Some fish change sex


Nenko Balkanski House Museum

26.4.2024 — 7.7.2024

Lyuben Malchev
Georgi Sharov
Joanna Bradshaw
Lora Sultanova

The topic of gender in its wider circulation in Bulgarian society exists in its distorted etymology, disguised and Bulgarianised into the noun*. Gender in its morphology has a pure social gene, automatically making it a political tool for creating ideology, on the one hand, and on the other ‘an incredibly tasty mezze for the table, which soaks up everything.’ The discourse in sexual self-determination runs through the social, and for this reason it is vast and complex, difficult to distill into any kind of neat soundbite; it is precisely from this position that the current exhibition should be understood. It is concerned with raising questions about gender through control over the human body.

Censorship and off-limit words that obscure the truth about sex education give rise to taboos which, in our attempts to discuss, turn into shallow jokes or insults, easily digested, and these are not ‘Fast Food’ type topics. The refusal to see things as they really are prevents us thinking deeply about nakedness, and instead we lock it in a social body that we feed on, that we can humiliate, limit, isolate. We can aestheticise it by coating it in naive chastity, thus skillfully concealing our own ignorance.

Some fish change sex is a prelude, a reminder of the existence of differences and their uniqueness. A reminder that the body is a garment of self-awareness, and control over it is not defined solely through ethical and aesthetic continuity. Submission to chastity and the prevailing moral order are in our mouths the ‘appetizers’ with which we hostilely deny the right to self-determination.

Courbet’s The Origin of the World (L’Origine du monde) told us enough two centuries ago, and now we raise ourselves on porn because the conversation around sex has become ‘inappropriate’, and through its prohibition, cynical. Access to pornography gives us all a bit of everything, and beyond that reveals what’s out there, proving that anything goes in sexuality, transcending fetish and perversion. Because sexuality is a territory in which we have the right to express ourselves as we are. To think about how we look, how we feel in our own bodies, in which we experience pleasure and satisfy our needs. These are all choices which grow from fragile shoots; it’s also a choice to not crush them. * used in Bulgarian—’dzhendur’—as a loanword and also as a watchword for connected themes.