It was strange at first. From time to time, amidst the regular hospitality routine of Stamba Hotel or Rooms Hotels, a person with a very random object would appear. Confidently moving through the personnel, business conference guests, and tour groups, a stranger would carry a huge orange plush toy on a cart, or a hank of multi-colored wires, plants, just about anything. The puzzled gazes would usually drive the security to stop them and ask: ‘Where are you headed?’ The answer was almost always ‘to the D Block, at the studios’.
Nowadays, almost everyone is aware that the fourth and third floor of Stamba Hotel is home to the artists, creatives, and experimentations of different mediums and fields: from silk printing to sewing atelier, even land art. Technically, ‘D Block’ is how in-house architects marked the entire building tied to the main wing of Stamba Hotel in their working plans. However, when they say D Block today at Stamba, they usually mean ‘where the arts are’.
Entering the mysterious little door on the way to an inside Café Stamba, you will find yourself in a construction space. Visit the Tbilisi Photography & Multimedia Museum – founded in 2017, it is the first institution in Georgia entirely dedicated to a contemporary image in its different forms – photography, new media, video. Through exhibitions, debates, and educational programs, TPMM is an independent platform that promotes photography as a catalyst for social and cultural changes in Georgia and the South Caucasus. After passing by a hotel sewing atelier on the third floor, and maybe running into Uta Bekaia – an artist famous for his wearable sculptures and performances; you will step on a red-carpet-like stencil, stretching throughout the end of the long corridor. The stencil is a timeline of art industry development since Georgia’s independence from the USSR, and was created by Teona Tsintsadze, a team member of Propaganda – an art organization managing many studios at D Block and representing the first-ever archive of Contemporary Georgian art. ‘We felt that Georgian society was struggling to nurture its talents and cherish its unique creative climate, so we decided to step in and contribute,’ – says Tina Asatiani, the founder and director of the organization.
With the support of Adjara Group, Propaganda expanded its capacities to biennial scale exhibitions like Oxygen – a yearly summary of Georgia’s artistic lifestyle; or like ‘Tbilisi Residencies Stamba’ – a program in collaboration with LC QUISSER gallery, already having hosted such prominent names like Cyprien Gallard, Ser Serpas, Nancy Lupo, Lever Rukhin and many more. The organization also unites artists in ‘Collective Studios’ to form new creative connections; welcomes researchers, art writers, and curators during ‘Extern’ reading sessions for philosophical discussions and encourages electro-acoustic musical experimentations through ‘The Laboratory of Sonic Arts’.
The art-savvy atmosphere of Stamba is impossible to imagine without Maxime Machaidze, a young mastermind of avant-garde fashion, experimental hip-hop, and object-oriented art. Machaidze’s contribution is visible at every corner of Stamba Hotel: from carefully curated souvenirs at The Lobby Bar to decors in open spaces or ostentatious prints in the meeting rooms. Machaidze has presented several exhibitions and fashion interventions here in the past couple of years. Today D Block accommodates his innovative and multipurpose brand Qari, which intersects conscious technology and fashion – managed under the beats of Kayakata – Tbilisi’s recent musical sensation.
A multimedia collective, ‘SIZMARI’ (meaning ‘Dream’ in Georgian), organizes public land and sound art installations in Tbilisi and its surroundings. At the same time, Anima Chatbotics dives into existential questions, cross-collaborating between programmers, engineers, and artists. A curator duo ‘Sad Aris Melia’ turns text into art while organizing a first ever online Biennale of contemporary art. This room is for a famous photographer Grigor Devejiev, and that room is for Community Radio. Stamba D Block constantly evolves and changes its residents, hosts many events, and fuels countless initiatives. Just as Tbilisi itself, it always remains a melting pot of the extraordinary, counter-intuitive, and fascinating.