Within, around and through the Image
Nedko Solakov is a writer among artists. Born in Bulgaria in 1957, the artist uses drawings, texts, videos, photographs, performances, installations, sculptures, and murals to play brilliantly with the possibilities of using language in art.
In so doing, he is always telling a story, showing an unmistakably poetic desire for narrative. Alongside short, pithy texts, he frequently presents absurd, ironic stories—entertaining, humorous, and full of ruptures—which narrate an everyday reality shot through by a fundamental paradoxicality that tends to be interpreted by viewers in all kinds of contradictory ways. Solakov, who is trained in mural painting, draws his stories from his own personal archive. He is the alert narrator of both his own present and (world) history, questioning in his image and text stories what seem to be the received ideas and assumptions of the art world and the art market, uncovering paradoxes in day-to-day politics, and reflecting, in the varied forms of his work, the failure of human aspirations. His approach is always universalist, and aims at nothing less than a history of the human condition.
In Top Secret from 1989–90, Solakov created, by virtue of its very ambiguity, one of the most provocative works of post-socialist art. This consisted of a wooden card-index box with two drawers. A description of its contents states that it contains 179 index cards with texts, drawings, photographs, and a scandalous secret.
In fact, Top Secret thematizes a highly charged chapter from Solakov´s biography, namely the young artist´s early cooperation with the Bulgarian secret police. But what is in fact the objective truth? There is no official evidence for the collaboration. So perhaps Top Secret´s alleged evidence may only be part of the artist´s narrative universe, to be understood as his critique of the human need for perfection, finality, and unambiguity, meaning that his self-exposure is merely fictional reconstruction. The radicality of this work excited a great deal of attention at documenta 2007.
More than any other contemporary artist, Solakov covers the whole spectrum of potential uses of language in a visual and artistic context. He uses language as a way of catalyzing thoughts, in the image, around the image, and through the image.
June 30, 2010 Caroline Schilling