About This Last Resort
Due to Georgian–Abkhaz conflicts in 1992-93, 1998, and 2008, roughly 250,000 ethnic Georgians have became Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in the shifting landscape of the Caucasus states, fleeing the spa-resort mountains of Abkhazia into various regions of Georgia. Banding together in the plight of hunger and what have been documented as human rights abuses, small communities and even makeshift towns soon formed ad hoc in districts or large buildings left abandoned after the collapse of the USSR, temporary living situations turning permanent as the IDP status endured.
Tskaltubo, a USSR-era spa town located in central Georgia, is a home to these communities. The once grand hotels, abandoned in the wake of civic unrest and periods of immense uncertainty for most, became places of refuge where communal living could be reinstated in the traditional patterns, multi-generational families living as one around a central courtyard, doors left unlocked, items borrowed and then slipped back.
Now with the Georgian economy in a period of regrowth, Tskaltubo becomes a town under reconstruction. Hotels once home to a community of displaced Georgians are being bought up, gutted, knocked down. The inhabitants move on. A LAST RESORT documents one of these final abandoned hotels turned into a refuge for those who seem destined to remain displaced. The images comes from multiple visits. Most haunting, at least for me, were the individuals items—like pitchers or a set of chairs—exactly positioned as in months previous. Sounds of life being lived very quietly penetrated into the chalky hallways, but the sense of hands and feet touching ceramic or fabric or flour sifter felt ghostly.
Back in the US, when I first showed the developing collection, viewers believed this building simply abandoned. Yes, there are abandoned wings. Floors have rotted through; thin trees grow from third-floor planks. There is even an enormous ballroom papered in faded red velvet, as well as a rotunda capped by a marble dome punctuated with a Pantheon eye. But elsewhere there are community gardens, makeshift kitchens and bathrooms, interior courtyards for hanging things to dry. Plastic bags are washed for reuse; lace cloths are draped for prayer. All this builds home, a home that will seemingly continue just like this for as long as the building stands, even twenty-five years after the first exodus.
It is a quiet place, less a restful place. A place of last resort.