can gain salvation.
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Talking about an objectified perception of the body, I instantly associated it with Allen Jones’ Hatstand, Table and Chair sculptures. It’s not uncommon to use women as objects for aesthetic purposes. Where do you think the limit is and what should be tolerated and what should not for the sake of art?
Everything new is forgotten old. Allen Jones’ Hatstand, Table and Chair sculptures directly appeared on my inspiration board. As an artist and a curator, I see art as a statement and each statement should have its own narrative. Home my Sweet Home contained the narrative of placing my home gallery team members as objects, emphasizing on equal love towards each individual. My interest is to tell a story through performance and then commercialize it. These themes are not new, but the way I portray them definitely is.
What I find really interesting about you as an artist is that you play outside the fashion industry rules, you even oppose to it and expose it, but at the same time, you stay in it. You celebrate the works of different designers through exquisitely curated performances and deliver a great result. How is that possible?
It is a constant struggle. My brand was converted into a gallery so I have to expose myself differently and at the same time attract the interest of other artists for collaborations. I tackle both art and fashion, which is a double path to follow. The art of storytelling is not that current nowadays but the stories I tell are vivid and have a clear chronology. As a collector and gallerist, with an artistic insight, I see myself as an entrepreneur of my own illusions.
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