Sofia City Art Gallery
Art Affairs and Chronology Foundation
The project was made possible with financial support from the Sofia City Municipality
Media partners: Programme Weekly Culture Guide, 24 Chasa newspaper, VAGABOND MEDIA
A potent cultural phenomenon has had tangible presence in Bulgarian society over the last 20 years. Unbearable for some, yet blissful for others, chalga (the most commonly used term to refer to Bulgarian pop folk music) has become an inseparable part of our everyday life. Over all those years we have involuntarily become “witnesses” and “accessories” to the complicated process of a marginal suppressed genre turning into a profitable industry, firmly establishing itself as a value system and lifestyle.
Gaudy, lustrous, noisy, scandalous, kitschy, chalga (also called „ethno pop” and „pop folk”) is a true reflection of the endless period of transition in Bulgaria and the social, political and economic change triggered by it. It is a remarkably candid celebration of the most typical features of our national mentality. Full of love and tears, the chalga euphoria triggered a post-socialist Balkan sexual revolution, defying all norms and taboos.
It is all the above and also the numerous assets it uses to fully engage all senses that make chalga a rich source of ideas for contemporary artists.
This project’s curators dare remove the heavy barrier separating “chalga” and “culture” inviting modern Bulgarian artists to come up with their responses to this topical issue. Chalga is present in the exhibition in the shape of music, vision, text, history, mood, specific sites and events, namely everything that made it such a significant social factor. Each project participant has found something touching, shocking, confusing or gladdening about chalga, yet, most of all, something tempting enough to trigger an artist’s response in the shape of a work of art.
Artists featured in the exhibition include Georgi Toushev, Daniela Kostova, Boris Missirkov/Georgi Bogdanov, Adelina Popnedeleva, who were the first to treat chalga in their works in the mid-1990’s through the late 1990’s, when the latter was at its peak. In the years to follow other acclaimed artists like Alla Georgieva and Krasimir Dobrev were also provoked the luscious visions and intense emotions. Some of the said artists contributed new works, specially created for this project. They were joined by two Bulgarian artists, namely Konstantin Bozhanov and Ergin Chavoshoglou, who are better known abroad, rather than at home. Their works offer an outsiders’ view of Bulgarian chalga and its equivalents worldwide, analyzing the phenomenon from a more distanced perspective.
Representatives of the new generation of modern Bulgarian artists, namely Boriana Ventsislavova, Svetozara Alexandrova, Stanimir Genov, Vikenti Komitski, Orlin Nedelchev, seem to be as tempted as the rest.
DJ JORO-BORO from the Bulgarian bar in New York City, who is the star in Daniela Kostova’s video, will be a special guest of the exhibition.
A timeline of chalga culture in Bulgaria including information connecting it to major political and social events comprises an important part of the exhibition. It was made by Dr. Ventsislav Stefanov from the Institute for Art Studies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, who is the author of the first monograph on chalga, “The Ethno-pop Boom”, Sofia, 2001. His years-long research in the field of ethno music, as well as his rich collection of unique artifacts associated with the heroes of pop folk culture, complement the overall impression of the works featured in the exhibition.
Besides providing an eclectic response, making social criticism and defying all standards and taboos, “The Chalga Temptation” is also the moment of awakening in art, when both our cultural identity and surrounding reality become clearly distinguishable.
The exhibition curators would like to kindly thank their loyal associate, Iurii Vulkovski, the SCAG team and everybody, who helped make this project a success: Donka Angelova, Rozmarie Statelova, Viara Mlechevska, Svilen Stefanov, Dimitur Grozdanov, Dosiu Amoudzhiev, Yovo Panchev, Roudolph Barch, Vania Koubadinska, Ivailo Evtimov.