On the Tracks of the Bright Future
Boris Missirkov & Georgi Bogdanov
Boris Missirkov, Georgi Bogdanov
Secretary I’d become,
Office I’d get,
It won’t be easy,
But I’ll be dizzy!
A pop-folk song refrain
The curious phenomenon which stroke us when focusing on the "cliché-identity" theme, was the total lack of a clear system of clichés in Bulgaria today. Its lack becomes even more evident compared to the well-organized cliché production-and-consumption systems such as the North-American culture, where movie cliché and reality overlap to the extent that it is not clear which one the original is. (We have witnessed such situations live - an American colonel in a NATO simulative training, who behaves like a ranger in a from a military movie scene, or an artist who ends up a working discussion with an accusatory speech in a trial-movie style. Compared to such orderly and thoroughly developed systems, our own identity resembles a mixed-up stack of clichés of various origin and various direction.
In Russian one of the synonyms for "cliché" is "common place". It’s a straight-to-the-point definition - as far as every cliché is a representative concept for the notions, ideas, goals of a larger group. The critical mass of people, who would identify themselves with a certain idea or an expression and would start using them on a daily basis, is the factor that transforms the idea or the expression into a cliché.
Which are these common places here, today? Which are the zones where the ideas, goals and dreams of the majority of people meet? At the moment the two of us are not able to find - at least at first sight - many clichés, which are valid for the different spheres of life in Bulgaria. Political language or TV shows are among the few zones where the clichés can be easily identified, but they do not appear as an object of our interest. We are rather interested in the clichés that condition the behaviour, dress code, the dreams of the final consumer - "the man from the crowd", "the average Bulgarian", "the citizen", etc. Pop-folk culture and its show business, for example, give a clue for the stable notions of beauty of the “average citizen”, but their plots are not so strongly related with everyday life - and we couldn’t say that pop-folk consumers represent the country’s population as a whole.
Dreams are the perfect zone, in which we can try to define the currently working cliches conditioning the identity of “the citizen”. Dreams inhabit the sphere of the ideal - and they do not depend on the rough reality. Dreams are something personal - though as a rule, they are amazingly repeatable. Given that they result from the basic notion of happiness, dreams’ core is formed by “simple and human” elements: home, family, work, kids…
In order to stay as much as possible in the sphere of the ideal, we intend to root our work on the project in the dreams of the people, who are still observers of life and not yet real participants in the situation - the high school students. 17-19 years are the age at which the notion of the surrounding world and the value system are already comparatively shaped, although they are based rather on other people’s experience than on your own life story - i.e. the “borrowed” notions of the world are accepted the way they are before the inevitable moment of disappointment and revaluation comes. This is the period of dreams - when the future is still an endless chain of branching opportunities, and not a strictly defined road to be followed.
The work on the project will be divided into three stages:
1. Gathering of a starting material
Gathering of working material will be focused around the classical question, a cliché by itself: "What would you like to become?" Some 20-30 years ago the answers to this question would have been easily predictable - the official cliches from the “I want to become a cosmonaut” kind, or “I’d like to be an engineer.” were strongly related to the tangible opportunities for personal development - but now the possible answers to this question are a mystery to us.
The collection of material will be carried out through interviewing high-school students from several different schools in Sofia and the country - from a small town high school through the public catering vocational school, and finally the National Lyceum for Ancient Languages and Cultures or the American College. Except for the concrete answers concerning the future, the inquiries will try to gather a maximum quantity of information about the visual side of the dreams - places, clothes, colours, situations, relationships…
The work on the interviews and the following stage of the project should be realized in close partnership with sociologists and/or cultorologists participating in the “Visual Seminar” programme.
2. Processing of Results
Extracting the main, repeatable elements of the dreams and defining of concrete themes to be elaborated during the third stage.
The key elements from the examination will be summarized in a series of some 15 staged large-format photographs, representing typical situations from the possible future of our characters. The situations will be staged in a natural décor with the participation of models and actors, and the situations themselves, costume and set details will be modeled in accordance with the materials gathered during the inquiry.
The realization of the stories will be based on familiar existing models - for example, the dream of a football career would be visualized by a dramatic composition in the style of Deyneka’s sports paintings, or a dream of working in an international company - with an interior portrait resembling the desperately lonely offices of Hopper. The slightly over-exposed romantic side of the dreams - between lyrism and pathos - will be the uniting element among the separate photographs that can follow the different genre traditions: portrait, genre scene or epic composition with many personages.
We will consider the project successful if the combination of these images manage to form a slightly ironical sequence in the spirit of the picturesque cycles illustrating the seven deadly sins or the five senses; in our case that could be a gallery of the clichés with which our compatriot would like to define and express himself - here and now.
Sofia, February 2004
The Resident Fellows Program is the product of a partnership between the ICA-Sofia and CAS-Sofia activities and programs on a more theoretical level. It will be organised by the Centre for Advanced Studies Sofia in accordance with the ICA. Within a given year, CAS hosts four resident fellows from Bulgaria for a period of six months each. They come from the fields of contemporary visual arts, other artistic areas, or academia and are selected by the Experts' Unit of the Visual Seminar based on their submitted applications and the application/selection procedures appropriate in such cases. The resident fellows have a stipend and reside in Sofia for the period of their fellowships while working on a specific artistic or research project related both to the topic of the “Visual Seminar” project and to the other activities of CAS. The finalized projects are presented in public in Sofia and discussed by the Forum of Visual Culture (see Module 1).
The idea of cooperation between academics and artists is based on the familiar experience of the Centers for Advanced Study in Europe and USA. Their established practice involves the artists’ participation in the intellectual community of researchers gathered for other research projects of the Centers for Advanced Study. They engage in, and contribute to, the debates and the heuristic atmosphere of the Centers and develop their own artistic projects based on this experience.
Such fellows would be selected by a special procedure appropriate in such cases.