The "7+1" and the Social Environment Dynamics
By Maria Vassileva
The "7+1" Art group (created at the beginning of 1997) has been working persistently along the lines of provocative artistic penetration into social space. The piece "A Barrier "; Verticals" erected in the village of Momcholovtsi in 1998 is among their serious works created with their joint efforts. At that time the sculptors Pancho Kurtev, Krassimir Angelov, Kamen Tsvetkov, Yohannes Artinyan, Ilko Nikolchev, Ivan Michailov, the architect Georgi Daskalov and the project curator Ilina Koralova interfere in an original way into physical environment, rich in various emotional meanings.They replace the guardian-tree, which once grew at the village gates, with five columns. Their metal constructions, dyed in orange (taken from the Rhodopi textiles), lock inside themselves wooden pieces. Thus the tree is perpetuated as a symbol of life, hinting at the same time at its being subjected to human will. The rhythm of the whole composition, the "patterns" of the metal pipes, which remind of embroidery details become a perfect part of the physical and spiritual landscape of the place.
During the same year, they create the hanging composition "Water "; Air" in Zlatograd. The bluish-grey spiral weighing two tons is composed of props, which have once been used in the nearby mines. At this place the merging of two rivers forms three river banks and it is there that in1996 the flood takes three human lives away. The composition signifies the eternal movement and rotation in nature. In this case ,as in the previous one, we speak of compositions of a memorial nature and of a delicate, spiritual communication with the concrete situation. In the rest of their works, however, the authors apply a different method and have a different aim.
The composition " Filter "; Passing through" situated in the centre of the town of Pernik is symptomatic to the direction of their further artistic quest. It was created between the erection of the two compositions, already mentioned. The three massive metal cubes 2 metres of height and 2,5 tons of weight) personify the life and spirit of the town, which wholly depend on the output of the metal-processing works there. They render the sense of burden, darkness and lack of hope, which seem to overwhelm this town, in a clear and categorical way. As if grown out of the earth, resembling enormous pieces of ore, the cubes, on the one hand show the everlasting and indescribable beauty of this natural treasure, and on the other hand, symbolise people"s quite sad sometimes, dependence on it. This piece of work hints at the way that the sculptors are to follow from that moment on. It lies along the lines of a harmonious combination of two principles: suggestiveness and dynamics. The first one refers to the indirect commentary on spiritual states and the attempt to draw the public"s attention to a certain problem. The second one concerns both movement as an internal principle of composing the pieces of work as well as a physical action demanded from the audience in order to understand them in-depth.Movement "; in the temporal aspect of the notion "; is a major ideological aspect of the wooden sculptoral composition "A Tree Growing Thick with Leaves" (1998) in front of the Plovdiv Art Gallery. In the course of time it will become covered with ivy and what has once been "art" will melt into the surrounding environment and will turn into its natural part. This piece of work demonstrates an important aspect of the "7+1" Group"s principles. All this has something to do with the traditional idea of public sculpture of a monumental nature. The young authors do not want to continue interspersing the country with eternal but uniform monuments. Often, they prefer the temporary, but relevant interference which will be noticed, will prvoke dialogue and will change places with the next one. Their contribution to our society heavy with breathless bronze giants and stone monsters is the idea of short-lasting monumental sculpture.
Another expression of this attitude of theirs is the piece of work created during the 1999 Ilindentsi Sculptoral Symposium. Sculptors from all over the world had been displaying stone monuments on the local height for the previous couple of years. The place had begun turning into a sculpture store, imposing with its scale. The authors from the "7+1" Art Group decided to accept the invitation to participate and to give an answer to the challenge without simply erecting a new monument. At the topmost point of the height they dug out 25 cubic metres of soil and face the pit formed in such a way with marble. Thus a symbolic crtack "; 2 metres deep, 3 metres wide,14 metres long - appeared. It was entitled "Something Down Up There". The symbolic giving the mountain back the stone from its own womb turned out to be one the most powerful gestures in our artistic life as a whole.
A great number of the creations conceived by the authors do not comment on a concrete event or situation. They are often inspired by the elusive vibrations in the sphere of human communication, which remain behind the visible but more often than not represent the framework of interpersonal relations. Two projects have been devoted to the topic but they have not been turned into reality. One of them is the spatial sculptral composition "The Pupa", conceived as a mirror reflection of a popular place in Plovdiv "; "Europe"s Home", which is situated next to the Central Post Office, a place where despite the expectations nothing happens. Constructed in the inside of the building, the work has to invite people to take a look around themselves, to go out of the pupa, in which they have insulated themselves, and to stop waiting for the birth of the butterfly doing nothing. Similar and again not realised is the idea of erecting a 7-metre long spiral of non-contact elements in front of the Central Post Office in Plovdiv. It aims at giving meaning to the problem of the spiritual interrelations.
The idea of conquering the environment is inconceivable without involving or commenting on the existing architecture. Therefore the merging of sculpture and architecture is one of the directions followed by the young authors. This is evident as early as 1997 in "The Ark" exhibition displayed in the "Ata-Rai" Art Gallery, in which all the objects shown represent a projection of the authors" "monumental dreams". As it has rightfully been pointed out by the architect Stella Duleva, the authors have correctly viewed each place as accumulation of energy forces, given off by the objects situated on it and by the people passing by. They try to capture this centre of physical and spiritual tension and to visualize it adequately. Their strive for interference with the town environment makes them take part in various architecture competitions like the one for the pedestrian bridge near the National Palace of Culture in Sofia (Yohannes Artinyan and the architect Stella Duleva), a decision relying on the effect of the net as a possibility to separate and unite at the same time.
In 1999 the sculptors took part in the Soros Art Centre annual exhibition "Culture/Subculture" by blocking the entrance to the Sea Garden in Varna with 3000 metal vinegar crates (grouped in 5 modules of 115 metres length altogether and 23 metres height) to create their piece of work called "A Bar "; Defraction "; Passing Through". Despite the aisles allowing the passers-by to go through it and become actively involved, the municipal authorities ordered that the composition should be deconstructed on the fourth day. According to eyewitnesses the composition was estimated very precisely: "it was a bar to movement without provoking people"s discontent". It was accepted as an original filter placed by the authors at an active point of the town environment in order to make us look at life in a different way. For an instant, the passer-by remains in nobody"s land, between now and beyond, between here and there, between himself and the others. Fretwork metal crates, wire and synthetic nets, transparent foil "; these are the materials which appeal to the artists more and more. Their usage shows the desire to change traditional means of producing memorable pieces of sculpture with new ones as one of the ways to change the sign meaning of a monument. They use these materials not only because of their artistic qualities, but because of their symbolic significance as well. The idea of a world, looked at through a filter, occupies the authors as a challenge in a both plastic and emotional respect. The problem of arts as emanation of the community continues being of value to the members of the "7+1" Art Group. One of the most interesting exhibits at this year"s Youth Exhibition at the 6 "Shipka" str Art Gallery is their composition "Membrane "; Compression "; Semi-permeability "consisting of arranged in a chessboard manner strips of transparent wrapping foil, symbolically barring the way to the staircase of the gallery. Extremely laconic and aesthetic, it is perceived as a symbol of the difficult transition from the outside to the inside of a certain space crammed with conflict, prejudice and passion of decades" lasting. The sense of lightness and filminess and at the same time of an impassable bar, very precisely evokes the tension, concentrated in this particular space. Their project inspired by an invitation to participate in the ARKO festival in Spain, which remains unrealised, is charged with a similar significance. Circular net columns are situated in the exterior as enough passing space is provided. Going round them, one falls into weightlessness, sees and is seen through the filter of the net, but for a moment is separated from what is happening around to find him/herself alone.
At the "Impression" Art Festival in Plovdiv, the sculptors are invited by the "Irida" Art Gallery to erect their own piece of work. They call it "BLUR" "; the same as the comput?r option with the help of which diffusion is achieved. For their purpose, they use synthetic net spatially situated in such a way that the vibrations formed can change not only the environment but what it contains as well. Installed in the aisle between the stalls, it seems to compress the emotions of the visitor walking in this space and helps his contact with art.
The piece of work entitled "A Memory Analysis" ("Communication front, Ancient bathhouse Modern Arts Centre, Plovdiv 2000) consists of fixed high up in the air synthetic nets, on which some slides are projected. The same ideas receive further development in the installation shown within the "Irida" Art Gallery exposition in the City Art Gallery of Varna as well so as an action in one of the biggest discotheques in Plovdiv. The interlacing of the statics of a sculpture with the dynamics of a projection is used by the sculptors in their participation in the week devoted to modern arts in Plovdiv "From a Distance". They situate their nets in a popular walking, tunnel which functions as a shopping centre as well. The transparent barriers seem to separate the outside behaviour of the passers-by from their inside conscience. The rhythmically changing images from the projection achieve the opposite "; they combine the two in eternally flowing time. Thus a certain space which represents a concentrated mirror reflection of reality becomes crammed with yet more energy forces. The motive of modelling the environment strongly attracts the artists. They fence off an area, belonging to nobody, which can turn into a place for meditation, concentration and instant"s privacy.
The "7+1" Art Group is one of the most interesting phenomena on the contemporary Bulgarian arts stage. Its members not only change the ideas of "easel painting" and monumental sculpture, but also actively take part in the most modern processes in arts. Their production is conceptually charged thus offering this branch of arts new alternatives. On the other hand, the group"s strategy aimed at assimilation of the public space definitely puts it at the front of these contemporary tendencies.
Catalog of the sixth annual exhibition of "Soros" center for the art-Sofia
The sculpture installation 'The Barrier' of 7+1ArtGroup,located at the entrance of the Sea garden, gives the imaginary start of the exhibition. The raised verticals grate prisms, not only visually (with the parallax effect) close the structure of the composition, but also open it in purely physical, aesthetic and psychological plan. Using the passageways, allowing free movement trough the grate, the outside observer is involved inside the situation. The direct intervention overcomes the market compactness of the work and reformulates repeatedly the limits of its autonomous meaning. The passer-through evolves from an observer to a co-author of the situation. The emphasis is put on two-way behaviour of the process in which the environment could turn into art as well as art could be transformed into an environment.
Catalog of the "Two Realities" project.
This is a project about the exchange of the places...The notion about a certain object, phenomenon or concept is created on the comparison toanother on. Everything in the world bears its own opposite in itself. Relativity is the only constant space becomes "relative"and comprises two realities.