Sophio Medoidze: 'let us flow!'

A new long-form film by Sophio Medoidze. Currently in development and seeking production and exhibition partners.

An encounter with a people and their gods under a shifting sky of gender and identity, let us flow! journeys to the high villages of Tusheti in Georgia to find that the old ways are at odds with the demands of global capitalism, and that the meaning of mountains and masculinity alike is in flux as a young population leaves for the cities.

Tusheti counts one of the highest inhabited villages in Europe, accessed by the most dangerous road in the world. Suspended between past and future, here life is governed as much by the symbolic as the literal, the prevailing sense of the sacred mitigating the difficulties of survival amid extreme weather conditions and dire poverty, and goods exchange systems in place of money – in stark contrast to elsewhere in Georgia, which has embraced steroidal, post-Soviet neoliberalism.

Tourism in Tusheti is growing fast, and the Tush now face the dilemma of whether to modernise and abandon their way of life. At the same time, migration out of the region is increasing, and in its wake not only tradition is starting to shift, but with it, social demographics and the meaning of masculinity itself.

Gender and identity are at the centre of this land of contradictions, which resists simple binaries and complicates Western concepts around society and the individual. While the region’s pre-Christian shrines are still only accessible to men, suggesting an inflexible patriarchy, Tush women – as well-versed in horse riding as in singing and dancing – fully participate in impromptu local elections of village elders, who govern their laws. With the rate of migration away from the mountains especially high amongst women, who now earn more than the men they leave behind, the emerging picture is one of emasculation.

The journey to Tusheti becomes an inversion of Medoidze’s own journey to the UK fifteen years ago, and the parallels between her and the Tush become more apparent as the work plays out, as language itself becomes implicated too. Medoidze’s predicament of living between two countries and two tongues is shared by the Tush, who migrate to low-lying plains every winter and have to grapple with a Georgian which is markedly different to their own dialect.

What is it like to live in a community whose population is gradually draining to the city? Is it possible to reconcile the homogenising impulse of global capital with the hyper-local of an ancient, isolated community? And what does it mean to be a man when the highest earners across the country (and in the mountains) are women?

About the artist

Sophio Medoidze was born in the USSR, brought up in the Republic of Georgia and now living in London. Sophio Medoidze is an artist who works with film, writing, photography and sculpture. For a time, she worked anonymously as part of the Clara Emigrand collective. Her work is marked by precarity and explores the poetic potential of uncertainty. She often acts in her own films, which progress by juxtaposing different image modalities and bashing sounds against one other. Her work is driven by the desire that is caught up between state violence and personal agency. Her work has been shown, amongst others at Serpentine Cinema (Peckhamplex), Kunstmuseum Luzern, Whitechapel Gallery, Arnolfini, Tbilisi Art Fair’s (TAF) public programme. She was shortlisted for South London Gallery’s Graduate Residency, she is a recipient of Feature Expanded Development award for her first feature ‘Let us flow!’ (with HOME, Manchester + Lo schermo dell’arte, Florence).