Watch the discussion with artists and curators about art in public space and the challenges around it that took place in the frame of Negotiation, the public program of the Center for Social Vision. We talked about the urban environment, public space, and audiences as well as discussed the funding programs Outside ("Навън") and Outdoors ("Открито") that were recently launched by the Sofia Municipality. What is the role of the curators, organizations, and municipalities in this process, and what are possible directions for future work?
The discussion featured: Luchezar Boyadjiev, artist; Vera Mlechevska, co-founder of Sofia Art Projects; Ivan Bonev, architect and researcher; Michaela Dobreva, co-founder of the collective Sapromat; Boyana Djikova and Vikenti Komitski, co-founders of POSTA; Dessislava Terzieva, artist; Rumena Kalcheva, art historian and critic; Filip Boyadjiev, Know-How Show-How and external expert to the Commission for Culture at Sofia Municipality. The discussion was moderated by Viktoria Draganova, initiator of the Center for Social Vision.
EXCERPTS FROM THE DISCUSSION
Boyana Djikova / curator and co-founder of POSTA
"The space is situated on the route where the protests were moving along a year ago, which creates a burden of responsibility to the specific location to address social issues and to capture the attention of the public. It was important for us to combine projects that have a very serious message, such as Dessi's (Dessislava Terzieva – ed.), and projects that are more introverted, even romantic, and require immersion."
Dessislava Terzieva / artist
"Prima Materia World was born out of the lockdown because you could then see art mainly on the phone. So I started to make some big installations, some sculptures without telling anyone, without delivering info on title/materials on social media, because I knew that sooner or later someone would find them. They were made to be seen by people and for them to react. It's my way of communicating without putting myself in the forefront."
Vikenti Komitski / artist and co-founder of POSTA
"I think in a public environment things can't be controlled very much. If you put something in public space, you still risk everything. I think of an installation of mine that was a big pyramid of tents. I put it up twice in public. One time was in Sofia in front of the National Palace of Culture, where it was destroyed within 24 hours, people literally cut it up. And in Baden Baden it stayed for two months on the square. It depends a lot on the environment, Sofia is an aggressive environment for public art, but I think that's fair enough."
Mihaela Dobreva / co-founder of Sapromat
"With Sapromat we came out of the hierarchical theatre environment through site-specific installations and performance. I think it is intriguing how private space is shared in public space. What are the rules? You'd like to create an interaction, but because it's imposed on the audience that is far away and not allowed to enter, even for us as artists it's a huge challenge to break free from the preset code."
Luchezar Boyadjiev / artist
"Regarding the new municipal programs, we didn't consider the following thing: somehow in the center of the city, "Outside" (a funding program by the Sofia Municipality – ed.) seems to be a common property, no one can appropriate the space for themselves, and no one can say:"My point of view, my narrative of this space is the only valid one." Whereas in the case of Druzhba Lake ("Outdoors" funding program by Sofia Municipality – ed.) it turned out that first of all the artists were deprived of the right to propose a location, because it is unpredictable what the legal status of their proposed place would be. And that is why the municipality proposes locations to which it has rights. However, outside of downtown, the community of people who live around this lake is particularly jealous. It's a mistake that again there's a lack of time, a lack of examining the environment, a lack of patience."
Vera Mlechevska, curator and co-founder of Sofia Art Projects
"I've been in commissions that approve projects intended for the public space, and there it seems that the majority seeks for unproblematic projects, pleasing to the mass taste, beautiful, and not addressing any painful topics. [...] I also know of dozens of failed projects where they say "you can't put something here in this place" because there is simply "Green Systems" that doesn't give permission – it is the nightmare for dozens of projects. To me, that's flawed, and I don't think we should agree in the long run that the municipality says art is going to be there and there. Rather, it's something that has to come from the artists themselves, because they're the people who are hopefully coming into direct contact with a community."
Filip Boyadjiev, expert at the Commission for Culture at Sofia Municipality
"The biggest problem of the municipality is a communicational one, that it does not communicate well inward as well as outward. Therefore, a conversation between the artists and the municipality would be effective if both sides listen to the specifics of the other. We have to start looking for opportunities for negotiation and communication between all the people concerned in the chain and find solutions together."
Krassimir Terziev / artist (from the audience)
"I would like to add on the topic of 'Negotiation' that is about the rights of the community, the scope of agency of the artist. It seems to me that we are missing that we, the art professionals, are also a community, we are an artistic community. And it was very unfortunate that in this problematic situation that Mina Minov (the winner of the "Outdoors" program in 2022) found himself in, the artistic community did not come to defend him."
Viktoria Draganova / moderator
"Ivan Bonev and I have talked about the model in architectural competitions where there are several levels included – first, there is an invitation to a few architects/artists, who in a second step explore the context and propose a more detailed project, and only then a project is selected. The question is how these steps can be implemented in these programs (Outside and Outdoors) as well. I think this conversation today is extremely valuable, regardless of who gets involved, regardless of what reactions or even conflicts it causes, it will be continued and hopefully very useful for everyone."
Ivan Bonev / architect
"The fact is that when there are programs just starting out, we often encounter inexperience and ignorance. The creative industries in Bulgaria also lacks this experience. There isn't an established practice of researching and getting in touch with the audiences you want to engage."