Art - replacement therapy
 Atanas Totlyakov
description of the project



How an artist could be happy in economically poor country

This text does not refer to people involved in the field of kitsch, popular culture, peripheral activities such as crafts and production of souvenirs, as well as artists, funding their works through contacts with influential political figures or religious leaders. Those people have already overcome their dependency to art and they do not need to apply the described method.
The advice does not refer either to those artists who fanatically believe in the undeniable success of their works. They are incurable case and not subject to therapy!


Bulgaria is one of the poorest regions of the European Union. The average salary is around 350 euros, but for most Bulgarians this is an amount they could see only in their dreams. The majority of the population of Bulgaria is not in working age, and the majority of the retired receive about 80-90 Euro. And all this at prices, in many cases, equal with those of the developed economies. Youth unemployment is 21.4% and continues to increase. The media provides information that “Bulgarians are people most at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the European Union (EU) warned the statistical office Eurostat. The ratio of the Bulgarian citizens who are on the verge of poverty is 49%, says the latest report of the statisticians.“ (Http://
The existence of the Bulgarian artists in this economic situation is extremely difficult. The lack of funds for physical survival leads to practical impossibility for creative work. Financial resources are concentrated in low-educated, aggressive subjects with unknown origin of the capital or even more aggressive monopoly. Unemployed and anxious people, and semi-criminal businessmen, this is hardly the most desirable audience for the works of art. Artists have to choose between emigration or internal insulation. Both of these examples are not good indicators for creative growth. However, there are still contemporary Bulgarian artists who continue to create.

1. Ironic but true.

The only way an artist living in economically poor country to be happy is to give up his/her creative works!

Art development is associated with the social and economic factors of the environment. This truth is known to artists in economically poor regions too, who regardless the obvious, have taken the path of the active creative work. Such an act of “reckless” persistence leads to severe depression and financial condition, which could be defined as poverty. Surrounded by people with no aesthetic needs, the artist is obliged to seek the confidence of the importance of his work only within the circle of their own kind. Thus the artist becomes self-isolated and falls into the spiral of public denial - often being asked if there is no psychiatric diagnosis. Regardless the concept of art above the popular culture and kitsch, the contemporary artist positioned in a poor country, is forced to perform orders of clients who do not have the faintest idea of aesthetics. They could be both individuals and institutions, having the terms of Culture and Art in their name. Of course, those institutions are managed by the political administration without the necessary qualifications. In other words, culture and art in poor countries are a cover for anti-creative activities. Even among them there are connoisseurs of art, they are put in a position where they could not change the art scene. The last hope is the art schools however the same mechanisms act there. The limited resources for creative works of the teachers and the students usually lead to mediocre results or insufficient popularity of the hard-won creative results. This is the first step in the “fall” of the creative “I”.
If you feel hurt by this fact, it is the first step towards the realization of the heavy dependence of art in which you have fallen. If you do not want to ignore your own philosophical and artistic quests you can emigrate (the more accurate term is “evacuate). “ But this is not always possible, and even if you do it, it is not sure that you can get into the right environment. An example in this aspect is the Bulgarian writer, journalist and dissident Georgi Markov. He left Bulgaria in 1969, which at the time was ruled by the Communist regime (and even nowadays, in 2013, Secret Service agents of that regime are still in the management of various political parties). Markov worked as a journalist for the leading radio stations such as BBC, Free Europe and Deutsche Welle. On September 7, 1978 he was assassinated. In history, this assault remained under the name Bulgarian Umbrella called after the tool used for the assassination – an umbrella with built-in mechanism for firing tiny bullets containing Caster-oil poison. Georgi Markov, a year earlier, sent a letter to his friend Dimitar Bochev, a journalist in Free Europe.
The letter became known to the public only in 2013:
“I am more astounded by the impression that the real illness of our time is neither communism nor capitalism, nor terrorism, nor any revolutionary and counter-revolutionary gospels, but mainly (perhaps the only one) that obscene, mean, selfish well disguised, well garnished feeling to ensure one’s existence by attaching to an octopus that needs you to clean its tentacles.
I am more and more convinced that the world is not divided into people good and bad, left or right, believers and unbelievers, but the main division that matters for us, is people who can and people who cannot. In other words - of artists and parasites ...
... I know your question is naturally - WHERE ARE WE FOR? WHAT DO WE HAVE TO DO? The most stupid thing would be to deceive ourselves that things are not as they are. It would be the most unforgivable if we shoot ourselves. The answer is very simple - we have to continue to be exactly what we were - crazy. Because this is the form of life that best suits us, because we were born for it and because it is the highest privilege of nature - NOT TO BE LIKE THEM. And I think that all the beauty of life, its entire meaning (beauty is meaning, isn’t it?), is set in the madness of the crazy people. All really big and beautiful, created by nature and humans so far is a burst of madness, which I think is the very essence of CAN.” (The letter was discovered by Ivan Tsenov and published in the newspaper Press, issue 201 (552 ) on July 26, 2013, with the consent of Dimitar Bochev).
It is evident that in an environment when one’s have more resources (as is the case with Markov in London), the artist can be unsatisfied, but unlike his colleague working in financially poor place, he can at least pay the bills. If you choose to self-finance your new exhibition or a book instead of buying a new car, then you are ADDICTED. The next step is that you might not be able to buy food because the sale of art that you have created is impossible.
It is clear that in an economically poor country there are few connoisseurs of works of art and patrons who aim to widen the boundaries of the concept of art. So the desire to create can kill you slowly and painfully.

2. Understanding the problem

Art addiction is characterized by an inability to refrain from implementation of creative ideas and passion for presenting the works to the public. The fact is that most artists working in various fields of art identify their old works as insufficient in quality and the results of their public presentation as a minimum. These are the first symptoms of the disease - high aesthetic criteria, need of author’s attitude, growing ambitions towards the cultural scene. The symptoms described lead to intense discussions, because of the desire to assert a personal perspective and disagreement with mediocrity. On the other hand the desire to achieve a higher quality of work leads to increased investment, an effect that may be detrimental to the financial position of the artist.

3. The decision

To avoid this I suggest you work with the materials at hand, by remodeling the minor objects. Thus the pointless playing with the sugar package and the plastic spoon, unnecessary waste of your morning coffee will suppress your creative impulse. The surrounding urban environment offers endless options for transformation of objects and situations, such as public transport ticket, the ashtray on the table, the soft drink sipper and more.

Success or failure!

Examples - see photos