Sketch / Floor plan of Gallery Credo Bonum with overview of exhibition

Illustration for floor installation / 4cm grappling jigsaw MMA mats and a self-defence instructor

Documentation of sketches from my studio / concrete frame 36x37cm 

Documentation of sketches from my studio / concrete frame 45x28cm 

Documentation of sketches from my studio / concrete frame 45x28cm

Documentation of sketches from my studio / A3 format

Scan from the book Basics of Stage Fighting, by Hristo Rukov and Yuliy Abadjiev (1983).

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Astroturfing ad Hockery (working title)
10.11.2021 - 05.12.2021
Gallery Credo Bonum
Sofia, Bulgaria
Curator: Vessela Nozharova

Exhibition content
The exhibition, titled Astroturfing ad Hockery, consists of photos mounted in artist frames made of concrete. The photos are inspired by the book, Basics of Stage Fighting, by Hristo Rukov and Yuliy Abadjiev (1983). The book contains illustrations on how to naturally act out fighting scenes on the theater stage. In relation to the photos mounted on the walls is a performance piece centered at the Credo Bonum gallery floor. The installation consists of standard colorful martial arts training mats, together formed as a rectangle. On the mats, a self-defense instructor is hired to perform his practice with the gallery visitors throughout the exhibition period during the working hours.

Artist Statement
The exhibition project is a continuation of my use of theatre aesthetics in my artistic practice to explore theatricality in humans' obsessive approach to identity, belonging, and the pursuit of ideological affiliation. Working mainly with art installation, performance, and photography, I explore the notion of theatricality and its role in everyday life - especially in accordance with today's' global and destructive tendencies of separatism, nationalism, and xenophobia.

Like the art gallery, the theatre's context consists of a relationship between art and spectator, spectator and actor. I appropriate this interdependent yet separated relationship as a method of exploring power structures and polarised opposites in the interpersonal space of action. The art installations I make often consist of overtly self-reflective and fixed environments. The photographs I take usually consist of abstract and spontaneous moments caught during carefully planned meetings and surroundings.

Thematical framework
The two starting points of the exhibition project Astroturfing ad Hockery is the book Basics of Stage Fighting and the increasingly popular contemporary phenomena called Astroturfing. Astroturfing, or in other words, protests-for-hire or Crowds on Demand, is a practice of "manufacturing the illusion of grassroots support," a practice that "provides clients with hired actors to pose as fans, rioters, security guards, unpaid protesters, and professional paid protesters." Simply put, people are hired to perform a duty, such as to trigger violence in a peaceful demonstration, and therefore break the illusion that the protestors are, in fact, peaceful.

In the foreword of Basics of Stage Fighting, the book "is about how to perform and act close combat and violence." Further explaining that "the stage fight is a means of expression that reflects the inner state of the character." The book functions as an educational tool for artists and actors to be prepared to act out their most convincing ways to fight in front of an audience.

Through the lens of the post-dramaturgical shift in the field of theatre- and contemporary art practices, the division of stage and audience, public space and theatre- and gallery space is blurred, and thus questioning the very heart of the power structures and hierarchy of signifier and signified.

The exhibition is not a collection of individual artworks, but a mise-en-scene, a situation as a whole. The concrete frames on the wall emphasize the photos' content through its historical reference, which contrasts the live performer's colorful situation. Yet both the wall pieces and the floor piece are providing instructions. But for whom and for what reason? The exhibition visitor enters a dichotomy caught in a loop. The mise-en-scene provides no answers and simultaneously all too many answers, solutions, instructions; thus, the exhibition as a whole remains theatrical. Similar to how we humans take advantage of our self-defense mechanism when confronted by something inferior, unknown, and invisible, even all too visible.

Due to copyright difficulties with appropriating the photos directly from Basics of Stage Fighting, as shown in the sketches - an even better way to further develop the project is to reenact some of the postures illustrated in the book. I will ask a few actors to a photo session, we’re we follow the instructions in the book. The photos will stay in color, and the clothes will remain contemporary - as opposed to the content of the photos in the book. Thus directing the photo works to a more contemporary situation rather than a historical point of view.

Regarding the self-defense instructor. Due to potential lack of financial resources to provide salary every day during the gallery's working hours; a deal can be made. The instructor can continue his or her regular workshop at Credo Bonum but under a more strict and refined environment. A carefully planned agreement is essential to maintain the delicate situation when a gallery visitor enters the space. This is a B-plan if there will be no external fundings for the project. Ideally, the instructor gets paid and stays there, dedicated to the project.  

The project is (undergoing consideration) supported by Office of Contemporary Art, Norwegian Art Council, and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bulgaria / Bucharest.