Comprising documentary materials and on-site footage, Stone of Hell—an experimental documentary film—derives its name from the mines of Chiatura in western Georgia. The film narrates the extraction and processing of raw Manganese, a compound that strengthens steel and makes it stainless. The mines of Chiatura have existed since the 19th century and have continued to operate throughout various political regimes and economic models of governance and wealth accumulation. Now exhausted, the mines have been poisoning the surrounding environment, earning its local name: Stone of Hell.
Following the material of stone, Tekla Aslanishvili and Giorgi Gago Gagoshidze show how factories, appliances, industrial labour and the exhaustion of landscapes are interdependent, and how they have been represented over the course of history. Manganese has been found in an early prehistoric wall painting and as the artists suggest, stone continues to be a medium of storytelling in modern times. The film shows how the material travels through different political perturbations and wars. The new post-transition regime employs malfunction as an integral element of industrial production. Both tanks and walking excavators are produced out of the same material—stainless steel. As Aslanishvili and Gagoshidze proclaim in their video, the extraction of minerals and the moulding of metal bodies is a political act; it can be used both in the construction and destruction of natural and living spaces. The story folds onto itself: during the protests against the notorious state plan to construct a dam in Pankisi, southeast Georgia, local people sabotaged the work of an excavator, set it aflame and allowed it to be washed away by the river.
Supported by the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe, Salzburg Art Association and Heinrich Böll Foundation.
Tekla Aslanishvili is an artist, filmmaker and essayist based between Berlin and Tbilisi. Her works emerge at the intersection of infrastructural design, history and geopolitics. Tekla’s films have been screened and exhibited internationally at the Tbilisi International Film Festival; Loop Video Art Festival, Barcelona; NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, Tbilisi Architecture Biennial; Neue Berliner Kunstverein; Baltic Triennial 14, Vilnius; Short Film Festival Oberhausen; Kunsthalle Münster; Videonale 18, Bonn. She is the nominee for Ars-Viva Art prize 2021 and the recipient of the Han Nefkens Foundation - Fundació Antoni Tàpies Video Art Production Award 2020.
Giorgi Gago Gagoshidze lives and works in Berlin. In his works, Gagoshidze deals with the moving image, the political background to its production and distribution, and its socio-political significance. Group exhibitions (selection): Vienna, Kunsthalle Wien; steirischer herbst, Graz; Wharf 10 | Arthena Foundation, Düsseldorf; Harun Farocki Institute, Berlin; Acud Power New, Berlin; Contemporary Art Gallery, Leipzig; Museum of Photography, Berlin; Folkwang Museum, Essen; f/stop – Festival for Photography, Leipzig; Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin.