The Art Today Foundation
was established in 1997 by a group of artists and intellectuals based in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The group has formed a unique centre for contemporary art, working outside the more common government and previously Soros-funded organizations scattered across Eastern Europe.
The foundation grew out of a group called Rub
in Bulgarian) that formed in the late eighties to politically and artistically challenge the totalitarian regime that monopolized Bulgaria at the time. After forging a reputation for itself within the community, Rub
focused on creating a centre in which exchange and public dialogue could be maintained on a more official level. The group was legalized as the Art Today Foundation and eventually took over an abandoned Turkish-bath building in the centre of Plovdiv.
Members began by organizing activities and exchanges between local artists and international media art groups and later focused their energies on a critical media art event called CFront
. Since 1999, two editions of the event have been held and the foundation has continued to work with Western and Eastern European organizations to question the role of new technologies within the Balkans. With the support of Pro Helvetia
the foundation has also set up the Arttoday Lab
. This mini media lab located in the Turkish-bath building is used by local artists to develop their media skills and artistic projects using the latest computer technologies.
, the first edition of the media art event, comprised four main components: a symposium, an exhibition, a workshop, and a performance series. Held from May 31 to June 20, 1999, it attracted several leading theorists and artists working in Eastern and Western Europe.
ran from June 1 to 20, 2000, in two locations in Plovdiv.
Given the encouraging international response the year before, the Art Today Foundation continued to focus on the social, political and artistic realities of Western-based technologies that media artists in the Balkans continually deal with on very practical levels.
Media art production in Eastern Europe is imbued with issues of power, identity and repression that may not be as apparent in the work of Western artists. Indeed, people there must struggle to access new technologies. Hence, artists and critics attending the CFront 2000
conference, workshop and exhibition faced the task of integrating political and social feasibility with imagination and creativity.
The theoretical seminar, organized from June 1 to 14, 2000, and partially funded by the Daniel Langlois Foundation, was titled Crossing Points: East-West
is interested in the crossing points within the media stream and information flow of the Net that create opportunities for bringing closer the communities and media artists from the Balkan region and Europe. These can be crossing points between objective reality and the interactivity of the Net, between history and utopia, the state and the ethnic community, between the personal and the socially grounded, the physical and the technological, between culture and politics, between the commercial and the non-commercial, the local and the translocal, between two epochs." (1)
To stimulate concrete, practical results within the workshop, participants were invited to present strategies and thoughts on the situation in the Balkans. The results have been published on the CFront 2000
The Art Today Foundation is working to develop many of the projects spawned by the intimate and active discussions during CFront 2000
. The group also continues to promote media art and access to technology within the Bulgarian and Balkan communities. Thanks to its strong ties with other European organizations such as V2
(Rotterdam, the Netherlands), IDEA
(Liverpool, Britain), et Interspace
(Sofia, Bulgaria), the foundation is defining itself as a strong force in the dissemination of Eastern European media art and the analysis of European cultural policy.