ASK THE ARTIST
SARIEV Contemporary / PLOVDIV (Bulgaria)
11.03.2017 – 12.05.2017
What do you want to know about our confusing time, about politics, about yourself, about life? Ask the artist!
The conversations with artists are indispensable attribute and a ritual of introduction, part of the requirement for publicity of the participants in the complex ecosystem of contemporary artistic life. Kamen Stoyanov meets all random and varied questions from the audience not with words, but with drawings. Drawn "blind", with hands folded in a box in front of him, so as to achieve both the mystery and the automatism of unconscious representation, as if he tries to be a medium. The author is only a mean of communication, but all that communication actually happens in the works.
The box resembles a similar, both intimate and flashy challenge with which VALIE EXPORT addressed the audience in the performance Tapp und Tastkino back in 1968. Rebelling against mass culture and consumerism, she moves "dressed" in a box in which everyone can reach and touch her bare breasts, to experience a real woman, but no one could actually see them.
Through the box Kamen Stoyanov also achieved similar authenticity. No one knows what happens in it and at what point, reflecting directly on the questions put to him, the artist fully abandons the image and gives in to the chaos of dots and lines. In the works there is a bit of classic early Actionism, and the creed of abstract artists from the early XX century’s radical refusal for the secondary display of the surrounding reality and the division of a completely new pure form and structure of art. The artist stops representing reality, and begins to produce and influence the others psychologically, through the physical form. Configuring art in, as Ibram Lasau calls it, "a new form of magic."
With each play-through in Vienna, Budapest, Zurich and Istanbul Kamen Stoyanov adds props to the performance - additional elements of the mystical show - music, a compere, a wig. The exhibition in Plovdiv includes a video documentation with the gradual evolution of the act in 2016 (Ask Me a Question, ART for ART Theaterservice Vienna, June 2016, Boris Maner, 32:20 min .; Ask Me a Question, Manifesta, Cabaret Voltaire, Zunfthaus der Künstler, Boris Kostadinov and Vassilena Gankovska, 23:21 min.)
The artist removes the box and replaces it with a dramatic state of trance. He also removes more and more doubts about his intention to denounce the accepted pattern of public representation of artificiality and falseness. The irony of Kamen Stoyanov, however, is that he always causes discomfort from your willingness laugh.
The series of performative drawings-responses is not an end or the purpose for the conversation with the artist. In it, with each performance, more and more arguments pile up in favor of the work, which lies outside of any power - beyond the political, cultural or moral bias of the author. It’s a message open to interpretations, without restrictions in its meaning. Carried over from the box in to the white cube gallery, the paintings create an environment, which generates more questions and conversations with the artist. More than 60 replies created in the period 2015-2017 (Ask Me a Question, a series of performative drawings, each 42x 29,7 cm, 2015-2017) cover tightly the walls of the gallery and thereby form a kind of a "box" in which the "magic" of communicating with the art proceeds. In this almost endless process Kamen Stoyanov seems to put the greatest challenge on himself, negating his authority over the works. His image is also present, but in the role of a transformer and mediator from one reality to another, ignoring everything outside of the gallery (Looking Trough the Fence, 305x340 cm, print on textile, 2017).
The performance Ask me a Question will be realized also in SARIEV Contemporary in April. The question that I am tempted to ask the author now is Who am I talking with?
Text by Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva, February 2017
Courtesy of the artist and SARIEV Contemporary