What if...
Sepia and ink on paper
Born in Bulgaria in 1957, Nedko Solakov belongs to a generation who saw the end of Socialism at the beginning of their professional career. The transformation of society prompted Nedko Solakov, at that time already a mature artist, monumental painter, graduate of the Sofia National Art Academy, to substantially revise his life and career trajectories. Although it didn't take long for international success to come to him, the horrible events of the late 1980s largely shaped both his outlook on life and poetics. The sudden collapse of the seemingly unshakable life foundations inevitably made all life forms appear fragile and illusionary. As a result, the artist only partially identifies himself with the renewed reality; to him the boundary between being and nonbeing, the real and the illusory appears notional and the world around him seems distanced.

In the descriptive text for Nedko Solakov's early installation of 1996, which he self-evidently called " This Is Me, Too …" we can read the following lines, "What would happen if I were to start to live as an ammonite, as a stuffed duck, as a rock crystal, as a snowflake, as a color spectrum, as a material that this very floor … if covered with?" The title of the piece Solakov has created specially for the present show, "What if …," is no less obvious. In this piece he has developed twenty-three future scenarios for himself and the world around him, most of which are fantastical.

In these twenty-three phantasmagoric scenarios the passionate narrator Nedko Solakov relates not only what really took place and what can possibly happen, but, for the most part, what never happened and could never happen. Hence, it can be assumed that Solakov's work bears similarity to a specific genre, namely fairy tale. However, fairy tale, as the prominent literary critic Vladimir Propp showed, came out of myth and ritual, therefore has a stable narrative structure and as a rule in this or that way includes initiation, i.e. the character's introduction to the sacred. In Nedko's stories initiation events can be easily recognized: his characters, in most cases Nedko himself, are inducted into something that is beyond the realm of possibility. As the protagonist of his own stories, Nedko pursues his goal in absolutely unexpected and extraordinary ways — the connection with the ritual is not broken but is rather desacralized.

Having embarked on the path of emancipatory profanation, Solakov introduces laughter to his art. Propp, who also studied laughter rituals, noticed that the magic of laughter resides on the fact that in the netherworld the dead cannot laugh. Characteristic only for the living, laughter was considered the giver of life, that is, something that not only accompanies life but also originates it. This is where the vitality and energy of Nedko's art comes from. In his work, by means of laughter, the subverted standards of life are perpetually renewed, reincarnating in ever-new forms.

Having witnessed the collapse of social order intended to secure stable life and its predictable trajectories, Solakov has rejected to blindly accept the post-communist ideology of stabilization. Instead, he has chosen to stay in the eschatological moment, when the previous order collapsed and the new one has not yet been established, keeping endless options for the development of events open. This is why, Nedko Solakov, who was once forced to abandon the career of a successful member of the Union of Bulgarian Artists, has decided to devote his new life to reenacting the situation, when his previous biography has come to an end and a new one has not yet begun, thus being in the perpetual state of euphoric and carnivalesque openness to unpredictable and multifaceted fate.

artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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