In late September this year, Sofia hosted the zero-budget festival Sofia Art Week, whose third edition followed the motto Swan Song – the metaphorical phrase for a final gesture, effort or performance before an artist retires. The topic was no accident given the background of the protests that have been taking place for almost three months in our country. As part of the festival, the organizers of the artistic platform for exhibitions, discussions, performances, experimentation, workshops and publications Æther and the Migrating Voices project invited various artists to comment on what is happening in Bulgaria, respond to similar protests in Serbia, Poland, Belarus and elsewhere, to the social upheaval in Europe and the world more broadly – to all those who protest against violence, corruption, racism, sexism or homophobia, or more simply, those who demand basic human rights, equality, security and survival. Thus, with a series of exhibitions, actions and performances, over seventy artists from all over the world and working in all kinds of different genres took part in Sofia Art Week. Over the course of that week, they gave us a lot to think about, and we managed to steal away the curators of the event and talk to them – the Bulgarian artist Voin de Voin and Lizet Smits, who works between Sofia and Amsterdam and focuses on the use of voice in different artistic practices.
Poetry for Political speeches, Yasen Vasilev & crew, protest in front of BNT
What do you think are the main goals of the current protests?
We want immanent change – a vision for the future, transparency, actions, participation, and for people's voices to matter. The voice of the people calls for representative democracy, not autocracy.
What do you find most enraging?
The ignorance and arrogance of the authorities, who ignore waves of countless voices.
What distinguishes the protests in Bulgaria from those around the world and what unites them?
Politically and historically, we are united by the common context of our background – the regime, oppression, corruption. Perseverance, good will and non-violence – this is what we decided on as a means of protest. The poverty here and the fact that we have little left to lose is our breaking point. The mixture of obedience, ethnic diversity, geographic location, economic situation and great dependence on the West, workforce emigration.
We sink deep-We sing high, Marie Civikov and Voin de Voin in Borisova Gradina
What is the main purpose of protest art – to reflect the mood of the public or to inspire it?
It is not just one or the other, because the artist and the art never show one or the other – they show the complex undermining of the politics of being present and of the body. Everything that is woven into this totality and how it gets transformed and transmitted during the different decades of the post-war era. How it fluctuates and communicates in the personal and social through the plural and the collective, as well as the cracks that are made so that we can unite as one, claiming that the multitude is more valuable when solving a problem, when dealing with prejudice, when breaking the spells of political failure.
We are inspired and excited by the idea of using the direct link that art, as a kind of protest, can have an effect through what is already worn out.
TIN TIN PATRON (Germany), on the stairs in front of the BNB
How is the artistic language of protest art changing?
This art form has no definition, it calls for transition and visibility, things that have long been overshadowed, neglected, they have not been recognized, seen or heard.
Nowadays, there seems to be more media than ever before, and more means for creating such actions or works, but the effect seems to be inversely proportional. How do you explain that?
We do not agree with this statement. Nothing is counterproductive. Every ounce of energy and every gesture matter more than ever. Every word transmitted and spoken resonates in the morphogenetic field, and this is how the planet, and the people who are all connected to each other because they live on it, communicate subconsciously and sense each other.
What is the most extreme action you dream of doing, but which you would never allow yourself to do?
Skinning the Prime Minister in public.