The Secession Sessions
A collaboration with BAM/PFA for MATRIX 257, The Secession Sessions is an exhibition and series of related public programs exploring a place caught in a contested narrative–the disputed region of Abkhazia, located along the eastern shores of the Black Sea. Consisting of a new film, Letters to Max (2014); a pseudo, unofficial embassy (“Anembassy”) for Abkhazia staffed by the former foreign minister of Abkhazia, Maxim Gvinjia (also the star of the film); and a program of conversations and public events, The Secession Sessions invites visitors to investigate the question of statehood and representation through the prism of the stateless state of Abkhazia. Baudelaire establishes an open space for discourse and contemplation, while acknowledging both sides of the politically fraught situation.
Max was available via skype at the Anembassy on Saturday February 14th and 21st from 1 to 3pm. Visitors were invited to leave questions for Max at the Anembassy, or to send questions via Kadist’s Facebook or Twitter.
The film Letters to Max will screen Wednesdays through Fridays at 3 and 4:45pm, and Saturdays at 3pm.
Session 1: The Anembassy is Open
February 7 at 5pm
A conversation between Karen Fiss, Maxim Gvinjia, and Eric Baudelaire
Session 3: Performance as Politics and Vice Versa
February 14 at 5pm
Julia Bryan-Wilson, David Buuck, and Aaron Gach
Session 4: Georgian Voices
February 18 Drinks at 6:30pm, event at 7pm
Harsha Ram and guests
Session 5: Present Future of Emancipation
February 21 at 5pm
Pheng Cheah and Tarek Elhaik
“Abkhazia seceded from Georgia, in the Caucasus, during a civil war in 1992-1993. Like all disputed lands, Abkhazia is entangled in a conflicted narrative. To many Georgians, the breakaway State is a rogue nationalist regime, an amputated part of Georgia. To the Abkhaz, independence saved them from cultural extinction after years of Stalinist repression and Georgian domination. To many observers, Abkhazia is simply a pawn in the Great Game Russia and the West have always played in the Caucasus. “The Secession Sessions” acknowledges these competing narratives and does not seek to write an impossible objective historiography. It does not parse, verify or document any competing claims to a land. The project starts with this observation: Abkhazia has had a territorial and human existence for twenty years, and yet it will in all likelihood remain in limbo for the foreseeable future, which makes the self-construction of its narrative something worth exploring. If Abkhazia is a laboratory case for the birth of a nation, then its Garibaldis and George Washingtons are still alive and active. Maxim Gvinjia is one of them. When I dropped an envelope in a mailbox in Paris a year ago, I fully expected that a letter addressed to “Maxim Gvinjia, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sukhum, Republic of Abkhazia,” would come straight back to my studio with the notice “destination unknown.” But to my surprise, ten weeks later, I got an email from Max telling me he had received my letter, but could not reply on paper since the post office in Abkhazia cannot handle international mail. I have no idea how or why my letter arrived.”
The exhibition is preceded by two film screenings at the PFA Theater on February 4 and 5. In The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years Without Images (2011) and its sequel, The Ugly One (2013), Baudelaire complicates the distinctions between documentary and narrative genres to reflect on the real and imagined memories of the protagonists, whose lives become dislocated in time and place. The Anabasis examines the intertwined stories of Japanese New Wave filmmaker Masao Adachi, who joined the Japanese Red Army in Beirut in 1974, and May Shigenobu, daughter of the leader of the same left-wing revolutionary faction. For The Ugly One, also set in Beirut, Baudelaire collaborated with Adachi on the storyline, which pivots around two lovers and former resistance fighters who attempt to remember and make sense of their pasts.