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ART AND CITY – A FORTHCOMING CONVERSATION

With this text, Viktoria Draganova – editor-in-chief of this magazine, introduces the thematic focus “Art + City”, taking us through several topical debates related to the place and role of art in urban environments.


The Orchards of Mladost, a walk and conversation with Andrea Popyordanova, Sofia, 15.05.2022  © Photo: Center for Social Vision
The Orchards of Mladost, a walk and conversation with Andrea Popyordanova, Sofia, 15.05.2022 © Photo: Center for Social Vision

“Journal for Social Vision” dedicates its current focus to urban spaces and communities, as well as to art that is both possible and necessary in the urban environment. This direction is not unexpected – back in 2022, we published the discussions “How We Think and Do the Social” and “How We Negotiate the City”, both of which were launch events for the then newly established Center for Social Vision platform, whose activities and discourse have since charged the digital pages of this journal. We invited colleagues from different fields to join in a broad discussion about how art can actively participate in the life of a city. This year’s focus is driven not only by the need to re-examine the possibilities of art to contribute to a better living environment, but also by the recognition that to effect change we need institutions, media, and more generally, places that support, deepen, and expand the discourse on these topics. In the following lines, I will share a few reflections in this direction, expressing my gratitude to colleagues and friends who have participated in the many conversations we have had since the foundation of the Center for Social Vision.

 

What is already there

 

To begin with, I would like to refer to a very recent event – just a few days ago the Lunar Festival took place, which organizes 3D mappings at various locations in the city. And this year’s edition of the event happened with unprecedented mass interest – the organizers claimed an attendance of over 600,000 spectators; without knowing if the number is really that, it has certainly become one of the most attended events in an urban environment and a magnet for most city dwellers. For the arts field, this event set an important precedent – the organizers offered something spectacular, technologically innovative, large-scale, reached a lot of people, and the festival has partnership with the Sofia Municipality as well as with private businesses. It seems they have managed to tick all the boxes that the visual arts need today to stand on their own.

 

How do we explain the interest in this event? 3D mapping is a technological extension of the static murals and graffiti art that are becoming more steadily established in urban space, representing a constant development in urban art and in complete opposition to the numerous monuments we have been used to seeing for years. It is certainly exciting for many to see the city shining through the animated paintings on facades, as if dressed up in new clothes, with an unleashed imagination, freed from the malignant urban themes around parking problems, crumbling houses, and garbage. It is also art as opposed to monuments, which rarely manage to grab attention in this way. There are also no contemporary evocative readings here, quite the opposite – monuments of recent years, such as those of Tsar Samuil, Simeon Radev and Georgi Markov, are negatively evaluated by the majority, in the words of researcher Todor Bulev, for “an unconvincing, improvised spatial presence and a clumsy search for monumentality (or refusal of monumentality), a desire for naturalistic representation and a return to a kind of neoclassicism.” [1]

 

In addition to monuments, decorative sculpture is also present in the urban space. More intimate in sound, poetic and emotional, we find this sculpture most often in parks. Particularly impressive is the collection in the garden of the Sofia City Art Gallery – Natasha Noeva explores the processes surrounding the creation of this unique initiative of “monumental decoration” in the 1960s as part of the First National Exhibition “Sculpture in the Open Air” with the Union of Bulgarian Artists, the Sofia City People’s Council and the Committee for Culture and Art as the exhibition organizers. [2] Unfortunately, such competitions have not established themselves as a permanent mechanism for creating actual content in urban space, and we see that the city has always needed poetics alongside historical and political propaganda – nowadays we find such examples most often in Pavel Koychev’s installations not only in Sofia, but also in other places in the country.

 

Art does have the power to move – but only sometimes does it also lead to a conversation about the environment we live in and the lives we lead. Lunar, even if massively visited, does not generate discussions – here we rather consume beautiful pictures that we love and share on Instagram. That’s why the topic of art in an urban environment has been widely discussed recently around the removal of the Monument to the Soviet Army from the Knyazheska Garden in Sofia. As if coached by yet another removal of a historical artifact (the Mausoleum – in 1999; the monument to 1300 years of Bulgaria – in 2017), we heard a wide range of opinions expressed, commenting on the aesthetic qualities of the sculptural group as well as its symbolic and political connotations. “MOCHA” as a topos touched on a number of themes related to national identity and self-understanding, as well as the overlap of civic voice and political will. However, the memorial also raised themes entirely related to the life of the capital – such as how this central space will be used from now on, which emerges at the moment as a major issue with very unclear parameters. Key to the debate is involving citizens, experts and institutions as widely as possible in the conversation. Regarding the latter, it should be noted that so far we have heard mostly comments from museums about preservation (and lack of options), as the general feeling was that there was no one who could house the monument with its history and offer ways of researching and communicating it to future generations from now on. In general, as is the case in the field of contemporary art, only a small number of art institutions are involved in the discourse about the role of art, be it urban or that in the white cube, in a visionary, contemporary way. How does the conversation continue here?

 

Art institutions in Sofia – municipal and state – hardly go beyond their museum spaces and connect with the communities around them, or participate in neighbourhood life. They communicate to a common audience, and activity is reported through the number of exhibitions realized, total visitors, and especially photographed queues during the European Night of Museums or at the closing of an exhibition. We observe that independent and private organizations and collectives, which not only present an active position in cultural policy, but also through their artistic production seek multiple ways to involve art in social processes, are much more significant and recognizable in the work outside the white cube. The “independent” cultural sector and private organizations are in fact those that produce platforms for the presentation of contemporary art forms in urban space. For example, in the garden of the Monument to the Soviet Army, two years ago, Container, that was initiated by the Vox Populi organisation, appeared as a stage and space for contemporary and social art, as well as for conversations. Vox Populi’s practice is closely linked to hearing and transmitting individual or collective voices on sometimes even critical social issues. At the moment, with the downtown area largely blocked off by fences, this is proving to be an active cultural space – here I would add with strategic importance due to its location and the potential to present themes and issues.

 

Significant developments in the public space in recent years have been the 100 Stola, The Rivers of the City and The Park initiatives, organised under the leadership of Kolektivat (The Collective Foundation). All three initiatives, from their inception, have envisaged art as a key element in their actions to improve new urban spaces. The projects furthermore implement contemporary urban policies enshrined in the New European Bauhaus, which was conceived as a complement to the European Green Deal to create “beautiful, sustainable and inclusive” spaces. The organisation has twice been among the winners of the European initiative. Thus, there is also a political task behind the projects: changing the use of riverbeds in one case, improving unused urban workspaces in the other. This is something that distinguishes them from Lunar and many other events that are primarily experiential and recreational in nature.


The direction in which the organization is working has been positively perceived by majority of the citizens, associating their vision for the development of the city in the models that the Kolektivat has been able to create even in just a few days. These models are both fanciful but also adopt the visual language of open air festivals from other European cities – they tame the wild environment of the big city with colourful lights, poofs, stumps and loungers to sit on, music and cultural events, cocktails and burgers, entertainment for the kids like piles of straw to roll in. At the same time, after the heavy rains in May, we see the riverbeds where these amusements took place once again silted up by the incoming water – making it clear that what we need are not cosmetic changes, but important infrastructural solutions for the use of these places, if they can at all be brought in line with the example of other European cities, so that they do not remain a chimera. It is also an interesting question whether the mixing of culture, politics and business entrepreneurship (here we are primarily referring to advertisements, food caravans and art markets) is a model for sustainability and thus the future for the promotion of urban policies, and to what extent the objectives set are community-based – for example in the improvement and revitalisation of the business centre.

 

In the events of the Kolektivat I also find another interesting interweaving of decorative elements, placemaking strategies and contemporary art installations. The Park initiative featured large-scale installations – such as the painting of the roof of a central Business Park parking structure by XPOME and Vencislav Djokov in “giant graffiti, or more accurately, horizontal murals,” as the organizers described the intervention. In parallel, the team converted empty spaces – restaurants, offices, shops – into artist studios for free use, with the condition that the artists organize open doors once a month or offer a publicly accessible event; some of the artists also participated with temporary installations at various locations in the Business Park during an event last year. This activity was widely welcomed by the arts community, not only for providing studio space in a city where most artists work from their homes and studio ownership is rare, but also as a good practice for using empty spaces. Such interventions come with different queries about their function: in contemporary visual arts, conceptualization, abstraction, and thematic complexity are most often sought; in the other, the success of an artistic intervention is judged by its spectacularity (for example, the roof of the parking lot is the key focus of the event’s communication materials) and effectiveness in conveying goals set primarily by the organizers.

 

This also raises the question of how this interweaving works for the different arts, whether the organizers manage to convey the different messages and functions, and how the audiences, who come primarily to share the experience of an urban space in a new, different, slightly fantastic way, generally react. It was this intertwining that seemed to inform the debate around Christmas decorations in the capital a few months later, again contracted to Kolektivat. The most conflicted turned out to be the so-called Golden Arch, which was also prematurely removed. Without going into details, it was curious to observe how many commentators perceived the arch as an art installation, taking its shortcomings as a sign of the complex presence in the space. The truth is that we increasingly refer to anything that is visually appealing and impactful as “art” – here we would even include the “turtle” at the junction of Malkite Pet Kyosheta, which was essentially an advertisement for a leading financial company through communicating their corporate social responsibility (in this case through an environmental message), organized by Imp-Act, an agency that has also worked in the past on municipality projects related to the urban environment. Truth be told, this installation would be an example of good art if it was – we rarely see artists open up environmental or other pressing social issues with a flourish, looking for the humour and play, and the installation itself happening on a narrow street directly over our heads.


A sustainable platform for discussion on what is actually good or bad art in a public environment, or art at all, and what is its function, is still missing. Undoubtedly, this platform needs to come from the visual arts and its institutions, going beyond spontaneous reactions on social media and enabling a constructive dialogue that engages institutions, the artistic community and experts from different fields. A similar platform could have been generated on several occasions around the site of the former Mausoleum as the only space for temporary art installations supported by the Municipality under the Navun (Outside) program – considering that the realization of Krassimir Terziev’s project Between the Past That Is About to Happen and the Future That Has Already Been dragged on for almost two years (detailed timeline here). However, this requires political will, which is difficult to generate in times of political crisis, especially if the process has not been institutionalised prematurely. It is important to note here that Krassimir Terziev works through the installation in this direction – it leaves the vertical look characteristic of monumentality, with the letters scaled to be able to sit on. In addition to the opportunity for spontaneous use by passers-by, a discussion programme is being prepared, as well as an opportunity for artists to interpret the work in their own way.


Between the Past That Is About to Happen and the Future That Has Already Been, Krassimir Terziev, 2024. Photo: archive of the artist
Between the Past That Is About to Happen and the Future That Has Already Been, Krassimir Terziev, Sofia, 2024. Photo: archive of the artist

Outside of Sofia, we have seen successful temporary installations in recent years at NIGHT in Plovdiv – I remember the fountain spouting Coca-Cola as an installation by Mike Bouchet (2017, curated by Vladiya Mihaylova) or Rada Bukova’s intervention in the local Catholic church (2018, curated by Dessislava Dimova). This is also where the example of the Week of Contemporary Art in Plovdiv comes from, as in 2023 we published a conversation with the curator Galina Dimitrova and a survey with the participating artists. A very fresh and positive example comes from BUNA, the new contemporary art festival in Varna – spatial rigidity, ecological, poetic and political overlays found in the curatorial selection made by Alexander Valchev who included works by Simeon Simeonov, Stoyan Dechev, Luchezar Boyadjiev, Dimana Lateva, Gallery Gallery, Bogomil Ivanov and Iliyana Grigorova, among others. I hope it will be a matter of time before this exhibition with urban interventions becomes an event in itself with a longer existence than a few days, and supported by the Municipality, organizations, experts and sponsors, involves city residents, guests, politicians, researchers, children, families, and generally gives access to art that does not need to cross the threshold of a museum or gallery, but happens in close contact.

 

Why communities?


An attempt to create spaces for temporary installations in neighbourhoods was made some time ago through the “Outdoor” program of the municipality – a positive development in a particularly valuable direction for creating the conditions for temporary art installations by young artists in neighbourhoods and on the periphery of the city. The program failed to start, and the reasons for this were many – the good intentions of some of the municipal government, the program itself suffered from the fact that its conditions were clumsily formulated, the demands on the artists – too high, the funding – insufficient. Only a few projects applied for the program, and the district mayor and local neighbourhood communities in Druzhba neighbourhood protested against the selected project of Mina Minov for an installation there.


Even though these protests were largely politically motivated, several conclusions can still be drawn – first of all, public art should have a mechanism to include/engage the communities that become the direct addressees of an installation. The truth is that we have no (administrative) experience in doing this, and involving communities requires enormous resources, a long-term political vision, and above all the institutionalization of civil dialogue, as well as the involvement of independent organizations as mediators. The “conversation” about public art continues to exist only within communities of expertise, so it was not surprising that the jury chose a project to represent “artistic provocation.” What we need to be aware of is that art in a public setting, especially when it is not the symbolic space of the square, requires much more than going through a competition and being well installed. Even at the application and project level, there needs to be a strategy that is inclusive – not just in terms of communication/marketing, but a strategy for working with the communities of the place. The earlier these communities are involved, the clearer common goals and needs can be set to motivate and work. It is important to note that the artist cannot be expected to ensure inclusivity because cultural mediation may be an important part for an urban project, but it is hardly the artistic result. For this, there should be a whole ecosystem, ideally supported by the municipality in cooperation with local neighbourhood groups and independent organisations specialised in this type of mediation and placemaking.

 

In the Cultural Strategy 2023–2033 of Sofia we find as a priority “Creative Development” which aims to “strengthen the potential and role of arts and culture in cohesion, improving well-being, developing audiences and supporting communities.” This priority is in line with policies underpinning European programmes such as Erasmus and Creative Europe, which largely support activities focusing on developing methodologies for working in public settings. The priority also builds on the objectives of “Access to Culture,” set out in the previous strategy of the Municipality, which remained largely unrealised – neither the district institutes were reformed, nor a strategy for the development of the dozens of community centres across Sofia emerged, and work with local communities remained symptomatic and unsustainable.

 

It is also a question whether previous formats for artistic interventions in urban environments really work with communities. Certainly since 1989 there has been a widespread proliferation of art in the city. Rumena Kalcheva points to the interventions of the groups The City, DE, Luben Kostov, etc., which she describes as “politically engaged,” and the political in most of them comes not from the message but from the fact that they are innovative and rebellious in their own right. [3]. As the “rebelliousness” of the political changes wore off, things died down, with the most frequent manifestation being the annual curated exhibitions of the Soros Center for Cultural Policies towards the end of the 1990s. At the beginning of the new century a number of new artists working in the city appeared – examples include Destructive Creation, Andrey Vrabchev, Kiril Kuzmanov, Veronika Tzekova, Venelin Shurelov and others. Working with communities mostly through workshops and direct involvement of communities was more present in the first editions of the Sofia Architecture Week and Sofia Design Week festivals and in both editions of Sofia Contemporary. In 2012–2014, Sofia hosted several editions of a festival of creative interventions in the West Park, which rather reflects on the space or it becomes an occasion for generalizations; the communities involved are primarily those of random passers-by, friends and colleagues. In any case, for Rumena Kalcheva, this boom came to an end with the unsuccessful attempt to institutionalize them. The fact is that so far, apart from these independent initiatives, there have been no regular major art events such as festivals, let alone (international) biennials, which have established themselves as forums for temporary art installations and interventions with the whole arsenal of techniques in activating different urban spaces and the people who live in them. Such a forum cannot be solely a private initiative and is impossible to happen without the political will and partnership of public institutions.

 

At the moment, the focus on contemporary art and working with communities is seen more outside Sofia, for example the Varusha South festival in Veliko Tarnovo. There, far from just seeking symbolic interaction with the city, neighbourhood communities are directly involved in order to create positive neighbourhood identities. Meanwhile, artistic interventions are also taking place in the villages – for example, during the residencies run by the Ideas Factory association across the Northwest Bulgaria. All these efforts, which are linked to the need for sustainable funding instruments, municipal support in implementation and creative freedom, continue to go unrecognized in their enormous importance for the social, cultural, economic and environmental development of the places where they happen. The vacuum also comes from the lack of a state cultural strategy to support a polycentric cultural model and to counteract the lack of access to culture outside major population centres, as well as the very low levels of participation in cultural activities, as shown in a recent study conducted by the Alpha Research Agency in collaboration with Ideas Factory and the Observatory of Cultural Economics.

 

What is the main reason to push for community outreach? Back in the 2000s, one of the larger studies of urban space through art, called Visual Seminar, led by the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA–Sofia) and involving artists and experts, showed that Sofia is a city in crisis, which does not exist as a shared image beyond the level of personal experience, ideals and dreams. “There are,” as Krassimir Terziev summarizes, “only fragmented places where traumatized memory (or its absence – social amnesia), imagination and the pressure of everyday needs cause ceaseless mutations, re-discovery and redefinition of urban space”. [4] Alexander Kiossev writes that urban geography is atomized, and the city is not a planned whole, instead “a series of disparate uses, bricolages and abuses.” On the positive side, the “appropriation” of the city is a more intimate reworking of the city, creating proximity, warmth, security, and livability, but it also leads to a “cohabitation” of incompatibilities, to a self-serving and lawless appropriation, to neighborhoods, holes, and ghettos. “The city seems not to really exist, because there is nothing to connect it,” concludes Kiossev, one of the participants in the project, then also a member of ICA–Sofia. [5]

 

Twenty years later, we would say that the feeling of a fragmented public space has not left us, especially the noticeably low levels of people’s trust in each other, the little civic engagement, the low voter turnout. But the role of the artist has changed from one that either “relies” on the environment or criticizes it – more and more often art, institutions and organizations see their role in the need to work towards inclusivity, to connect, to communicate, so that the city is built as a shared space.

 

Micro instead of macro

 

The anthropologist Ivaylo Ditchev in one of his latest texts, published at the end of 2023, recognizes the city in its fragmentation, hybridity and polycentricity, looking for the thing that connects people with each other:


“The big city is a place where people who are strangers to each other are brought together. The main thing they have to learn is to communicate to build up the feeling that they have something in common, even though for the most part they don’t even know each other...The city has to invent its own topics of conversation, its own meeting places, its own rules for encounters between strangers.”


For me, Ditchev’s words are of great importance and inspiration because they place conversation as a key element in the life of a city. Conversation is also the main topic of poet and playwright Stefan Ivanov’s social poem with you, our first edition at the Center for Social Vision, which we published in 2022. From it we learn that conversation can be conducted in many ways, with or without words, it can be tense, even conflicted, but the important thing is that it goes beyond the harmonious polite and everyday exchange of informative lines, it leads out of loneliness and isolation and becomes a bridge to trust. In a similar vein are the playing cards S O F T (Acts of Tenderness) (2023), written by the poet Christoph Szalay, which aim with questions-invitations such as “What is your favourite karaoke song?” and “What do you dream about?” to invite strangers into an open communication.


Presentation of S O F T (Acts of Tenderness) at Swimming Pool, 2024. Photo: Lubov Cheresh
Presentation of S O F T (Acts of Tenderness) at Swimming Pool, 2024. Photo: Lubov Cheresh

Starting from the agonistic nature of the democratic community and the spaces it inhabits, instead of seeking consensus, we should seek conversation, which is the path to balance. Civic institutions are formed around conversation. Art has untapped potential to foster conversation, including through the perspective of ecological thinking and with an expanded range of participants. In addition to diverse people, multiple perspectives and subjectivities are present in the city, both related to individuals, communities and understandings, and shaped through science, technology, ecological processes and policy. In a more ecological understanding, we would extend the environment of a city to include all those organisms, materials, objects, structures and systems that shape our daily interactions. In this way, art can be the key to creating a more active and integrated urban life where people can feel more at home in their neighbourhoods, more connected to their environment and to the other people who inhabit it. The main question we need to ask is this: what is the art that performs these functions, and who are the organisations and institutions that facilitate it?

 

What is certain is that culture as spectacle is not the key to this conversation. Without repeating this critique (including present in the quoted text by Ivaylo Ditchev), the audience is thus placed in the role of a passive consumer, a nameless participant at the table, deprived of position and voice. For the sake of the conversation we have to leave the field of the macro and enter a zone that is much more concrete, personal, direct. These categories should not be taken literally – Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s impressive large-scale interventions are an important example of a practice that operates at a micro level, often taking years and sometimes decades of careful preparation, involving administration involvement, political negotiation, permitting and environmental approvals, public hearings and persuasion, and finding funding from many different sources. In art, practices of artistic research, participatory, mediation have been developed, which literally resort to “conversation” and include inquiries and interviews, as well as different modes of sharing and collaboration between artist and participant, which are the basis of the final creative product – the practice of Katalin Erdődi is a great example of this. In participatory art, it is not the mass and spectacle of inclusion that should be the guiding principle, but rather the interest in the “gesture” or that action that is unpredictable, unintentional, delicate – as suggested by Sruti Bala’s study The gestures of participatory art (Manchester University Press, 2018). If we look for participation in terms of concrete knowledge rather than just symbolic meanings, and explore gesture – and even the refusal to engage – then we may find much more here about communities and their emancipatory potential than talking again about the pervasive lack of civic participation.

 

Curatorial practice also seems to have changed in this field. Curator, theorist and educator Paul O’Neill, in his 2010 essay The Politics of Small Act – which Katalin Erdődi, one of our contributors, also cites in her text – defines the exhibition as an accumulative structure in which different processes accumulate, and the curator creates collaborations, cooperativities and makes possible the co-existence of difference, transcending dominant positions and grand narratives. Drawing on philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s politics of the gesture, O’Neill calls for a politics of small actions, arguing that “micro revolution” can be sustained by accumulating the effects of a multitude of small actions rather than a select few as they gain collective momentum over time. This also changes the role of institutions, the gatekeepers of abstract values, symbolic meanings and grand narratives – they are faced with the question of how they foster and archive this new art and curatorial practice based on process, sharing and multiplicity.

 

Also, the need not to talk about society and the city, but about multiple communities, about moving inwards into neighbourhoods, inter-block spaces, neighbourhoods, blocks and urban peripheries, stands out as a major task before us. When we talk about neighbourhoods, we immediately think of the initiatives around Kapana in Plovdiv and KvARTal in Sofia. In both cases, we could comment on their success in revitalizing central but neglected neighbourhoods and developing small businesses and restaurants in them. At the same time, they are also examples of gentrification of these neighbourhoods, the truth being that such processes are largely inevitable and it is a matter of good urban management to reach an economic and cultural balance to avoid such places becoming mere backdrops for foreign tourists and falling out of urban life. The concentration of processes taking place in one or another such neighbourhood is hardly comparable, possible, let alone desirable for other neighbourhoods in the cities concerned. The expert organization Ekipat na Sofia has another adequate approach, exploring areas and neighbourhoods in depth to gain insight at a micro level in direct conversation with residents, neighborhood groups, and organizations. It continues the work set out in the Vision for Sofia (2016–2020), an initiative of Sofia Municipality led by Arch. Lyubo Georgiev, for the development of Sofia and suburban areas – with particularly in-depth research in the strategy for Identity and Culture. We should also mention the many initiatives coming from colleagues in architecture and urban studies that address different perspectives of urban development, culture and history – such as the urban forums of the Collective for Social Interventions (KOI) or the lectures of the New Architectural Heritage Foundation, or the initiatives of Gradoscope.


From the moment we came together as a research group around the Center for Social Vision three years ago, we began discussions about finding alternatives to monuments and monumental-decorative art in the urban environment. The slogan “No to Monuments” was the subject of long conversations and became the occasion for the realization of the first projects that completely rethought the way art connects with the city and its communities. One of these projects is Andrea Popyordanova’s research entitled The Orchards of Mladost (2022), which explores the residents and the ecosystem of the neighbourhood, seeking a new key to understanding the relationship between humans and nature in the urban context. In 2023 Andrea, together with ethnobotanist Francesca Castagnetti, explored the Vartopo wilderness, which turns out to be “neither a city nor a garden,” as they called their research, revealing the diverse life of this place, dismissed by most as simple weeds. We also worked together with Dessislava Terzieva, Slava Savova, Ivan Bonev, Sapromat and Konstantin Georgiev, Stefan Prohorov, Boyana Djikova and Sophia Grancharova, as well as the Baba Residence, looking together for ways in which art can actively participate in the city and stimulate dialogue between people. This year we are working on a larger event in the city called “Devet Slona” (Nine Elephants) that will include multiple projects related to topics such as environment and interactions, exploring spaces and activating communities through installation and performance, gathering, telling and learning from personal stories. We will be telling you more soon, and if you are already asking yourself why Nine Elephants, the answer is simple – we wanted to start a conversation with a slightly surprising beginning...


In conclusion, we need to work with a different understanding of art, but also a different understanding of a city. Do we expect art in a public environment to surprise visually, an installation to be a spectacle in itself so we as viewers can experience? Or do we find multiple techniques developed not only as strategies in the white cube in response to new forms of institutionality, but also outside of it, in the complex space of the city, where they have very different goals – of connection, of multiple perspectives, of care? And what can the city be beyond the rhetoric of absence set by the political situation of recent years – when it is at once situation and imagination, history and present, movement and perspective, convenience and play? The start has been made and let the conversation continue.


[1] Todor Bulev, Monumental Sculpture in the Urban Space of Sofia - Analysis of Some Examples from Recent Decades, in Plastic Arts in the Urban Spatial Environment, issue 1/2020, ed. by Blagovesta Ivanova, 52-60.
[2] Natasha Noeva, First National Exhibition "Sculpture in the Open Air", 1966, City Garden, Sofia, in: ibid, pp. 21-33.
[3] Rumena Kalcheva, Artistic Interventions in Urban Environments as an Instrument of Cultural Policies, in: ibid, pp. 61-69.
[4] Krassimir Terziev, Excuse me, Which City is This?, in Visual Seminar. Fellows Programme 2: An Eye for the Pale City, Sofia 2004, pp. 9-25, here p. 10. Online here.
[5] Alexander Kiossev, An Eye for the Pale City, in Visual Seminar. `Resident Fellows Program 2: An Eye for the Pale City, Sofia 2004, pp. 67-97 , here p. 68. Online here.

VIKTORIA DRAGANOVA is editor-in-chief of the Journal for Social Vision and initiator of the Center for Social Vision.
The Journal for Social Vision and the materials related to our thematic focus “Art + City” are published with the support of the National Culture Fund.


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