guardian II

boryana petkova, contemporary art, contemporary drawing, performance
Guardian, installation view, ICA Sofia, exhibition Moving Images, Moving Bodies 2021

Boryana Petkova is positioned -with arms outstretched against the wall- in a glass and metal structure adapted to match the dimensions of her own body. The shape of the structure is a reproduction of iron grids often installed around a tree to protect it, but which gives the impression of a cage to a prisoner. The French word for these tree guards is « corset d’arbre » referring to the corset as a « prison » for a woman’s body. In her performance, Boryana Petkova stands on her tiptoes to draw at the highest tip she can reach with obsessive movement. The end of the performance is decided by the numbness of the artist hands which are no longer able to hold the pencil.

Ludwig Seyfarth, curator

Performance Guardian, ICA Sofia 2021
Guardian, détail 220x50x30cm glass, metal 2017-2021

In Boryana Petkova’s project Guardian the main character  is her own body, standing on tiptoes, enclosed in a glass grid, resembling the protective fences that are placed around trees. Here the rapid movement of the hands is opposed to the frozen, defenceless flesh clad in an ethereal bodice, pressed by the transparent glass fence that paralyses and defines its movement. The only option for a creative act in the space restriction voluntarily accepted by the artist is to paint with her hands raised high above her head. Thus, the picture happens on a place, with which she cannot make eye contact and the drawing ends when her strength is exhausted and the pencils fall from her hands. Boryana’s material presence in the video-documented work process and the traces she leaves after the completion of the drawing direct the observer to the physical vulnerability of the corporal in a world of temporally forced existence, which problematizes the self-identification happening on the boundary of real and virtual. The political in “Structural Constraints” is not limited to a feminist rebellion against the conscious or unconscious sexism that surrounds us. The sound of the pencil in the effort to get out of the closed space, the jingle of the grid, the furious overlay of graphite lines on the wall, the traces of Petkova’s body pressed by the glass screen remaining after the end of the performance, metaphorically describe the desire to overcome the heavy hypnosis by self-imposed limits. And they inhabit the almost invisible, fragile and vulnerable, but carefully built by us structure of restrictions, where we try in vain to find our true nature.

Irina Batkova – writer, curator, founder of Art Project Depot Association