SYMBOLS AND SIGNS, 1990
The Edge organized their first show in March 1990 in the exhibition space at 32 Gladstone St. in Plovdiv. All founding members of the group took part in the Symbols and Signs show along with Pravdoliub Ivanov who was invited as a guest-participant. Most of the works in the show were either mocking the symbols of the just-discarded regime or were reminding the viewer unquestionable truths and painful disappointments, which the time between 1944 and 1989 had caused. Although the works lacked any signatures of the authors, they each had its own autonomous visual and conceptual existence as well as distinct artistic impact. Not one of the works was engaged aesthetically with the rest; the theme and the means of expression were the only unifying factor. The show had a totally conceptual substance while the artworks covered almost all of the new forms for visual expression – installations, performances, assemblages, and various actions that took place during the run of the show. The until-then traditional artistic forms such as painting, prints, and drawings were accompanying the “new” forms on the walls of the space while acting as a kind of “conventional” background that would support the viewers’ reception. The main goal shared by the authors was to free themselves of inhibitions, to discard all that had accumulated after their traditional training, to mock and thus to reject those norms that had been imposed on them. Symbols and Signs provided an occasion for the artists to investigate the options offered by the new forms of expression, to experiment freely with materials and media, to initiate the unknowing audience into the new visual language and image.
The Symbols and Signs show was a strong radical event with political orientation, an artistic event in our contemporary art which until now has no analogue in scale and impact. The provocations presented by the authors are many; they were attacking the senses as well as the associative potential of the viewers with a vast array of visual means. The whole idea of the group activated those negative emotions left over from the social realities during the time of socialism and the early stages of the transition period. It offered views on reality tinted by the spicy taste of irony or with sharp provocative aggression. Overcoming easily the concrete physical and historical embodiments of power, the whole concept of the event challenged directly the abstract carriers of power that were adapted for mass manipulation – the sign and symbols system. One could see in the exposition acts of speculation with the artistic cannon and norms of the socialist times. The reaction of the unprepared Plovdiv audience was often confused and negative. The provocative substance of the artworks was amplified additionally by the symbolic actions during the opening – a huge blood-red cake shaped like a pentacle was cut up with a hammer and a sickle after which it was handed out to some of those present. What was the sweet taste of the end of the regime? The following action-attack under the ironical title “The Wheels of History” unexpectedly dumped into the feet of the huge audience small but heavy ceramic balls. The wheels of history started turning brutally and suddenly while introducing disturbance, shock and perplexity.