There exist in recent years words and phrases whose meaning has been deeply contaminated by the previous system of government, the communist dictatorship. One of them is the word ‘front’, although in Bulgarian language it possesses a number of meanings. Certainly, I consider this quite normal, especially having in mind the fact that Bulgarian public opinion connects the word with the most popular movement or social organization in totalitarian times, The State Front. As a matter of fact, the membership in the SF was nearly compulsory to all Bulgarian citizens. At the same time, the purely formal membership in the organization signified that you are not eligible to be admitted into the Communist Party which granted membership only in return to special and confirmed merits. Neither is this the right text, nor am I willing to draw a detailed description of the SF. I could point out, however, to those who find it a curiosity that there is some allusion between our CFront Project and The State Front. Two years ago when we put our heads together to find the most suitable name for the Project that needed to reflect our critical attitude towards the issue of man and technology, we agreed that there would be a particular touch of parody in the combination of words such as ‘front’ and ‘communication’ in Bulgarian social environment. Opting for the present name of the Project we decided to bring to new life the meaning of ‘front’ in Bulgarian, while at the same time being fully aware that the ‘community of media-artists’ was so far barely noticeable, going through its period of ‘political, historical and chronological’ irrelevance to the global process at the time, with the sole exception of some prominent figures such as Iliyana Nedkova, Luchezar Boyadjiev and Ventsi Zankov, who presented a more facetious, provocative and critical approach toward cyber-culture and the electronic on-line environment. At the same time, this situation had its objective reasons. At the time, the access of local artistic community to technology was not only substantially limited but virtually non-existent as a guiding factor of their career. In this line of thought, I would like to quote the critic and art-historian Svilen Stefanov:
"Even today it is no hard task to find out that in as much as our institutions perform some cultural exchange, it does not have the capacity to subvert likeness in the province of art by introducing radically innovative elements. Other personalities are accepted no further than they resemble us. In case the qualities of a foreign cultural product go beyond the discriminating capacities of our institutions, it is never allowed the status of a cultural product.”
Going along the same lines in his book ‘Cultural Dimensions of the Visual’ released by Graffiti Publishing House, Sofia, in 1998, S. Stefanov further remarks:
“These signs of profanity on an institutional level are also caused by the fact that ‘senses’ need to be cultivated, which is a long and laborious process. The suspicious attitude toward us is additionally caused by our feigning meaningful structures as regards peripheral and marginal situations. The semantic clusters are superficially emulated without anyone having an idea of the actual functioning of these structures. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, there came the time for getting to know each other. History has shown that this is not a one-sided process. Records have it that in the years succeeding the discovery of America, while the Spaniards were dispatching committees to ascertain whether the natives have souls, Indians were drowning white captives to see if their corpses would undergo decay.
In our individual case on the Balkans things tend to be even vaguer as evaluation is concerned since cultural peripheries are most often semi-transparent to eyes from without.”
It is interesting to ponder on the strong influence of the Soros Centre for Contemporary Art that we witnessed several years ago. It was the only institution funding contemporary art in this country. That undoubtedly granted it the status of the most powerful establishment shaping and influencing the development of the policies in contemporary Bulgarian art which is characterised by a lack of response towards the multi-media and the electronic on-line environment. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture and other minor organizations, entangled in their numerous problems, played the part of passive spectators, never producing self-initiative and energetic actions in the province of art.
Perhaps, these are part of the reasons for the positive attitude to the Internet shared by Bulgarian media-artists’ community as a whole. They see in it a means of subverting and rendering more democratic the system for disseminating information employed so far. Naturally, this enhanced interest led to apparent novelties in the strategies for presenting and financing projects of Bulgarian artists and organizations. Beyond doubt, this creates an opportunity for rendering the processes of the cultural and social sphere in the country more democratic, and restructuring the artistic environment.
Furthermore, we witness not only a willingness but also actual results of the attempt to go beyond the local state-run and non-governmental organizations dealing with culture and financing art, having in mind their complete inertia and indifference in regard to the new artistic media. Maybe, the time is coming when we can discern the beginnings of new traits and tendencies that stretch beyond our idea of self-sufficiency and help us overcome at least in part our provincial problems. Recent years saw a genuine thrive in the development of small local organizations and communities of artists. In spite of the common track of development, we can curiously come across different ideologies concerning the Internet context and new technology. Most of them, however, share not so shallow an attitude to new technology and manifest a soberer view on the capacities of the Net. This, at the same time, portends new crises and is a ground for the cultivation of a new ‘elite’ of artists and organizations that enjoy free access to technology and information since the whole issue reflects the differing social and cultural aspects of the environment in which our personalities are developed and shaped.
text by dimitrina sevova
Translated by Ivan Ivanov