Vladiya Mihaylova is a curator and a cultural theorist. Since 2007 she has been part of the team of Sofia City Art Gallery as a curator at Vaska Emanouilova Gallery where she works with the programs for contemporary art and the museum archive of the gallery. She is interested in cultural history, contemporary art, the social, political and educational aspects of the institutions for art. Mihaylova has collaborated as curator with artists for projects in public spaces, self-institutionalizing platforms, educational initiatives, etc.; among these were long-term projects receiving widespread public attention such as Project 0 by Kiril Kuzmanov (2010 – 2014) about the space of Kapana in Plovdiv, 0gms Gallery in a Drawer by Ivan Moudov (2010-2013); she is the initiator and the curator of the on-going project The 90s. The Beginning of the Myth (2015 -) about the popular culture of the transition period in Bulgaria. In 2015 she curated the Sofia Queer Forum edition under the motto “Sweet Union”. Vladiya participated in the main work group (Visual Arts field) which developed the Strategy for the free arts scene in Sofia – A Shared Vision (2016 - 2018). She is a graduate of the Cultural Management Academy of Goethe-Institut, Sofia, and Sofia Capital (Stolichna) Municipality (2015 – 2016). In 2017 she was the curator of Open Art Foundation anniversary celebration programme as part of the NIGHT/Plovdiv festival, as well as of the large-scale exhibition Shifting Layers. Young Art at the Museum, presenting young artists at Sofia City Art Gallery.
Over the years, she has been attending various curatorial courses and has explored the work of contemporary authors in Sweden, Austria, Italy, Germany and elsewhere. Vladiya Mihaylova is the author of numerous articles published in authors’ catalogues, biennial catalogues, art editions and the cultural press in Bulgaria and abroad. Part of these are: Portal and Kultura newspaper, the Marginalia website for human rights, Flash Art International, KubaParis, etc. In 2012 she received The Essential Reading for Art Writers Award for critics of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Sofia, for articles dedicated to the topic of young artists in Bulgaria –“The Global Generation”. Her texts on art after 1989 in Bulgaria have been published in academic magazines and publications of Sofia University and New Bulgarian University.
Currently she works on the programme of Vaska Emanouilova Gallery and as artistic director of the multi-genre city festival NIGHT/PLOVDIV 2019 under the motto “Common Place”.
Vladiya Mihaylova (curator)
Installation view from the exhibition "Shifting Layers. Young Art at the Museum", Sofia City Art Gallery, photo Kalin Serapionov, 2017.
- Photographer: Kalin Serapionov
- Property of: Curator and Sofia City Art Gallery
- Description: Artists: Svetozara Aleksandrova, Rada Boukova, Albena Baeva, Iskra Blagoeva, Ani Vaseva, Stela Vasileva, Borjana Ventzislavova, Vitto Valentinov, Leda Vaneva, Voin de Voin, Vasilena Gankovska, Stanimir Genov, Zoran Georgiev, Ivo Dimchev, Stoyan Dechev, Leda Ekimova, Yasen Zgurovski, Stefan Ivanov, Vikenti Komitski, Daniela Kostova, Lazar Lyutakov, Lubri, Miná Minov, Mihail Novakov, Bora Petkova, Svetlana Mircheva, Martin Penev, Boris Pramatarov, Kamen Stoyanov, Simeon Simeonov, Dimitar Solakov, Radostin Sedevchev, Anton Terziev, Kalina Terzieva, Anton Tsanev
In December 2003, the Meeting Point Program for young artists and curators began at the Sofia City Art Gallery. For the first time in the recent history of our country, a museum institution brought to the focus of attention artists who were starting their careers, and provided them with a chance to show their works and projects. The purpose of the program was to “introduce” them to the museum and secure a professional environment to help them develop practical skills for presenting and communicating their art.
In 2007, the Meeting Point Program evolved into a platform for contemporary art and young artists and became part of the exhibition program of the Vaska Emanouilova Gallery - the newly- opened branch of the Sofia City Art Gallery in Zaimov Park. Along with that, a program for contemporary sculpture was developed, which presented current and experimental approaches to the art of sculpture alongside the exhibition of works by Vaska Emanouilova contained in the collection of the gallery. Through the period of ten years until 2017, the two programs for contemporary art presented more than 60 artists, and over 120 artists participated in the various projects and initiatives implemented by the gallery. We can therefore talk about a generation/generations of artists who, through their work, alter the cultural situation in the country and contribute to the development of art history in Bulgaria.
Over the years, the programs have established different forms of cooperation with other organizations, institutions and art spaces. The most sustainable partnership between 2013 and 2015 was with Société Générale Expressbank, when for the first time in Bulgaria a bank bought works of art for the collection of a museum institution, the Sofia City Art Gallery. The contemporary art collection of the gallery was enhanced by more than 23 art works.
The curator’s project Shifting Layers. Young Art at the Museum originates from the understanding that this is an incomplete, fragmented generation of artists in the newest history of art and in the memory of the museum institution itself. It is a generation that emerged in the times of the “friendship diaries” and keeps going in the era of Facebook and social networks. Unlike the monolithic generation of the 1980s, united by its aesthetic culture and practices in the organized institutional artistic life, and unlike the generation of the 1990s that made the transition, in form and of values, to contemporary art and the West, the “young art” in the exhibition shows the versatile interests and working methods of artists residing in different parts of the world, travelling, and ever changing their horizons.
The exhibition concerns the themes of personal revolutions, new images and mythologies, of the artists’ attitudes toward and work with images in the internet era, of the boundaries between reality and imagination, of the documents and the different view of the city as a global space of forms, policies and routes of all kinds of people and narratives. It shows works dealing with the issues of memory and the present-day role and significance of the museum institution itself. The exhibition features works by 35 artists. It will be accompanied by a catalogue presenting these and another 33 artists and an overview of the development of the programs through the years. A large number of the displayed works of art constitute part of the contemporary art and photography collection of the Sofia City Art Gallery.
Vladiya Mihaylova (curator)
Installation view from the exhibition "10th anniversary of Open Arts Foundation: HERE EVERYWHERE", Detmag Snezanka, Plovdiv, photo Lina Krivoshieva, 2017.
- Photographer: Lina Krivoshieva
- Property of: Vladiya Mihailova, Lina Krivoshieva, Open Arts Foundation
- Description: An exhibition within the curatorial program for the NIGHT/Plovdiv 2017
An exhibition of documents, archives, installations, interviews; works by Luchezar Boyadjiev, Voin de Voin, Svetlana Mircheva, Petko Tanchev, Dimitar Shopov creted especially for the occasion, works by Pravdoliub Ivanov, Kiril Kuzmanov
The Open Arts Foundation was created the year Bulgaria joined the European Union and is among the most sustainable young civil society organisations in the country. In the last ten years of open borders it has managed to contribute to the development of a new urban culture, popularize contemporary art and breed new audiences. Its projects on the city and its memory have created an alternative image of Plovdiv and expanded the space for contemporary culture and communication with the world. The anniversary exhibition with the motto HERE EVERYWHERE will share with viewers not only the work done so far but also the motivation, the convictions and the values behind it. Each of the documents, projects and art works presented offer comments on some of the big issues in today’s global world such as the issues of heritage, memory and identity, of new generations and their culture, of communication, social networks, technologies and they are changing the human environment, of the importance of opening up to others, of changing borders, maps and horizons etc. Through the study of this specific case, the exhibition also sheds light on the role of the civil society sector in Bulgaria as a cultural missionary and mediator between the specific environment ‘here’ and international platforms ‘everywhere’.
Vladiya Mihaylova (curator)
Installation view from the exhibition "90s. THE BEGINNING OF THE MYTH", Vaska Emanouilova Gallery, photo Geo Kalev, 2016.
- Photographer: Geo Kalev
- Property of: Curator and Vaska Emanouilova Gallery, branch of Sofia City Art Gallery
- Description: An exhibition about the 90s popular culture in Bulgaria
SPARTACUS CLUB, KALNOTO PUNK BAR, MAGAZINES – EGOIST, AH,MARIA, VITAMIN B, KAMIKAZE GAZETTE
It seems as if the 90s were yesterday, yet now they are our past. The exhibition “The 90s. The Beginning of the Myth” sees them today through the eyes of the museum, the Vaska Emanouilova Gallery, not forgetting that the ‘heroes’ of that time left the then official institutions to discover horizons in the West, to look for new faces and models, to re-shape society, to fight for freedom, to fulfil the mission of educators in media, art, technology, design, fashion, music, lifestyle, and to loudly dream of change. The country opened up to the world amidst severe social re-organizations, political changes, privatization, economic crises and inflation, poverty, and daily aggression.
As it addresses that time of contrast, of creation and dissolution, “The 90s.The Beginning of the Myth” looks for its “romantic” heroes in the field of popular culture; those cosmopolitan events and phenomena which have expanded the concepts and habits outside the institutions. Places like the now legendary Kravai in Sofia, which in the late 1980s was the meeting venue for punks, metalheads and rebels, and the music and the “forbidden” things in terms of conduct, information and dress code united them by being their symbols of freedom and independence. Same as Coca Cola and Levi’s jeans before 1989, some of the products of popular culture during the 90s were in fact instruments of globalization. Today they stand at the dawn of lifestyle, embodying part of the strive for integration and representing a way to differentiate from the faded wanting world of (post)socialist products; but also marking the beginning of creative culture together with the foundations of modern urban living.
The exhibition represents a specific “staging” of that period, where you can remember and have a new look at the magazine of the “new generation” Egoist – the most widespread culture publication in the 90s, as well as the Spartacus mix-club, the Kalnoto punk bar, the magazines Ah, Maria, Vitamin B, and the rare publication KAMIKAZE GAZETTE. They are presented In the gallery through video-interviews with some of their creators and participants; photographs, illustrations, texts and music; visual archives, an audio recording of the reading of Egoist by the writer Stefan Ivanov, through the voice of the actress Elena Dimitrova, etc.
“The 90s. The Beginning of the Myth” is an exhibition that stages the archives of that time without institutionalizing them or taming them locked inside museum display cases. It is a look at the museum itself through the eyes of the 90s. As such, it includes the special visual interpretation of Vaska Emanouilova’s sculptures by the photographer Alexander Nishkov.
Vladiya Mihaylova (curator)
Installation view from the exhibition "They will remember us in the future" / Sofia Queer Forum 2015 – Sweet Union, Academy Gallery, National Academy of Art, Sofia, 2015.
- Photographer: Kalin Serapionov
- Property of: Curator and Sofia Queer Forum
- Description: Artists: Iskra Blagoeva, Alexander Gerginov, Nilbar Güreş, Daniela Kostova, Viktoria Lomasco, Carlos Motta, Karol Radziszewski, Joanna Rajkowska, Jaanus Samma, Radostin Sedevchev, Yasen Zgurovski
Queer box in the frames of the exhibition (curated by Venelin Shurelov, works by: Angel Chobanov and Martin Penev)
The exhibition shows the various types of relations between "I" and “You”. It represents a number of possible ways for people to be together, various "we”-s that create different notions of intimacy and family. The works included in it represent in one way or another forms of diversion from the generally accepted notions of a "normal" family. In this sense, they are queer (strange, odd) actions that demonstrate the wide scope of understanding about what a family might be: between the family-as-law that associates with tradition, social stereotypes and habits, and the family-as-project with a future-oriented vector as a personal, intimate way of sharing the world. The exhibition contains images and stories about love, longing, desire, empathy, happiness and/ or loneliness, which intertwine with broader topics concerning generations, cultural boundaries, and communities that are different in economic, social and psychological conditions and ways of life of the people involved.
- References: Online catalog - http://novilevi.org/media/SQF_2015_Online_Edition.pdf
Vladiya Mihaylova (curator)
Installation View from the exhibition "Re-actions" at Vaska Emanouilova Gallery, photo Dimitar Solakov, 2012.
- Photographer: Dimitar Solakov
- Sizes: Artists: Iskra Blagoeva, Stanimir Genov, Ani Vasseva & Boyan Manchev, Vikenti Komitski, Kiril Kuzmanov, Kamen Stoyanov
- Property of: Галерия Васка Емануилова, филиал на СГХГ
- Description: A day after the opening of the Sofia Arsenal Museum of Contemporary Art, on June 18 2011, the city woke up to find the figures on one of the compositions of the Monument to the Soviet Army having been coloured overnight and carrying the slogan “in step with the times”. There was no direct relationship between the opening event and the graffiti painted that night. However, the existence of such a relationship remained as a possible, but half-expressed question. Not much later, on June 26, at the initiative of the Transformatori and WhATA groups, a commemorative re/action was organized at the front stone plate of the same museum. As is customary on All Souls’ Day, people brought flowers, candles and candied lemon slices in front of the newly opened institution. The re/action was one of the few comments on the opening of the museum, expressed through a very direct action. It was as if the leading desire was not simply to correct the "aesthetics" of the visual system through which the state, in terms of memory and institutions, is present in the public space, but to show its non-contemporaneity and alienation. Both actions asked silent but explicit questions about history and the way in which it is written, and were an act of defiance expressed by means of a temporary privatisation of the locations.
Their expropriation from the general public and institutional space subverted the regulations and control over it and turned the locations into topoi of extraordinary events.
Inspired by the two actions mentioned above, the current exhibition seeks to discover the moment of action, or re/action, in the works of young artists active in the Bulgarian art scene today. The works do not provide specific civic platforms or political ideas, let alone "slogans" that call for change. On the contrary, the exhibited works appear action-less, seemingly non-committed, even strangely positive. They are not attempting to change life but to make it visible, to emphasize the political and economic boundaries that already exist and penetrate our bodies today, causing emotions, frustrations and inner desire for self/control or defiance. Part of the works take place during the exhibition outside the gallery, others present archives and documents, texts and complex mental structures within the gallery space. Thus, as an institution, the Gallery Vaska Emanouilova performs a minor "coup" against itself and displays works that express the artists’ desire to step outside the gallery, into the immediate living environment.
In the video-work Synchronization, 2010 by Kamen Stoyanov, an empty billboard frame standing somewhere in a field, is transformed into a random, bizarre monument of capitalism which forces images and symbols that are identical from New York all the way to Beijing. A hammock tied inside the structure represents a temporary occupation performed by the artist through which he visualizes the cocooned pupae-like bodies of the consumers of these images. The work Innocent, 2012 by Stanimir Genov takes place as a process outside the gallery during the exhibition and the concept behind it is to comment on the existential conditions of contemporary social existence. In it, the presence of the other person, whether pleasant or annoying, is what we come upon, what we blame each other for or constantly feel guilty about. The desire of the artist, who uses an impact drill to write the words "not guilty" in Lyulin, one of the suburbs of Sofia,, is to cause irritation and at the same time to apologize for it. Genov’s work is an attempt to show the existential coherence between existence and guilt, as well as the underlying frustration of modern lifestyle. As a real and imaginary archive of their S performance, Ani Vaseva and Boyan Manchev create The World of S, 2012, patched up from fragmentary images, colours, texts and objects oddly intertwining into each other. The world of performance, transformed into an independent visual grammar, slides along the borders of the exhibition space and displays the hysterical emotionality of bodies brought to the extreme by today’s culture of entertainment. Intertwining limbs, fashion gaudiness and fetish objects outline the limits of infantile desire, and the fluffy, gorgeous and simultaneously terrifying craving for instant satisfaction, a hectic and itchy life. Contrary to this excessive anti-form of existence, the work Beauty Failed to Save the World 02, 2012 by Iskra Blagoeva is almost like a museum object — evidence of the explicit borders within which social roles and forms of behaviour are shaped, as well as a commentary on the relationship between the beauty industry and contemporary pop culture. Beauty is not related to good, it is not an ideal, or a form of knowledge and truth, just the opposite: used as a machine, it is the mould and scalpel of plastic surgery, a silicone implant into the very way of living.
But if life becomes increasingly artificial, where is then the place of the artist, and of the art she creates? Unintentional and not outright is the question posed by Kiril Kuzmanov through his initiative Below the Traffic, 2011 which consisted in crossing the Perlovska River in Sofia together with Asen Emilov, Alexander Daniel, Lyubomir Draganov, Miná Minov, Todor Stoyanov and Hristo Stankushev. On June 03 2011, the day the 54th Venice Biennial opened, the group set out on a self-launched and non-regulated action to float down the river that crosses the centre of the capital city — from the National Palace of Culture to the Behind the Channel Small City Theatre. This seemingly boyish and Tom-Soyerish initiative to act mischievous and frolic around the city was in fact a serious comment on the places where art occurs and is displayed today. It was a search for authenticity, be it even simply because of the determination to go down into the marginal and "invisible" channel space, which is dirty and full of rats, "below the traffic".
The romantic notion of Venice as one of the oldest centres of the international global art world, lying upon a network of canals, was literalized and overturned. The initiative comments on the contemporary “traffic” of art-works based on laws and logic which sometimes increase the gap between local context and global art forums, while distorting the author-viewer communication that is already in danger of falling into other, “commercialized” frameworks of mediation.
The issue of the place and role of the artist was raised also by Vikenti Komitski through My Work with or Without Me, 2012. By placing a telephone in the exhibition space that rings at random moments of time, he makes an ironic comment on the image of the genius artist who unilaterally determine their communication with the viewer. The artists will every day, at random times, call from Germany where he is temporarily living, and start a conversation with the visitor who answers the phone in the gallery space. The work also criticises the institution of art as a mediator framework for presenting a work of art.