Moments from the SODAS 2123 team’s participation in the Trans Europe Halles conference of the Trans Europe Halles network of cultural centres in Georgia


This year’s Trans Europe Halles meeting-conference for the second half of the year took place in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, at the Fabrika Tbilisi cultural centre, which used to be a Soviet-era sewing factory. It now houses artists’ studios, workshops, educational and co-working spaces, guesthouses, cafés, bars and community gatherings. “Fabrika Tbilisi” was presented during the event as a good example of a company that has adopted various resilience building practices.

The conference’s broad programme, entitled “Reboot”, invited discussions on how independent cultural participants can use colonial heritage to recognise and dismantle their past, and how to collectively “decolonise” heritage for the better. Cultural centres and residences in rural areas (Rural Radicals), their impact on local communities, and the positive and negative consequences were discussed. Specific cases of cultural centres in Georgia were discussed, such as the Aqtushetii Residency in a difficult to reach mountain region, and an organisation that is trying to restore the vegetation of the town of Rustavi, near Tbilisi, which was affected by the industrialisation of the Soviet occupation.

An important advantage of the TEH network is the thematic, regional group hubs where, encouraged by the network organisers, participants meet and plan joint activities based on their specific interests in smaller groups, providing an excellent environment for new partnerships. The network currently has active hubs on education, building retrofitting, mental health of cultural workers, as well as regional hubs for different European locations, such as the Nordic Hub, in which SODAS 2123 is also involved.

In the afternoon activities, participants were invited to join in collective activities – baking bread, ceramics, drawing – by the residents of the cultural centre “Fabrika Tbilisi”. There were also practical sessions, such as visualising the ecosystem of specific cultural centres and generating new ideas to identify problems and find solutions.

Some of the events were dedicated to getting to know the venue – the cultural centre itself – as well as the culture of Georgia and Tbilisi. These included tours of Fabrika Tbilisi, city tours, such as a tour of the Tbilisi galleries Kunsthalle Tbilisi, ATINATI and independent art centres, led by a professor from the Tbilisi Academy of Fine Arts, and a presentation on the history of the wines of Georgia. The evenings of the conference were filled with live music evenings in the courtyard of the cultural centre, a silent film evening with voice-overs, and at the end of the event, the organisers gathered all the participants to enjoy traditional Kartvelian cuisine, inviting them to prepare a traditional Kartvelian stew themselves.

“Trans Europe Halles is one of the oldest and most dynamic cultural networks in Europe. Since 1983, its members have been at the forefront of adapting derelict buildings for art, culture and activism. Founded in Sweden, the network now has 140 members from 40 different countries across Europe, from Spain to Georgia. SODAS 2123 is an associate member of the network from September 2022. The participation of the SODAS 2123 team in the conference in Georgia was funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.

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