Domus Aurea – Sofia Art Weekend

Artventure by two independent Art spaces in Sofia- Swimming pool and Æther Artists at Æther Sevda Semer Simeon Simeonov Voin de Voin Curated by Pavlina Krasteva and Voin de Voin Text by : Paul Ardenne Graphic design: Svetlana Mircheva DOMUS AUREA AETHER The Domus Aurea, let us recall, is that sumptuous patrician villa which Emperor Nero built in the Rome of 1st century CE, with the aim to utterly impress his contemporaries. How could one subjugate the Roman people? How could one use an extreme splendor to make his omnipotence known? Some buildings closely married to political power are metaphors, procedures of display. Their objective is not at all to accommodate the quotidian, but to represent the grandeur transformed for the occasion into a public spectacle. Domus Aurea remains one of the most amazing examples in history of this game of symbolic deception. Outsized proportions, walls with gold leaf coverage, richly colored ceilings and frescoes of master painters, abundant fountains and flowered patios galore, etc. The notion of imperial power – possessed by the only one, who is also worshiped as a deity, the Imperator, the Caesar – has to be resplendent, to impose itself without a need for justification. Fall 2017 in Sofia. Times have changed. Democracy has long ago taken its course reshuffling the cards of power. People have succeeded Imperators; division of rights, property and sensitivity has succeeded )absolute power over culture among all other things. The sacred body of the king (his “double body”, as Kantorowicz wrote, the real body, the divine body) has deserted power, leaving space for our multiple bodies, those of ordinary individuals, the socii, the ”associates”, whose brotherly political union makes and builds democracy. Associated to run political affairs, we also experience together the cultural and aesthetic reality in which we live. If we don’t like it we don’t send an imploring delegation to the Imperator. Rather, we change it by ourselves. Art, the artistic question in its totality: we have our say; this “total social fact” (M. Mauss) is a property of the citizens, our treasury, our consciences’ gold . Democracy has logically led to a regime of chronic cultural instability: everything incessantly changes. Because we constantly change. Tastes and colors rather than fixed once and for all, float at the whim of fashions, engagements, obsessions and circumstances. Such a difficult period revives engaged art willing to fight, while calmer periods are propitious to an art of tender and conciliatory pleasure. But what is the situation today at the beginning of autumn in Sofia, Bulgaria? A wish for stability in aesthetics or, on the contrary, a desire to overthrow, to question, to revolutionize forms? These are not peaceful times, indeed. Ecological challenges, demographic pressure, fratricidal wars near by, migrants wandering about without any help, economic uncertainty strain our relationship with the world. And this is without taking into account the moral crisis, the collapse of metaphysics and metaphysics of morals, our gradual shift from a vertical society where God plays her part, to an ever more horizontal, non-hierarchical society where the “ego republic” of everyone dominates in the shape of personal, portable deification. What can we do in this complex framework for ourselves? How to live? Who and what to follow? How to represent ourselves? And secondly: what to expect from those who are tirelessly shaping “forms” and aestheticizing our framework of existence for us – the artists? Domus Aurea: the event, the exhibition, this time in art space Aether, deals with everyone’s reception, the reception of those “everyones” that we are: women, men, transgender people, wealthy, less wealthy, included, excluded, powerful, weak, informed, misinformed, politicized, depoliticized, enthusiastic, depressed … without discrimination. For this purpose, it puts all these “everyones” in contact with artistic experiences in vivo, as so many moments of life. The first quest of Domus Aurea would be: to find, to find one’s own body, to feel one’s self, to unmask it, perhaps. Who could help us? Two Bulgarian artists, Simeon Simeonov and Voin de Voin. They offer us, through participatory sculpture in the case of Simeon, and through relational performances, in the case of Voin, material to test our bodies, to feel our weaknesses, or our resilience. The means differ, but in both cases for spectators’ greater benefit it is their personal “golden house”, which is requested, maybe vandalized, but certainly re-evaluated at the end. As Simeon Simeonov and Voin de Voin contemplate, contact with art elevates to a quasi-magical, shamanic dimension. Even if it can elicit trauma, it engages in an intense existential relationship that goes beyond merely contemplating the beautiful; it appeals to recovering one’s affects, one’s consciousness, one’s way of inhabiting the “house” which is the body. “You’ve given me your body, o spectator, and I, the artist, I want to make it golden.

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