The Institute of Contemporary Art-Sofia is presenting the archive that it has been compiling for its entire existence. Covering the period after 1989 the exhibition includes documentation on group and individual events, critical debates, professional meetings and others. Fragments from the personal archives of the ICA-Sofia members are also included.
The exhibition provides a unique opportunity to traverse the history of Bulgarian art in the last 20 years. The hand-made catalogues that are now a bibliographical rarity; the books of collected essays from abroad; the fancy publications from international biennials where artists from Bulgaria have participated; the clippings from the Bulgarian and international press; the posters and photographs from exhibitions and actions are all meant to fill up gaps in our knowledge about this significant period in our country's history. This is a kind of historical knowledge that can not yet be found in the public collections of art, the libraries or the archives in Bulgaria. Being aware that it can not include all points of view or all similar personal and group archives, the exhibition is presenting an idea of how such archives might be made publicly available one day; it also aims to reignite the debate on contemporary art and its representation in museums and history books.
The exposition provides an opportunity to peek into the tumultuous shift from official to informal groups and events; into the dramatic critical debates of the time that supported the establishment of a visual language that is adequate to the artistic process; into the process of establishing the role of the curator in our contemporary art in spite of the mockery, mistrust and the active hostilities; into the inclusion of artists from Bulgaria in the global art process.
In the space of the show one can refresh his/her memory of key art works for the time. Some of these have been included in museums and collections outside of Bulgaria, while others have perished due to a lack of care, space or institutions for their preservation. The archive also aims to remind to us of many important art institutions – galleries, centers and publications whose contribution has largely been forgotten.
During the years of complex changes in our society the lack of state cultural policies with regard to contemporary art caused many talented people to leave the country, many works to be forgotten, many publications to vanish and many achievements to be ignored. "Our 20 Years in Contemporary Art" is a step towards the historical evaluation of Bulgarian contemporary art in the perspective of its future development, towards the systematization of the living memories, as well as towards the compilation of an extensive documentation for its preparation and interpretation in and by the museums.
Open for viewing and research, arranged by year, the documentation in the show is for all interested – for those who lived through all those years, as well as for those who live now acknowledging the benefit of the past that has happened.