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“Having a double existence is a luxury that I no longer think I can deprive myself of”, by Stefan Nikolaev

I was born in Sofia. I have the impression of living in France for an eternity… The question arises: am I more French than Bulgarian? After thirty-three years spent in Paris versus eighteen in Bulgaria, is the balance tilting in the Hexagon, or are my Sofiote roots counting double? I take this opportunity to do an interview, with broken sticks, between the Bulgarian Stefan Nikolaev and the French Nikolaev Stefan, the artists who live together in me. The interview takes place in Paris as part of the “Un Week-End à L’Est” festival, so naturally NS asks the questions.

NS. Hello Stefan Nikolaev, thank you for taking part in this interview. I propose to you as the subject of our dialogue “freedom and creation”, what do you say?

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SN. Hello Nikolaev Stefan, thank you. So okay, but how is your theme to be understood? Do you think of the freedom of creation or the creation of freedom? It is not quite the same.

NS. Freedom, creation, whatever, as long as you answer my questions …

SN. You see, the day I got your invitation for this interview, the art world, if not the whole world, lost artist Jimmie Durham. Jimmie was a great artist and poet very committed to the preservation of freedom, who left a very right note when he left: “Humanity is an unfinished project. ” Well, I imagine Jimmie Durham will allow me to adapt this thought to the “pure concept” of freedom. Freedom in the world is an unfinished project and, in a sense, unfinished.

NS. This is a point that is difficult to contradict.

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SN. And certainly for different reasons, creation will also remain an unfinished project. “Although we have our hearts at work, Art is long and Time is short. “ (Baudelaire).

NS. Unfinished, except for the Judeo-Christian religion according to which God would have created everything in six days … “God, after finishing his work, rested on the seventh day from all the work done. “

SN. OK cool. Indeed, if we read the definition of the word proposed by “Le Robert”, we understand that creating is the action of giving existence: The creation of the world. The set of created things; the world considered as the work of a creator … Or the subject of this “creation”… Personally, I prefer Greek mythology, in which, in a way, a bunch of wacky characters make and undo the world every day. According to these myths, “at the beginning of the world there was Chaos”; we cannot say that it has really changed a lot. It is a vision of Creation that I find much more correct.

NS. But let’s come back more concretely, if you don’t mind, to your experience of “freedom”. You lived your childhood and your adolescence in a communist world, which was known to repress individual freedoms. How did you experience these years and the change when you arrived in Paris?

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SN. At a certain age, you think you can change the world; I would say, more modestly, the world around one’s self. Well, Bulgaria was a rather “calm” country of the famous Communist bloc. At that time, life flowed, inert, coupled with a laziness that could be described as “oriental-communist”, the legacy of Ottoman slavery having been taken over by the comrades of the USSR – I’ll let you imagine the shortcut … I quickly realized that the Bulgarian people were not so interested in changing their lives as to live. To be more precise, I would quote this sentence from Baudrillard in “The Perfect Crime”: History without desire, without passion, without tension, without true event, where the problem is no longer to change life, which was the maximum utopia, but that of surviving, which is the minimum utopia. So I left Communist Bulgaria as quickly as I could.

NS. Without regret or nostalgia?

SN. Without regret. Probably nostalgia, not that worn-out nostalgia that one could quite conveniently relate to the Slavic soul, but rather to a hybrid form, brought back to the taste of the West, that Eric Tabuchi had described in one of his texts. towards me “Cool nostalgia”. Cool nostalgia, or the unlikely product of the encounter between the Cold War and the taste of the rillette-pickle sandwich at the counter of a Parisian brasserie.

NS. Do you ever come back to Bulgaria now that the world has changed, that the barriers have come down? Do you think you have a place in the eyes of your compatriots? Even in your own eyes?

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SN. Yes, I go back there frequently. I take advantage of it, because having a double existence today is a luxury that I no longer think I can deprive myself of. Then finally I like to find in Bulgaria this very threadbare oriental spirit, which sometimes agreeably opposes the prosaic existence adapted to Western daily life. Often times I feel a bit like one of those many Bulgarian footballers who played and still play today in foreign clubs, in England, Germany, Spain, and who come back for a game with the national team – with all of them. the ambiguities created on the perception of his game by the fact that he does not evolve here, in his homeland. Finally, if you score goals, everyone is happy; what must absolutely be avoided is to score against your own side.

“Bulgarian culture is too well kept a secret”, by Theodore Ushev

Stefan Nikolaev, express bio

Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1970, visual artist and sculptor, Stefan Nikolaev founded the Glassbox space in Paris at the turn of the 2000s. His work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions. He is taking part in the 5th edition of the Un Weekend à l’Est festival, which this year celebrates the artistic vitality of Sofia and Bulgaria. Cinema, theater, visual arts, debates of ideas, literature, concerts … more than 30 artists are invited to Paris for 5 days, from November 24 to 29. Information on

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Minouk, the painter fish, 1994/2003, video installation by Stefan Nikolaev, can be found at the Vellutini Gallery. The artist is represented by the Michel Rein gallery.

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