Magazine article Artforum International

Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili

Magazine article Artforum International

Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili

Article excerpt

WHEN I WAS A CHILD, the filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov made me a doll. An assemblage of mismatched parts, it wore a hand-sewn brown velvet dress and crocheted white tights and had an open mouth that was missing a few porcelain teeth. It hung next to my bed and never failed to repulse me, but it fascinated me, too, because my parents called it art, and so it stayed there.

And Paradjanov, or Sergo, as we called him, was just as intriguing himself. An Armenian born and raised in Tbilisi, he studied in Moscow, crossing paths with Tarkovsky before moving to the Ukraine to begin his career. Rising to fame too quickly for Soviet watchdogs, he was arrested on allegations of homosexuality in 1973 and exiled to a Siberian work camp. Many came to his defense, and in early 1978, Sergo returned to Tbilisi, where he began working again. Though there was hardly any funding for his films and the artistic conditions were incredibly restrictive, these limitations only pushed him to challenge the terms of his medium--and to great effect, as his distinctive style won him fans who included Fellini, Godard, Kenneth Anger, and Yves Saint Laurent.

But Serge's performances are what I remember best. Improvised and almost never documented, they were rarely referred to as anything besides just "being with Sergo." His house, which would serve as stage, was crammed with all sorts of costumes, fabrics, dolls, carpets, dishes, and other things that could be used last minute to act out a farce. …

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