About the Festival
Sofia Underground International Performance Art Festival is a contemporary art event, which has gained cult status during the years with its original form. Founded by art critic and activist Ruen Ruenov (1958-2011) in 1997, it first started as a widespread happening with a long-running performance program – a reaction to the social crisis of that time. Ever since, with a few short breaks, this event has developed a prominent sensitivity according public processes and the dynamics of the local art scene. For the past decade Sofia Underground appears with annual releases of the festival event – held in Sofia, Bulgaria, and also other smaller supportive events – part of the Sofia Underground platform, which are variable in their scale and format, and are realized throughout the year at different locations in Bulgaria and abroad.
The concepts of the festival editions during the past years exemplify how the event reflects ongoing processes happening within our social environment – visible also through the artists’ statements of the participants.
The team organizing Sofia Underground Performance Art Festival – since 2013 – is developed over the evolving creative interaction between Studio DAUHAUS and eXAF.org – both experienced in the fields of visual arts, electronic music culture, design, also cultural studies and art history, curating and arts management.
eXAF.org + Studio DAUHAUS team is working within the broad independent contemporary culture scape, while focused on its liminality as a generative condition. They work on diverse projects promoting a personal approach to visual arts and music, with a special emphasis on media arts and performance art, and marked with a taste for experimental collaborative happenings.
Partners of Sofia Underground during the years are various local and national cultural institutions (Sofia Municipality, the National Cultural Fund, the Union of the Bulgarian Artists, the State Cultural Institute to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, etc.) and the foreign cultural institutes of different countries based in Bulgaria (among which are Goethe Institut – Sofia, the Polish Institute in Sofia, the French Cultural Institute, the Austrian Embassy in Bulgaria), and last but not least The Award for New Bulgarian Art “Gaudenz B. Ruf”.
Each year the festival is a fact on the cultural scene through the immense support of lots of friends, adherents and, of course, volunteers.
The artists presented at the festival are invited by the curatorial team, as well as selected through an open call. It is prominent for the festival that each of its editions presents artists both local and international, also both established ones together with debuts and art students.
The first event under the name Sofia Underground was realized in May 1997 in the underground locations of the National Palace of Culture (in Sofia, Bulgaria) – consisting of a programme based on presenting mainly politically engaged performance art pieces. Till 2000 are realized four more festival events under the same name. In these early events the participants are actually all the artists activists, who represent the so called second non-conceptual generation, and also some of the veterans of the time when contemporary art in Bulgaria was born. Among them are RASSIM, Kosio Minchev, Dan Tenev, Boris Serginov and Gabriela Serginova, Sasho Stoicov, Boryana Rossa,Tsvetan Krastev, Nadezhda Oleg Lyahova,Daniela Kostova, Maran Gozov (Tsvetan Marangozov), Svilen Stefanov, Dimitar Grozdanov,Iliyan Lalev, Dimitar Yaranov…. Also experimental musicians like the Limbourg Brothers, OM, Bobo, Tosho and Tabakov… Writers, such as Yordan Efremov, Bobi Rokanov, Lacho Lozanov and so on.
In the 2001- 2003 period the festival Sofia Underground goes on with another concept, under the tagline Sofia Downtown, concerning its format – being realized outside, at open public spaces. During these events some large-scale and technically complicated art actions were conducted by artists like Ventsilav Kostov, Dimiter G. Dimitrov, Bogdan Alexandrov, experimental poets and others.
After a time break of some years Sofia Underground festival is back in 2007 with the edition Remember Sofia Underground. It was followed by: 2008 – ALONE / Individual rituals, gestures and images in the mass communication era; 2009 – Emergency Crisis Edition; 2012 – Justified Actions / In Memory of Ruen Ruenov; 2013 – Occupy Yourself – gesamtkunstwerk; 2014 – Unusual Evidences, 2015 – MACHINES; 2016 – Inner Conflicts; 2017 – hundred; 2018 – what now / now what; 2019 – the Eastern Question.