Art. No Borders. Plovdiv. presents internationally recognized artists from Europe, the USA, and Japan whose works deal with questions of our existence in the present day: who are we, the people of the 21st century; where are we going; and are we able to sacrifice some of our present comfort in order to preserve civilization for future generations? The exhibition focuses on three interconnected themes: the growing consumption that drains natural resources and how this leads to economic and political crises; the ever more frequent environmental disasters that have become a constant threat for humanity; and the fragility of human life, as well as that of the planet.
The central theme – and the starting point for the exhibition – is, of course, the art itself and its indisputable capacity to touch us emotionally and intellectually. Could it also mobilize individual actors and entire societies to undertake actions in this moment that is so very important, even critical, to humanity? By making use of various artistic media, the participants interpret and deepen the proposed topics, adding new aspects to them or trying to show possible ways to change the thinking and attitudes of society.
Turning people from pragmatism and materialism toward the spiritual values of civilization is the message of Bill Viola’s video installation Martyrs. Earth, Air, Fire, Water – a modern interpretation of the altarpiece. The path to self-knowledge and light passes through suffering and sacrifice, through humility before the powers of the natural elements. In contrast, our double human relationship with nature, poised between awe and the struggle with it as a prerequisite for progress, connects the works of Stoyan Dechev and Benedikt Partenheimer. The artists pose a question to themselves: has humanity not arrived at a critical point at which progress threatens to destroy its creators? The theme of Venelin Shturelov’s film Black Abstraction is similar: the obsession with acquiring raw materials is a foundation of the work, but in the vision of the artist, the consequences of these alarming processes become visible as an abstract concept of modern man – insignificant, impermanent, inconstant – like black smoke on the horizon.
The art documents, describes, and comments on cultures, political and identificational processes, (religious) beliefs, myths, and utopias. The artist appears as a sort of "tightrope walker" who, in Taus Makhacheva’s film, balances between their own attitudes – creative and human – and the norms of society – social and ideological. The artist enters into many different roles: concerned about what we will leave behind, the artist becomes a collector of evidence for the present day ((Mariko Hori); or else they create their own parallel reality themselves )scenocosme) as part of different simulated scenarios for what our digitalized future might look like.
The focus of the work of Sevdalina Kochevska is the present and its different worlds: not computer generated, but the real ones, in which physical and mental borders divide groups and societies from each other. For her part, Nadya Genova is interested in the individual and the multitude, which are in constant interaction.
The works enter into a dialogue with the spaces in which they are exhibited: while in the former Chifte Hamam, with its unique atmosphere, the works are oriented more towards the inner world of the person and encourage concentration and reflection, the space of the Tobacco Warehouses – and in a wider context, the Tobacco city – provoke the artists towards "extroverted" works connected with the dynamics of societal processes, in a context of the past and present function of the exhibition space.
Delphine Reist’s installation Continuous Growth of Consumption directs a critical gaze on capital and on its reproduction as a prerequisite for maintaining, at any cost, the current economic model towards which this same capital strives. "Reproduction" denotes a permanence which, within the framework of the system, resembles a closed circle from which there is no exit (Venelin Shurelov). Change requires engaged action. In this sense, Ute Richter doubts the positive meaning of the concept of "hope" or "hoping," which for the artist is more likely to be an internal brake, a justification for inaction and resignation. And what are the mechanisms that generally dictate an individual’s precise behavior? What motivates us or holds us back from undertaking a given step? The installation of Group 7+1 creates conditions for researching these questions.
The clash between immigrants’ dreams of a better future and the sobering reality of the developed industrial world is shown in the Julian Rosefeldt’s film Asylum. In a world that literally revolves around money (the work by Emil Mirazchiev), the "art" of the deal, according to FAMED, is just as important as it is fraudulent, since it is never quite clear who’s winning and who’s losing.
Two works, one shown in the "Ancient Bath" and the other at SKLAD (the warehouse), close the conceptual framework of the exhibition. Communication and Coexistence, by Nia Pushkarova, consists of one sentence written in the braille alphabet: Through art, you change yourself and the world around you; it is the visible thread between the real and the tangible. Heather Lenz’s documentary film Kusama: Infinity, dedicated to the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, shows us that art is capable of turning trauma into a creative force, and the world – into a more beautiful and, perhaps, a more peaceful place to live.
Art. No Borders. Plovdiv. is part of the official program of Plovdiv – European Capital of Culture 2019. The designation of the city as the capital of culture is a privilege, a challenge, and an opportunity, and it provides the ideal context for the exhibition. On the one hand, Art. No Borders. Plovdiv. draws attention to problematic topics, but at the same time, it connects the city with a global cultural network, while attempting to give positive impetuses for a long-term change in thinking. And not least, the exhibition "celebrates" art, which knows no borders and is open to everyone.
The annual Week of Contemporary Art in Plovdiv, organized by Art Today Association, is one of the most significant events in the artistic life in Bulgaria.