Between delay and transition - Contemporary Cultural Practice in Bulgaria
A Panel Discussion
FEINKOST is pleased to invite you to the panel discussion „Between delay and transition“, a presentation of institutions, models and practices in the contemporary art landscape of Bulgaria. The Art Today Association and Open Arts Foundation, both based in the city of Plovdiv, have established themselves as a host for organizations and art professionals from Bulgaria and abroad. This event provides an opportunity for individuals, parties and organizations who are interested in broadening their network and awareness of cultural practices within the region. And, more importantly, it allows a chance to help foster partnerships with those potentially or already involved in supporting and developing international exchange between Germany and Bulgaria.
In his 2006 travel guide „From Kosovo to Kaliningrad“ published in Flash Art International, the author and FEINKOST director Aaron Moulton describes the situation of cultural policy in the former eastern block countries by using the term of „post-Soros condition“. After years of intense institutitonalization of local art scenes in the beginning of the 90ies the American fi nancier George Soros decided to move his interest further east, leaving a branched institutional network from Skopje to Chisinau, ie. the „Soros Centers for Contemporary Art – SCCA“. One of the hopeful aims in the SCCA initiative was to help stimulate an ecology of funding potential for culture locally and provide the tools to source funding from elsewhere including EU-funds and the establishment of international cooperation networks; and thereby position these institutions as self-sustainable entities. New funding bodies have since come and gone leaving infrastructure in some cities in a condition of stand-by while sourcing foreign or private collaboration.
Enlargement of the European Union from the Baltic to the Black Sea has determined the transformation of the political topography of Europe. Whereas the countries emerging from former Yugoslavia plus Albania are labeled as the “Western Balkans“, countries like Bulgaria and Romania are believed to have completed the process of „Europeanization“. Since countries like Romania and Bulgaria have already been “Europeanized” in their accession within the Union, these countries were withdrawn from the agenda of most subsidy funding previously allocated towards building of cultural infrastructure. Regarding cultural practice in Bulgaria the situation is characterized by its ambivalence between transition and mobility within the borders of member states and stagnation due to a lack of pecuniary instruments on state and corporate levels. It seems a matter of exigency that organizations like Art Today Association and Open Arts Foundation in Plovdiv are highly motivated to reinforce multilateral networks of partner institutions. The aim is towards creating new cultural models, alternative cultural space and infrastructures, and to endorse identification and support of crucial areas of the transition process in order to affect structural changes in the field of arts and culture in the policy domain.
Art Today Association – Center for Contemporary Art, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Art Today Association was established in 1997 as a nongovernmental organization registered in public favor with the aim to found the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA). This Centre was inaugurated in 1999 in the Ancient Rome Bath premises. Its main activities are: Communication Front – international project for new media art, the annual exhibition Week of Contemporary Art, the Multimedia Lab for art production, the curatorial residency program, as well as the establishment of Corridor Gallery - the fi rst commercial gallery for contemporary art in Bulgaria. The CAA presents alternative and experimental forms of contemporary art. Throughout the last decade it has built an informational database of contemporary artists, curators, critics, researchers and collectors; prepared periodical publications and exhibition catalogues; implemented training programs for young art professionals; organized seminars, discussions, workshops; elaborated an institutional network of international partner organizations. Established in 2006 the program for curators-in-residence was based on the international network of partner organizations for exchanging curatorial experience and artistic practices.
Sariev Gallery – Open Arts Foundation – artnewscafé, Plovdiv
The Sariev Gallery was founded in 2004 by Vesselina and Katrin Sarieva. In the five years of its existence it has set a new standard for privately owned galleries in Bulgaria, presenting art with strong conceptual underpinnings and wide public significance. The gallery seeks an active engagement of the Plovdiv community in the arts and has implemented a number of public projects. The most signifi cant project initiated by Sariev Gallery and the subsequently founded Open Arts Foundation is the Plovdiv Night of Galleries and Museums. It was first organized in 2005, being the first large-scale museum night in Bulgaria. With a program of events by more than 40 participating institutions – public and private galleries, museums, clubs and open-air venues – it is the country’s most attended gallery/museum event. In 2008 opened the artnewscafé, located in a space adjacent to the gallery. Its mission is to be a place for relaxation, art information and live urban events. artnewscafé has a monthly bulletin covering art events from Bulgaria and the world, and organizes its own program of non-commercial projects and exhibitions.
International Curatorial School, Plovdiv
Curatorial practices emerged in Bulgaria only after 1989 as part of the general discourse of contemporary art whereby the country (and most of the region) started a process of intense catching-up. Recently a new generation of emerging curators began paving its professional way with various specializations abroad since curatorial practices have not been established within official academic programming. The curatorial school aims to provide an opportunity for professional, practical and theoretical education in curatorial studies within the frame of intensive seminars and with the participation of an international team of prominent art professionals.
independent curator and critic based in Sofia, guest curator at the Sofi a City Gallery and contributor to the ‘Kultura’ weekly, curatorial internships at Guggenheim Museum Venice and at Kunsthaus Graz, lecturer for art theory at New Bulgarian University Sofi a, curator of the 13th Week of Contemporary Art „Bulgaria?…Oh, yeah, Bucharest!“ (2007)
artist, curator and director of Art Today Association – Center for Contemporary Art Plovdiv, numerous exhibitions in Bulgaria and abroad: „Contemporary Graphic Art in Bulgaria“ – Bulgarian Cultural Institute Vienna (2009), „Atlantis - Hidden Histories New Identities“ – collateral event 53th Venice Biennale (2009)
cultural manager, curator and writer, founder of Sariev gallery Plovdiv, Open Arts Foundation, artnewscafé and Night of museums and galleries in Plovdiv, publishes monthly artbulletin, curated recently „Future Shorts“ film festival, „The ideal of rab“ and „reset“ (2009)
independent curator and writer based in Berlin, curator for Berlinale/Forum Expanded 2010, Commissaire associée at La Kunsthalle Mulhouse in 2010/11, recently published „Cooling Out – On the Paradox of Feminism“ and „Outlandos“ (JRP/Ringier)
former editor of Flash Art International. Founded FEINKOST in 2007.
cultural manager and curator based in Plovdiv and Berlin, working for Robert Bosch Foundation and Art Today Association, curated recently „Art protects you – Jochen Traar“ – Austrian Cultural Forum Berlin (2009), „Life in spasms“ and „Brest“ – showroom berlin gallery (2008-09) Brest“ – showroom berlin gallery (2008-09)