Art in Action is a nongovernmental organization established in April 1990. Its main founders are the leaders of some of the most significant avant-garde art groups active in Bulgaria in the the final years of the Cold War. The main objective set in the charter of the association is ‘To assist with its activities in the establishment of a Contemporary Art Centre in Bulgaria.’
The legal registration of the organization is made in September 1990. The ten founders required by law are: Dobrin Peichev and Orlin Dvorianov (DE Group), Daniela Nenova and Alexander Pozharliev (Performance Group), Dimitar Grozdanov (MA Group), Veliko Sherbanov and Viara Grancharova (Kukuvden Group), Albena Mihailova (RUB Group), Viacheslav Botev (Hermes Group), and Diana Popova (individual artist).
Since its foundation, the development of Art in Action could be divided into three major periods:
During that period, a significant part of the association’s activities was related to the participation and organization of collective art events such as Objects of future exhibitions (Sofia, 1990), Galvanization (Sofia, 1991), etc.
In May 1991, Lubomir Velev and Svetoslav Bitrakov (Slav Group), Nikolai Ivanov (OM Group), Emil Valev (General Violet Group), Kliment Atanasov (KA Gallery), Anna Horissian (Art Cinema), Antonia Duende, Ventsislav Zankov, Alexander Raikov and Georgi Ruzhev, joined Art in Action Association. During that period, the association worked in collaboration with artists such as Alexander Ivanov, Veselin Kyurpanov, Nadia Medneva, Irena Mitova and others.
Another event that took place in the same year was the opening of the association’s own exhibition space in the building of SDS (the democratic political party in Bulgaria at that time). SID Gallery was operational until the end of 1992.
The association organized various artistic projects in alternative art spaces. Worth mentioning are the happenings Creation at the abandoned Proshekovo Pivo brewery and 1aaa in the former Transport Police building in Sofia. In cooperation with KA Gallery, Bourgas, the association annually organized a series of artistic actions along the South Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. They were part of the Art Hero land art symposium. In 1992, a television programme called Art in Action was launched and 14 shows were broadcast on national television.
At that time, Art in Action Association took part in numerous art events held abroad. The most significant ones were: the first OST-WEST Fest in Berlin, with which artists from across the world commemorated the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the international art project, Art for Change.
1994 – 1998
During that period Art in Action worked mainly on projects related to European Union programmes such as Tempus and Youth for Europe. It became the association’s main source of funding. An art-pedagogical team was formed within the association. Its members were: Orlin Dvorianov, Antonia Duende, Irena Mitova-Neutwig, Boris and Gabriela Serginov, Nia Pushkarova, Michael Lange and others. Many young artists and students started participating in the youth projects organized by the team. At the same period of time, many original members left the association.
Art in Action became a co-founder of the international Ost West Forum association, based in Berlin. It was a network of fourteen partner organizations from across Europe. More than twenty international projects in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, France, Turkey, Poland and Romania were implemented due to those connections. At that time Art in Action started working with university teachers and students from the Department of Art Pedagogy in Sofia University. They have been working in collaboration ever since.
The organization of performance festivals and evenings started at that time and has continued ever since. The main participants in these events are students from Sofia University.
Among the most important art events which Art in Action took part in at that time were: Ceremonial Art – a land art symposium (Babette and Gottsdorf, Germany, 1994); Double Reflections – an exhibition and a performance (Berlin, 1995); Zone Eastern Europe – an international performance festival (Timisoara, Romania, 1996); Presentation of the Bulgarian performance in Krakow (Bunker pike Gallery, Krakow, Poland, 1997), Fluxus 1962-1994 – a project of Goethe Institute with the participation of Ben Patterson (Sofia, Bulgaria,1998).
1999 – 2001
After the re-registration of the association in 1998, Kalin Plugchiev, Lyuba Dimitrova, Stella Inchovska, Maya Antova and Dobrin Atanasov (Y generation Group); Maya Zhalova, Gergana Temelkova, Lilyana Dvorianova and Nikolay Delchev (Gesture Sound Image Group) joined Art in Action. During that period, Art in Action focused mainly on the implementation of the large-scale project 2aaa (two thousand a), the participants in which were the youngest members of the association. The project consisted of 14 group art events held in various cities around Bulgaria. It ended with the exhibition 1/3 Bulgaria in the Sofia City Art Gallery (Sofia, 2001).
The association organized various youth exchanges in the field of art, collaborating with Offener Kunsverein e.V. – a German organization from Potsdam. Other events worth mentioning are the exhibitions In the End (ATA Center for Contemporary Art) and ART IN ACTION (Arsenal Art Centre, Mievska Gallery, Poznan, Poland, 2001)
2002 – 2006
At the beginning of the new century Art in Action increased its international activity. It expanded its partnerships with the organizations in Germany and established new contacts with organizations and artists from Romania, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Spain and other countries. More young artists, among whom Lyuben Kuleliev, Desislava Tsoneva, Ivan Yamaliev, Georgi Yamaliev, Monika Mihaylova and Ventsislava Stoyanova, took active part in the implementation of the projects. During that period, Art in Action started to send and host volunteers through the EVS programmes. A partner in the exchange was Offener Kunst e.V. (Potsdam, Germany). The association participated in a large number of international art exchanges throughout Europe.
The increased number of members in the organization and the intensity of its work during that period led to the establishment of a separate association. ALOS Center for Informal Education and Cultural Activities was set up by part of the younger members of Art in Action and the two organizations have been partners ever since.
In 2006, Art in Action organized an international conference called Art – Universal Language for Communication in Sofia, Bulgaria. The main partner organizations took part in it and future development strategies were discussed.
Some of the important events from that period were: The Way I Am – a project featuring a series of exhibitions and art events held in four Bulgarian towns – Pleven, Kyustendil, Kazanlak and Blagoevgrad (2002); participation in the Eugene Ionesco Theatre of the Absurd International Festival (Bucharest, Romania 2002, 2004); participation in the multinational project Fauqe’sa Bouge – 300 Years Sankt Petersburg (Brussels, Belgium, 2003); participation in the Balkan Youth Festival (Sandanski, Bulgaria, 2006).
Another event worth mentioning is the Territories Authors Concepts project (Kazanlak, Yambol, Kyustendil, Lovech, Sofia, 2005-2008). The project consisted of a series of artistic actions which took place in the warehouses of working factories across the country.
2007 – 2015
After the accession of Bulgaria as a new member of the EU, Art in Action began to participate actively in European and global art forums. Some of its members moved overseas where they continued to organize and participate in projects on behalf of the association.
At that period, Marina Stoyanova, Boyan Bahrin, Olga Yocheva, Yanko Andonov, Marian Tsenov and other young artists joined the organization.
In 2008, members of Art in Action presented a series of exhibitions, performances and video presentations within the framework of the BROD – days of young Bulgarian culture project in Dresden, Germany. Part of that project was presented in Bulgaria under the name BROD… or if this wall had never existed (The Red House Center for Culture and Debate, Sofia, 2010).
Members of the association participated in major art events such as Arte e Vita – an international contemporary art festival (Bart, Germany, 2007); Ostrale Contemporary Art Biennale (Dresden, Germany, 2008); Blauverschiebung – an international performance art festival (Leipzig, Germany, 2010); Perf 12 – an international performance art festival (Pori, Finland, 2012), etc.
The collective exhibition Breakouts (Motorenhalle gallery, Dresden, Germany, 2008) and the exhibition Dehumanization (Bulgarian Cultural Institute, Bratislava, Slovakia, 2011) both presented works of the members of Art in Action Association.
Many exchanges in the field of visual and performing arts, with partner organizations from Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Romania, were conducted during that period.
Some of the most important art events which Art in Action organized in Bulgaria at that time were: Devetaki – an annual art symposium (the village of Devetaki, Lovech Region, 2005-2012) and Check with the Pawn – a performance art festival (2010).
Artists from the association have since been participating in events such as Small Season Festival (Sofia); SOFIA UNDERGROUND Performance Art Festival (Sofia); Water Tower Art Fest (Sofia); Identities – an annual exhibition (Dupnitsa, Bulgaria); FORM an international art symposium (Tryavna, Bulgaria), ect.
In 2015, “Art in Action” marked the 25th anniversary of its establishment with the exhibition 25 Artists’ Art Alternatives in Sofia Arsenal – Museum for Contemporary Art (Sofia, Bulgaria).