Nenko Balkanski. Chronologies

Nenko Balkanski House Museum

27.3.2024 — ∞

Plamen V. Petrov
Georgi Sharov
Logistics and technical implementation
Katya Hristova
Dr. Milen Alagenski
Kiril Georgiev
Tsvetan Ignatovski
Joanna Bradshaw
Lora Sultanova

On 8 December 1980 during his Nobel Prize lecture in literature, the Polish poet, translator and essayist Czesław Miłosz said, “Our planet that gets smaller every year, with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that escapes definition, characterised by a refusal to remember. Certainly, the illiterates of past centuries, then an enormous majority of mankind, knew little of the history of their respective countries and of their civilisation. In the minds of modern illiterates, however, who know how to read and write and even teach in schools and at universities, history is present but blurred, in a state of strange confusion; Molière becomes a contemporary of Napoleon, Voltaire, a contemporary of Lenin.” Indeed, after more than four decades of our imperceptible and irrevocable march into the age of the ‘digital village’ and ‘artificial intelligence’, the refusal to remember has now become a kind of proof of our current modernity. Events are jumbled into a grab-bag of epochs and empires, significant cultural figures and social movements—without which an evolution in perception and thinking would not have been possible—no longer need be remembered (after D. Lowenthal). It is true, however, that man, adrift in the digital sea of facts and eras, finds it ever more difficult to communicate with Others and, no less importantly, is ever more inept at distinguishing reality from mirage, truth from trickery, meaning from nonsense.

In this daily battle with recollection, the museum occupies a special place. The institution whose activity not only preserves various artefacts, carrying them through epochs, sharing and building narratives around them, but also generates invisible and often unimagined connections between individual phenomena. The museum is an abode of the past that we cannot do without. The past, which with its endless chronologies (from Greek: χρόνος – time, and λόγος – study) draws us into thoughts of paintings, events and people beyond our defragmented sensibility and biological existence of today. It is precisely within this conceptual framework one should view the new permanent exhibition at Nenko Balkanski House Museum. Nenko Balkanski is an artist without whose creative heritage and decades-long pedagogy the objective historicism of the development of visual culture in Bulgaria between the 1930s and 1970s would not be possible. Having taken his first breath in this very house, which was converted into a museum in 1991, he moved through time leaving us the traces of his creative and life path. Scar-like traces – not blindly arranged facts, but wounds to be woven into a single narrative, limited by the chronological boundaries of two inevitable facts; birth and death. A history that dispenses with any illusion of a just existence and sends us adrift into the hopelessly skeptical infinity within which we are all seeking a safe place to dock.

The journey we cannot do without.