Nora Goleshevska

Fragments of the Museum: Reflections on an Aspect of Ivan Moudov’s Works

Fragments of the Museum: Reflections on an Aspect of Ivan Moudov’s Works
title: Fragments of the Museum: Reflections on an Aspect of Ivan Moudov’s Works
year: 2005
place: Sofia
publisher: Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia
ISBN/ISSN: 3-86588-237-4
language: english
author(s): Nora Goleshevska
source: Visual Seminar. Resident Fellows Program 4: The City as a Museum, 2005, Sofia: Institute of Contemporary Art - Sofia, ISBN: 3-86588-237-4

“Bulgaria was the last state on the Balkans and in Europe that did not have a museum of contemporary art. With its establishment we become part of the large European family.

The opening of MUSIZ was made possible thanks to the Ministry of transport which provided the building and the Ministry of culture and tourism which financed the project”.1

In the spring of 2005 there was an action by Ivan Moudov at Poduyane railway station with the provocative title MUSIZ which stands for the Bulgarian abbreviation of ‘museum of contemporary art’. Within the framework of the event two opposing categories came to the foreground and perhaps challenged each other – that of the museum and that of the action. Moreover, the event, which was designed, organized and promoted by Ivo Moudov, caused an obvious clash of value systems and outlooks on the world. It is the multifunctionality of this particular work by Moudov which is the reason why the author of this text wishes to reflect on this work rather than put the text under the “favourite artist” rubric.

Poduyane railway station. About a hundred years ago Wittgenstein said that the railway station remains the only place for philosophizing in contemporary world because it is the space where one is neither in the comfort of oneself, nor is one yet at the place one has departed for. In brief, the railway station is the place which allows one to rid oneself of prejudices and to find courage to use one’s own intellect. It can be assumed that Poduyane railway station is such a “nowhere” in the field of contemporary art in Bulgaria. In Moudov’s action it was in one sense not at home, it was in an alien space (the real railway station), and in another sense this nowhere was not yet where it was heading for (in its museum). As part of Moudov’s argumentative structure. Thus the railway station emerges as the appropriate space for asking questions such as “What is art?” and “What is contemporary Bulgarian art?”

The action. It is precisely because Moudov’s work is an action that it requires from the audience a behavior that would suit a game and it should be read as social in a special way since in the work it is possible to find a wish to reproduce a specific type of social action and change of the current modes of communication. Ivan Moudov’s work is a peculiarly reflexive remark which has both the element of game and clear political connotations. Its objective is to make the lack of a museum of contemporary art in Bulgaria socially visible, and together with this to suggest possible places for such an institution. Poduyane railway station is considered to be such a suitable place since it has the symbolic significance of the first stop of the Orient express in Bulgaria and together with this it is one of the points from the Orient to Europe (or from Europe to the Orient). In Moudov’s logic a similar space is a suitable location for the museum of contemporary art.

Perception. It is because it is an action – and being an action makes it a social act – that Moudov’s action is free for all sorts of social responses and interpretations. In other words, the “Museum of contemporary art” action functions in an urban space of real social and cultural relationships, and of specific attitudes and cognitive layers. To put it simply, Moudov’s action raised and visualized the question whether the society to which the museum of contemporary art would turn, has turned toward it.

Outside the circle of fans and experts, the provocation was attended by the ambassadors of Belgium, India and Britain, representatives of different non-governmental organizations; in short, like-minded people. Together with this, however, the media coverage of the action was marked by ethical gesture. In other words, it is easy to call Ivan Moudov a proved thief, a hooligan ushering chaos in the social system and in the final analysis (with this particular work) a liar. In this sense it is very easy to interpret his works only on the level of categories such as beautiful, native, good, truthful and sound (or their opposites). The present text, however, wishes to attempt to remove some of the shame from the name of the young artist by refuting the breach of God’s commandment “Thou shall not lie!”. To put it simply and clearly, it is not lying that is at the core of this particular action by Moudov, but theft once more, one of the basic categories of his works. The point at issue is that Ivan Moudov can be perceived as a visual artist with a special preference for, and a reflexive attitude toward, the contemporary state of the museum as an institution. Features that make his works recognizable are the “theft” of parts of museum items and exhibiting them2, and in the case which is being discussed there is the “theft” of the idea about a museum of contemporary art from the state, the municipality, the public authorities. In this case the theft can be considered to be parodied since the modern museum, as part of an imperialist and universalist project, emerges precisely through the act of theft3. This is the time which Alexander Kyosev will call “The big theft”. It is very considerable and yet focused and coordinated by a strong political system which is why it is buttressed by a powerful legitimation strategy. But this large-scale, focused and co-ordinated “theft” is remote to the particular socio-cultural situation. In this case the matter at issue is rather the theft from an owner who is not aware of what they own.

Without imputing to Ivan Moudov a careful reading of a text by Jacques Derrida, I do not exclude this reading. The text is “La parole soufflée” and it is the place where Derrida, in the framework of his project about the deconstruction of Western metaphysics, carries out research and declares a wish to destroy the very structure of theft. What happens within the framework of this deconstruction is in this case a marginal problem.

The important thing is the following: the act of theft, Derrida writes, emerges simultaneously as a cue, as deprivation, as theft. Of something only if it has already acquired the significance of value4. It is in this mode of thinking that Moudov’s two works are close but also different in principle. Their difference is defined by the degree or lack of their value. If in the case of Fragments it is somehow self-evident that in the framework of their own context the fragments of contemporary art works are valuable (they are considered to be valuable even in our geographical region), then in the case of MUSIZ the very possibility for theft is questioned.

It could be assumed that the works of Moudov that are referred to are in a peculiar sense “museum-like” since they recreate the act that generates the museum – theft, and together with this they carry the idea of archiving, historicizing, cataloguing. On the one hand the suitcase in which the “museum items” are to be found according to precisely defined criteria (which the state does not have), and on the other a historically important building perceived as a Museum (archiving, historicizing, cataloguing). If this logic is continued, the following summary can be made: the suitcase(s) from Fragments are a minimalist version of Poduyane railway station. Together they show in a metaphorical way the state of contemporary art in Bulgaria in its own context. To put it simply: it is no longer “with its own self” (with a clear and pre-given self), nor is it at its destination – in its own museum. To put it more simply, it is homeless, transitional, travelling. It is precisely because theft is the social, intellectual and political act at the basis of the modern museum that Moudov’s action, by replicating the pattern of the emergence of the museum, attempts to change the available modes of communication, which have already been discussed. As a social act Moudov’s work seeks if not to solve then at least to place on the agenda the poignant problem of the lack of a museum of contemporary art in Bulgaria. In this mode of reading the lack seems to wish to be reflexive, contemplative in a particularly “classical” way.

It follows logically that an artist like Ivan Moudov, who began to develop as a visual artist in the last years of the twentieth century, should deal with the above problems since it is precisely the institution of art – today and at a relevant geographical location – that is in the process of being constituted (for understandable reasons). The lack of a museum of con- temporary art is one of the steps that have to be overcome in the process of constituting contemporary art. The peculiar reflexivity of the museum subject matter with Moudov should be understood through the parameters that the hinted context sets and together with this adds an almost necessary sense of contextuality and historicity...


  1. “Contemporary art with a home of its own”, in “I, the woman”, 26 April 2005.
  2. Fragments is a work because of which Moudov visits museums and galleries of contemporary art around the world and ultimately steals parts of the works which are exhibited there. The function which is associated with Fragments is the acquisition of history in both the empirical and the metaphysical sense of the word. For further redaing on the issue see Dessislava Dimova, Culture (Kultura) newspaper, issue 4/4 February 2004.
  3. Kyossev, Al., “The Museum: the Four Tropes of Theft”. In: Culture (Kultura) newspaper,
  4. Derrida, J., “Подсказаната дума”. In: “Писмеността и различието”, p. 261, Наука и изкуство: Sofia, 1998
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