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Interview by Vesela Nozharova for the book The Bulgarian Nouvelle Vague. This book is published by Edno Magazine, and presents 101 representatives figures from the avant garde of contemporary Bulgarian culture:

Samuil Stoyanov

After graduating from the National Art Academy, Samuil Stoyanov took a unique path. He didn’t move abroad to build a career, nor did he stay in Sofia. He went back to his hometown of Dobrich and let his enormous productivity and civic activities speak for themselves. In his work, he preserves the unexpected and provocative bent which he started out with ten years ago. In 2009 this brought him the Base Award. His work How Do You See Bulgaria? from 2007 is an ironic but medically precise and impartial exploration of how we see our national identity.

How do you see Bulgaria?

I never thought anyone would ask me that. When I named my work, I meant for the question to remain unanswered. It was supposed to “transport” the person seeing and reading the title into a subjective space with almost no landmarks. For me, Bulgaria isn’t my country or my history, but the society I live in; the people and the relations between them are what are important to me. I’m interested in what can be developed and improved, so the answer to the question “How do you see Bulgaria?” is that I see it as an opportunity, not as a challenge.

What made you turn to such purely medical visualization?

I’ve had glasses since I was four or five years old and I can still remember the illuminated chart in the ophthalmologist’s office, the thick dark curtains, and the emotions while he changed different lenses, as well as the effort to see and name the smallest possible symbol on the chart. On the other hand, I find meaning and irony in taking this tool for vision testing outside the context of the doctor’s office and placing it in the “hands” of the viewer, encouraging him to test himself, regardless of whether the work itself is in the form of a card, a page in a book, or the illuminated chart, which no one can really decide on his own exactly where to stand in front of to do a real test. This medical equipment-turned-into-art can create personal relations with every individual viewer.

Do you feel understood by the audience?

Yes, although the “audience” is a very broad term. In my opinion, there are different audiences: professional and non-professional ones, there are people who won’t like you whatever you do because they don’t want to. I don’t try to be understood by everyone nor do I strive to create eternal art. What I like most is when my work excites in people who are not professionally educated and engaged in modern art.

What would you like to change with your work?

I’ve been living in Dobrich for several years and one of the main reasons is that I’d like to contribute to the improvement of the cultural environment here. I’ve organized several exhibitions and the last one (Recipes) was a real achievement, mostly because of the visitors’ reaction. Most were seeing contemporary art for the first time, but they showed lots of enthusiasm. Of course, the most important thing was that great artists took part in the exhibition.