The Venice Questionnaire: Rada Boukova and Lazar Lyutakov

The artists on representing Bulgaria, dual nationalities and sustainability

Rada Boukova, How We Live, 2019, extruded polystyrene, PVC, metal, variable dimensions. © and courtesy the artist Lazar Lyutakov, Way of the Sand, 2019, handmade glass cups, extruded Plexiglas, variable dimensions. © and courtesy the artist

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2019 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the lead-up to the Venice Biennale opening on 11 May.

Rada Boukova and Lazar Lyutakov are representing Bulgaria. The pavilion is located at Palazzo Giustinian Lolin, San Marco 2893.

What can you tell us about your exhibition plans for Venice?

Rada Boukova & Lazar Lyutakov Each of us develops a new work for the space of Palazzo Giustinian Lolin. The works are conceived on a modular basis and their actual dimensions, configurations and layout will be decided on the spot.

How We Live is a visual dialogue of two individual works, which reflect on the concept of centuries-old craft traditions juxtaposed with large-scale industrial production of standard and accessible commodities that intrude into the contemporary living environment. Working with synthetic industrial materials such as acrylate and polystyrene in the installation, we aim to address the oscillation between the sustainability and the quick, cheap but futureless solution. How We Live treats the constant renegotiation of the hierarchy of values such as productivity, quality and utility in today’s world.

What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or is it problematic?

LL I do not feel solely a Bulgarian artist. We both live abroad and are part of the cultural life outside Bulgaria. I prefer not to consider the opportunity to represent the country as an honour, but rather as an opportunity and responsibility.

Is your work transnational or rooted in the local?

RB Having a double identity (born in Bulgaria, living in Paris), by definition I cannot think about things in local dimensions. This duality has constructed me in a way that I always have more than one point of view and more than one language.

How does having a pavilion in Venice make a difference to the art scene in your home country?

RB This is a stimulating fact, and it is very important opportunity for artists to have a platform at such an important international forum. The participation also raises the question of the support of the Bulgarian state to the contemporary Bulgarian artists internationally. Until recently, such support was completely absent.

If you’ve been to the biennale before, what’s your earliest or best memory from Venice?

LL I travelled for the first time to Venice and the Biennale in 2001. Then the city filled me with admiration and perplexity, and that’s what my brightest memories are connected with.

You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?

LL The exhibition in the central pavilion, as well as the exhibitions of my friends Kris Lemsalu at the Estonian pavilion and Alban Muja at the Kosovo pavilion.

RB I would use every opportunity to see as much as possible from the exhibitions. I am interested both in names that are well-known to me, as well as completely unknown artists: you never know where you will find something to impress you. I have a special curiosity about the curatorial project of the Biennale because the topic is very rich and our project How We Live communicates directly with it.

The Venice Biennale runs 11 May – 24 November