Guest Post: Daniela Kostova and the Bulgarian Collaborative

Today, we are happy to share a guest post by Daniela Kostova from Bulgarian Collaborative Below, Daniela dives into their history and future and a recent project they realized at the Queens Museum. Thanks, Daniela!

Daniela Kostova is an interdisciplinary artist and curator. Her work has been shown at Kunsthalle (Vienna), The Queens Museum of Art (New York), Institute for Contemporary Art (Sofia), Centre d’art Contemporain (Geneva), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Torino) and Kunsthalle Fridericianum, (Kassel, Germany) among the others. Daniela has organized numerous projects and collaborations across cultures and disciplines. She was Chief Curator of the BioArt Initiative at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in (Troy, NY) and Director of Irida Art Gallery in Sofia. Kostova is the co-founder of Bulgarian Artists in America, Director of Curatorial Projects at Radiator Gallery in New York, and a board member of the international exchange program CEC ArtsLink.

Can you briefly describe the history of your collaborative to where you are today?

Our collaboration started last year where we joined forces to realize a project for Queens International 2013. I personally have worked with one of the members, Joro-Boro, on a few projects before, but everyone else was new to me and to each other. Most of the members are from Bulgaria, now living in NYC. Mario Mohan is from Serbia, he is our architect. We are a combination of artists, people working with music and architecture, literati, and educators. The work is mostly site-specific and interdisciplinary. We build engaging and dynamic environments that offer interaction, exchange of ideas and artifacts, and tons of fun. I think that this is something that I am noticing as a pattern: no matter how long and sometimes difficult the process of developing and executing an idea is (note: collaborations involve a lot of negotiations and discussions but also open new horizons to each of us) it always culminates with an amazing euphoric event that is contagious and energizing. And the gang is growing, I think. Bulgarian Collaborative is an open platform so we consider inviting new people to collaborate, and not only Bulgarians. 

What do you think sets your group work apart from others?

I think the multitude of voices, people from all paths of life and work, and the fact that most of us are Bulgarians. We also really know how to party!

Seriously, though, I think that art should be informed by and incorporate many other – not strictly artistic – disciplines and practices in order to be relevant to what is happening in the world today and true to its audience. And we should look for audiences in and beyond the gallery walls.

Flip-House, Queens Museum, 2014; Event: Smuggled Gobbledygookby, flashmob by  Milena Deleva; Photo: Dobrin Marchev

Flip-House, Queens Museum, 2014; Event: Smuggled Gobbledygookby, flashmob by  Milena Deleva; Photo: Dobrin Marchev

Can you give a brief description of Flip House and how you all collaborated? 

Flip-House (Daniela Kostova & Mario Mohan) was conceived for Queens International 2013 and curated by Hitomi Iwasaki and Meiya Cheng. It was constructed out of materials collected from the museum’s renovation site and thus became its extension reaching out into the neighborhood. The house was designed as a semi-mobile structure with removable parts that traveled outside of the museum. People were invited to look, walk or sit inside, interact with the collections on its walls, and thus bring it to life. Workshops and activities offered by the Bulgarian Collaborative facilitated that interaction. The walls of Flip-House (Queens) were flipped inside out to accumulate the artifacts and records of the ongoing exchange. 

The concept and design was developed by Daniela and Mario. Mario worked with his team (afoam) to build the actual construction. Each wall was further developed and activated by a member of the Bulgarian Collaborative:

Milena Deleva made one wall of the structure into a library of international literature collected from the neighborhood called Book Crossing. It was a public experiment in which participants were invited to “smuggle” books in their native language into the museum and leave them at the Flip-House as a response to the general lack of non-English literature in the US reading culture. In exchange, participants could take museum catalogues shelved in the Flip-House. Two mobile shelves traveled with Book Crossing to local communities.

Vlada Tomova turned another wall into food storage packed with jars of pickled food and recipes connecting the popular culture of pickling in Bulgaria with the immigrant communities in Corona, Queens and the hip culture of growing and preserving food in New York. Visitors were invited to “smuggle” their own vegetables in the museum to pickle them together at Pickling/Storytelling/Singing as they exchanged stories, songs, and home pickling recipes. The demand for this event was overwhelming and visitors young and old were happy to participate. 

Meglena Zapreva turned the third wall into a place where visitors could envision Corona Park (where Queens Museum is located) as an Imaginary International Community GardenInviting visitors to contribute their own drawings to the exhibition, it was a platform to “smuggle” their own personal connections to other places through the plants, fruits and vegetables, which are banned from import. At the drawing workshop visitors transformed one still from Tushev Aerial’s video into a wallcovering superimposed with 100 mock immigration forms by drawing the plants they would illegally plant in the park surrounding the museum.

One event we held was a Literary Flash Mob that “contaminated” the museum with simultaneous readings of non-English literature either in original languages or in English translations. Participants read in 15 different languages.

An amazing edition to the house was an antenna like structure designed by Nina and Georgi Tushev (Tushev Aerials) with a mounted remotely controlled aircraft made by the artists. The looped video projection of aerial footage of Queens Museum and Corona Park, shot via a home-made drone, was screened in the Flip-House for the duration of the exhibition. In addition, other drone-based video work by Tushev Aerials was shown at two separate screenings. Build Your Own Drone was a participatory performance and workshop, in which Tushev Aerials built a drone from scratch and successfully tested it in the outdoor space in front of the museum. 

At the exhibition opening Joro-Boro took over the entrance (front wall) of the Flip-House with Smuggle Party, a block party smuggled into the museum. He asked visitors to contribute their favorite culturally specific music to the party mix. In exchange, visitors could use the Flip-House as a charging station for their devices. The crowd never stopped hovering around the house and while charging their phones they engaged with the other components of the house and participated in otherwise unlikely conversations among themselves. Joro-Boro performed the collected mix on two separate occasions during the exhibition.

Most of the ideas were based on the ongoing practices and interests of the collective's participants, and the Flip-House structure was designed with the goal to accommodate the needs of each project. We all brainstormed, helped each other, participated in the events and made it all work! The workshops were really popular and the project as whole was very well accepted. We also had the generous support of the show's curators, museum staff, and friends. It was a true collaborative effort that strengthened our professional relationships and made us all friends. Later on we produced another installation in Ventana244 in Williamsburg as part of the Real Estate Show by Peter Soriano.

Please let us know about an upcoming event or exhibition you'd like us to share, and why you are excited about it.

There are two projects in the works but I can't reveal anything right now. One is in NYC and another one will be overseas– very exciting! Also each of us have personal activities and projects, find us on FB and stay in touch.




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