In Press The Edge Group: Hard to believe Trakia journal, No. 3, 1990 1990

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Excerpts from an exhibition by Aleksandar Sekulov

You can see everything but you are asking anyway.
K. Pavlov

Something had to happen in this city, where we all lived like we were in the Whale’s womb. It was impossible for the monster which had devoured our senseless feasts of provincial thinkers, drifting through the dark spaces between the stars, to not vomit all that filth astonishingly collected in its belly, filth that turned and gurgled with the even strokes of a pendulum, replacing our sense of time with evidence of eternity. March 17 in the evening. Plovdiv. The latter is hard to believe. All of us were present. Present were even those who were not there. Flora and fauna. Symbols and signs. Let’s not forget Kosta Pavlov, who has long been in the Whale’s stomach, smoking calmly and polluting the ocean. With cigarette buds. The face of the “Symbols and Signs” exhibition of the Edge Group has not petrified into the serious dignity of the official exhibitions, nor has it been distorted into the grimaces of the official-alternative ones. Nothing overplayed, exaggerated, narcissistic. Just the pleasure of the game, the common movement, the mutual partnership. What is written is not a manifesto. Every manifesto becomes a manifestation.

Excerpts from an exhibition by Aleksandar Sekulov

The Edge Group gave its newly established Award for a lifetime creative practice to the April generation in the face of one of them being present – by coincidence, not by the irony of fate – Yoan Leviev. With which the main motto of the group, shared in a private conversation with Kolyo Karamfilov: “The current plan – a measure of creative activity!” – was supplemented by another: “September may become May, but March will never be April!” The core of the exhibition – both semantically and spatially – is the figural composition by Dimitar Mitovski and Kolyo Karamfilov, called Punk. The artists created their first collective work, the Oasis composition, last summer from scrap iron. I will not be asking the question why no one prevented this bizarre and creative work from being dismembered and scattered. Those who could have done something about it actually do not care about such things.

The title Punk shows the clear marks of the modern aggression of this movement, driven and created by despair and nihilism. However, the sickles and hammers in the work, which replaced the usual hairdo, are signs and symbols of a much older and terrible aggression, radiated in unbelievable quantities even [when it comes] only from the elements of the flag-party communist symbolism. The third element – the five-pointed star —is the mass object of satirical destruction enacted by most of the artists in the exhibition. In Punk, the irony comes through a discreet and seemingly inconspicuous reference to the Statue of Liberty, but unlike the original, the star’s rays had simply split the iron head, protruding ridiculously outward. In The Stomach of a Person Forced to Become a Communist, the cold horror stems from the fact that the pile of stars is sitting in the stomach intact, monolithic, and seemingly impossible to digest. Dimitar Kelbechev tackles the theme of aggression, hidden (now) and obvious (before), in the most explicit and almost poster-like way, emanating from the institutionalized signs and symbols of the known ideology: a press on whose handle a small golden star has landed.

For two days in a row, someone was removing the star. Apart from the aggression radiated by the mentioned symbols and signs, their substitutive role and their ability to absorb reality is also subjected to ironic discrediting. In a society where the individual is a function of ideology, the symbol and the sign are not references to reality. They are the only reality. The entire reality. The paradox of this subsumption and replacement is most drastic in Rumen Zhekov (in Untitled, where the unifying element of the dead flies, the cockroach carcasses, the cut hair, the half-burnt candle and a few small metal stars served in five plates should be the state of death, an end, a non-life), in Albena Mihaylova and Veneta Marinova (Table without Words), and in the already mentioned painting by Dimitar Mitovski. The ailing ideology has become the daily bread. In biblical times, Christ fed his people with bread and fish not to win them over in their faith, but because they were hungry. The ersatz is always cruel. Deprived of its socially sanctioning role, the sign of hyper-reality becomes an ordinary part of reality. The ritual of eating the huge and scary red star cake at the end of the opening aimed to reach a collective and final purification and liberation of those present from a past of fear and from the fear of the past.

A well-known editor from Radio Plovdiv shrewdly asked the question: “What would the exhibition have been without the opening?” Without the parodic recital of the pioneers, without the action of scattering multiple stone balls called The Balls of History Are Rolling, without the Roma kids with faces covered in cake, who naturally joined the opening… I think, even if it had been just that opening – that gesture of slicing (don’t forget the cake sliced with a sickle!) the Plovdiv socio-cultural space, which made the first timid attempts to bring different segments of the cultural intelligentsia closer to each other and out of their own fortresses, it would have been enough. Some of the works in the exhibition – In Memory of the Victims of Belene by Dimitar Kelbechev and Punk by Dimitar Mitovski and Kolyo Karamfilov – should not disappear with its closure. They contain all of our disgusted memory. Anyone who has seen the exhibition of the Edge Group already knows with what else—besides cigarette buds – the Whale is yet to pollute the ocean. From now on.

Paradoxes of the “Edge”by Albena Hranova

The exhibition of the Edge Group began with a spectacle and a happening, with the bustle of cultural life, and with artistic challenges; it went through the classic display of artefacts in the Gladston Gallery, which the audience would circumvent while pausing to focus – and so far would continue to move between the opinions and assessments of different people, and between the distinctions and approximations within itself. One of the most important features of the group and its exhibition proved to be the movement, but its apparent chaos became focused around a common desire to expose the political signs and symbols of the day. In my opinion, this aspiration achieved two main results: First, it separated these signs from a reality which had up to that moment been completely pervaded by and imbued with them. Further, this separation turned out to be a condition for the literalization of the sign, by which it became suspicious precisely as a sign—but this way it affirmed the sign’s transience and the freedom of art to distance itself from it. In other words, the exhibition of the “Edge” contains a serious paradox. It demonstrated how to make art out of these signs and symbols which had until now subsumed and crudely socialized art itself and the life embodied in it, seeking to make art easily translatable into politically manipulative languages, and to oppose its ambiguity and universality. This paradox is also reflected in the range of the artworks themselves – from the satirical and the useful, through poster-like communication and grotesque, to the metaphor; from the light ridicule and the joke, through purification and premonition, to memory and grief. This is why it is not easy to evaluate the exhibition with only one measure of value, whatever it may be. The true illustration of this paradox is, for example, Dimitar Kelbechev’s Triumvirate, a wonderful drawing, I think, which suggests possibilities for interpretation that are redirected and limited by the decor contained in it and around it – quite a realistic copy of a kitschy agitprop club corner. That is, the drawing deliberately suppresses its own ambiguity in order to build for itself a situation in which art cannot and should not exist. On the other hand, the work shows the forces that bring art, and life and also themselves into a similar context – only so would these very forces achieve their imposed representativeness. The multifaceted and precise drawing “pretends” to be a literal portrait, changes its “genre” and therefore sacrifices some of its meanings in order to bring about the rebuke from within. The colors are also related to the typical orientation of the exhibition. The dominant black color contains red, but no longer as its classic contrast but as its clear synonym – and gray appears as a result of their communion… The ”Edge” also demonstrates a sense of boundaries on several levels – from the name of the group itself, through the title “Symbols and Signs”, to the general desire to imply that before crossing it, the line of compromised political signs and symbols must first be acknowledged and contoured.

Come, thousands of young people! by Lyudmil Stanev

And they came. They knocked, but no one was there. They left a note: If someone is looking for us, we are in Belene. [Signed:] Thousands of young people The spectators expressed their satisfaction, after which they left united toward the bright future. The following question was answered: “What is ground and does it have grounds in our country?” During the entire time while the exhibition was being opened, one could hear the footsteps of communism arriving in the gallery. If it asks about us, you can say we are all gone. All this was, is, and will be the exhibition of the Edge Group

THE NAME by Inna Peleva

It sounds good and it means so mаny things. For the professionally deformed philologist, even just the fact that the cutting resonant is chosen as an absolute beginning, that it is placed in a significant and strong first position, gives rise to many senses. Bulgarian literature has created a tradition of exploitation of and manipulation through the sound energy of the emotionally aggressive and expressively powerful “r”. Through the “r” the Bulgarian horror of a doom still hits our ears and the ugly crowing of ravens still overtakes us. Twenty-nine “r’s” in a column draw the downward fall “with a big bang – straight into failure” and remind us that “Hell is for us only”.
The mass song also masters the skills of sound symbolism and
“R” is briskness
“R” is bellicosity
“R” is optimism
“R” is a march
Let’s not forget that the “r” is also “r-r-r-r-a-b [edge]”.

“Edge” in Bulgarian is phonetically close to “rub”—a word rich and generous in meaning, which alone, either in phraseology or in idiom, or slightly modified grammatically, means almost everything: to move something on the surface with pressure, to communicate, to support, to replicate, that we are getting along well, that we are doing great, to erase, to grind to a dust, to inflict upon, to thrust upon, to wipe out, to excise, to manage somehow, to polish, to refresh, to revitalize, uneven terrain, obstacle, challenge, a sore spot, a stone for grinding, a rubber, caoutchouc, a polisher, a massаger, a bath attendant, curiosity, garbage, rubbish, leftovers, trifles, pieces, rags, nonsense, ridiculousness, pointlessness, to kill. When Kipling’s camel starts speaking Bulgarian with the help of Valeri Petrov, she says “hrup”, i.e. it transcribes Bulgarian “rab” with a sigh. The comfortable chaos of associations which arises from the three sounds shelters the cheeky-cute snout of the lazy camel from the children’s tale, and mentions the loud joy of the demonstratively rude eating of green fruit, and much more.
The edge is the seam of a sock, of a pair of pants… neatness, ironed looks, non-jeans. The edge is a border, a seam, a limit, a blade, disobedience, inconvenience, it is obvious where the joint is, a fool, extremism, or—or a mandatory choice, an effort to survive, a scar, healing (improperly), lack of smoothness (finally), a dummy, the Rubicon, and then its literal morphemic calque into rub-i-kon [edge-and-horse] (i.e. spur the horse), edge is not a slave, r-r-a-b is not br-r-r-r, agreement and contact between two surfaces, a ridge, build the rooftop higher, craftsmen! Let the Edge be an edge.