Artist and activist Mishiko Sulakauri’s practice focuses on engaging in deep dialogues with local communities. Central issues in his work are unregulated gentrification, the connection between art and religion, abandoned spaces and their owners, and governmental indifference to environmental protection. His most recent project, Arcadia Archeological Museum, reflected on the historic neighborhood Arcadia in Odessa, Ukraine where the authorities allowed developers to destroy one of the unique green zones in this city by the Black Sea.
His concerns with cross-border experiences took Mishiko to Ossetia, the disputed territory in the South Caucasus recognized by most countries as part of Georgia, yet currently occupied by Russia. His work there sought to build bridges between the local community and the land. Finding a unique house about to be demolished, a local poet wrote a poem dedicated to this old work of architecture. “I promise you… an old dream will come again” – this line from the poem was written as a mural on the house’s wall.
During his ArtsLink International Fellowship 2020 (virtual and in-person residencies), the central idea of Mishiko’s research project into both environmental and sociological issues is focused on the trans-border experience and how it affects different species – people, insects and plants. Mishiko, in collaboration with his US host organization Unlisted Projects, is engaged with artistic, scientific, and gardening communities in the construction of a wall near the South Texas border with Mexico. Unlike the populist idea of isolationism, this wall’s purpose is to create a transitional oasis for the monarch butterflies, offering a regenerative habitat for their migration from Mexico to Canada. The wall-installation cradles milkweed plants, now an endangered species due to genetic modification of this poisonous yet decorative plant. The natural milkweed is the only source of nutrients for the monarch larvae. The installation goes up in late October 2021 in different locations in and around Austin.