Last year, I loosely messaged few of you, proposing to meet. Soon we sat together – spending a few evenings on the benches in front of Crystal Club, later gathering in Dimitar’s studio in Plovdiv. Fine, let’s do a show, you told me, but all together, as a group. And, we’d call ourselves “Provincialists”.
There is this all-pervading question of belonging, a desire to be part of something greater than oneself. It is an emotional condition, longing. One belongs to a family, group of people, religion. One can also belong to a region or nation. In the case of Bulgaria, this happens to be a distressing thing. There is a general absence of a sense of community, which is grounded in both a troubled relationship with history as well as the impossibility of imagining a joint future. The lack of a functioning democracy is only one of its consequences.
More recently, I seem to recognize some curious engagement with our country’s constant bizarre state of affairs, its mysterious imaginary, its undone present.
Street protests, civil initiatives, new political parties; all of them inspire a sense of worthiness far away from vulgar nationalism or identity essentialisms. All sustained by a will to be present, and affective.
Are these the feverish days of a potential, differentiated, coming “us”?
Zooming in, zooming out. There are only few art spaces in the country, barely commercial galleries, no contemporary art museum, no art press. As it stands, we continue to vanish within the centrifugal powers of globalism. Well, this is the tricky side of liberalism: its basic rights are not equally distributed as they prioritize only the few. Within the art world, as David Hodge & Hamed Yousefi wrote in “Provincialism perfected”, such uneven development is all over.
What, then, if “provincialism” implies the wrong observation on people and contexts not being adaptable, manageable, saleable? What if “provincialism” is a stance against participating in the networks of a globalized world for the reason of staying with and belonging to something, which may even be awkward, irrational, weak? If it is the effort to work out its uncertainties and vulnerabilities?
The art works, most of them produced for the show, reflect this condition. Using traditional technique, materials and handcraft, they bring out the unfinished, drafted, fragmented. The positions grounded in the examination of personal memories and their effects; in notions of intimacy and shame; in what one might find embarrassing, droll. Are we actually attracted by the unconscious side of provincialism?
I guess, there is always a province within our bodies and souls too. A realm that is not accessible through principles and not susceptible to adaptions. It could be a spirited, enlivening experience to enter it.
This is where we grow resilience.