Manana Gunia’s Virtual Theater

7 Marzo 2013 ArticlesNews

Born and grew up in Georgia…
Lives and works in Italy…
Dreams and creates in the virtual theater…

Manana Gunia, the Georgian set designer, ten years ago went for study to Florence, the town of her dreams (the scenography chair of Florence Academy of Art, the course of virtual scenography) and tied her creative work with the virtual theater.

She scored a first great success with her work created as far back in Tbilisi. This was the virtual setting and costumes for William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”: in 2002 at the International Competition of Artists in Florence “XX Premio Firenze” Centro Culturale Firenze-Europa “Mario Conti” she was awarded the Gold Medal in the nomination “Digital Arts & Multimedia”. The work was presented in frames of the international exhibition, at Palazzo Vecchio, Salone dei Cinquecento.

In this successful work performed in 3D graphics the artist created the metaphoric image of magician Prospero’s world, the main character of the play: the metaphysical drawing of the mysterious  island is created with the machine similar to the ship board  which when rotating turns first into the esplanade, then – into the altar and into the ship under canvas. In addition to the machine very important is the background  multimedia projections, created with the replicas of works of famous artists (Michelangelo “The Creation of Adam”, Salvador Dali “Crucifixion”) or abstract video art. The costumes of characters represent the organic continuation of the setting. Their architectonics is monumental and is based on the cult images of the renaissance architecture. At the same time, following the character’s nature (Antonio, Prospero), the modified architectural details “knitted” in the costume structure are read as the postmodernistic quotes.

The next important experience for Manana Gunia was the diploma work at the Academy of Arts – the scenography of the modern composer Francesco Traversopera “Orestes”   presented by director Massimo Mattioli in the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory in Florence at the classic music festival –“Maggio Musicale Fiorentino”. In this performance the artist succeeded to apply a new experience and to display the modern musical work in frames of the minimalistic aesthetics.

The logic completion of the Florence stage was the diploma work of the Florence academy of Arts – the virtual setting of the television performance based on Edward Bond play “The Sea”. The artist expressed the psychological drama image with the elements of a detective story by  her typical manner, where the setting expresses the passions of characters but not  the concrete environment: the heavy sea of fear with fan-shaped waves… in the episode of corpse identification the  series of soulless robotized figures attaches the monotonic rhythmicity  to the composition and creates the estrangement feeling… the naked male dummy set in the Lenin’s cult attitude and elevated on the piano in the mirror-like endless steppe represents the apotheosis of craziness.

In this work we see the wonderful combination  of the artist’s Georgian and European  traditions of art education and experience of the different  national scenographic languages.

Noteworthy is that due to her distinguished properties in 2004 Manana Gunia was invited as a teacher to La Scala Academy of Theater Art of Milan where she held the course of Virtual Scenography.

Further creative searches of Manana Gunia are based on the interest in the opera art: the costumes for Zakaria Paliashvili’s opera “Abesalom and Eteri” are performed in 2D and 3D graphics. Their structure is based not so on the Georgian national garments but on the architectonics of the ancient Mesopotamian sculptures. The national elements exceed the narrow folklore character and are generalized. The details of those costumes represent both the Georgian pagan archetypical symbols, Kolkhic items and the samples of Christian art, ornament, replicas of Khakhuli icon and Tamar’s cross.

The last work of Manana Gunia, the virtual setting for Gioachino  Rossini’s opera “The Silk Stair”, was presented at the artist’s solo  exhibition devoted to the International theater Day  in Tbilisi, on March 27, 2012 (organized by the Valerian Gunia Union of Young Theatric Artists – YTA Union and Theatre  Society of Georgia).

Rossini interpretation represents the certain stage in the artist’s creative work – the opposition of the purposeful sketchiness of the setting to the hyperrealistic elements – the historic sightseeing of Venice, natural water in Canal Grande, grandiose Murano chandeliers  creates the dualistic mood. The traditional comic environment of the opera buffa is substituted with the cold and generalized city of Utopia: the closure of the play space, classic proportions of architectural elements, maximum elegancy and laconism of forms resembles the classic tragedy. The transparent background-screen is also dualistic by its dual function: the artist uses the Magic Mirror Backdrops for counter-projection of the video art and the parallel reflection of the setting.

It seems that this last scenographic experiment reveals the artist’s current world-view – fatalism and aesthetic voyeurism.

At  present Manana Gunia lives in Milan. She works in the sphere of multimedia, advertising and exposition design (among other things she designed the Georgian student pavilions Prague International Quadrennials of   2007 and 2011) and creates experimental projects in the virtual theater.


Tbilisi, 2012