Aesthetics of Street Protest: Youth in Politics

Even though the topic of the discussion was supposed to focus on aesthetics and forms of street protests, the speakers laid more emphasis on their content and talked about the goals of youth movements, the purpose of their formulation, and their future plans. Even the audience’s questions concerned the content of protests, the goals of youth movements, and their activeness and passiveness. One of the participants even asked why students choose the dean of the faculty. Some assumptions were expressed about students’ current lack of engagement. One of the students from the audience stated that protests are often too theatricized, making them unnatural. However, everyone agreed that some methods of protest may become outdated, and new forms need to be developed.

A summary of the topics discussed during “Aesthetics of Street Protest: Youth in Politics” included the format and content of protests and the interaction between the two, their goals and causes, past activities and experience, and future perspectives. The Heinrich Boell Foundation hosted the discussion on December 5, 2012. Some of the well-known and unknown posters from the September events were displayed on the walls, portraying slogans such as “Strengthen Gudiashvili!”, “Don’t break mountains, don’t break the law!”, “The system needs to fall!”, “Roof over the Imeli Building!”, and “Workers are not slaves!”

Giorgi Kevlishvili spoke of the role of youth movements and discussed student activism within the context of the evolution of public awareness. He stated, “the realization that we are part of formulating the reality that we want to live in creates the main attractiveness of the student movement. This is an active creative process where there is no distinct line between pleasant and useful.” The speaker also believes that issues of student activism are built around the question of whether the only form of protest would remain the spontaneous responses to existential-political incidents, or would grow into a continuous, purposefully targeted process.

Was the expression of cultural protests of the 90s locked into artistic formats? Are artistic formats too much to expect during demonstrations and protests? Does it lead the audience in a different direction? Lali Pertenava, Art Specialist, believes that a “well-formulated and conceptualized artistic format is something that creates the cultural discourse of protests and is what artists created for centuries.”

The speakers of the discussion included representatives of some of the most active and well-known student movements – Laboratory 1918 and the Orange Club. They spoke of the history of the formulation of their groups, their causes and their goals. “What is a laboratory – self-realization or self-determination? I think it’s more about self-determination, but with the purpose of self-realization. As we came together to combat problems we discovered that we needed to act together towards common goals,” says Ani Chankotadze. “This is a color of fullness and innovation, and our key slogan is about innovation,” says Levan Lortkipanidze, founder of the Orange Club. He spoke of the demands that students raise. They want to reform the university education system and participate in decision-making processes.