Opening, Friday, 16th September, 5.30 p.m.
Premier, Friday, 16th September, 7.30 p.m. in the Ballroom, Palace, 1 “Knyaz Alexander I” square.
The prestigious Palace venue of the National Palace of Bulgaria, Sofia will open Torture by American artist Andres Serrano. Notorious for the artwork Piss Christ (1987), a central focus of the culture wars in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Serrano continues to foreground uncomfortable subject matter. Presented in his largest scaled photographs, akin to Renaissance masterpieces, the exhibition Torture comprises twenty works from a monumental body of work that elucidates the decay at the heart of society.
Torture captures the empty spaces of interrogation rooms, immigration detention centres and concentration camps, alongside historical torture devices from prominent museum collections and replica devices used as tourist attractions. Serrano photographed preeminent Whistle-blowers on torture and the victims, who generously offered their testimonies. For just over a month, in the industrial town of Maubourguet, southwestern France, Serrano assumed the role of the torturer. Using The Foundry as his black site, he photographed more than 40 volunteers in improvised positions with devices produced on-site by local residents. Both physical and mental techniques were utilised with the participation of his subjects, under the guidance of a retired Commando from the French Special Forces.
“With this work I visualize the full spectrum of torture…In doing this, I assumed the roles of both the artist and the torturer. As the artist, I show the audience what I see. As the torturer, I have to think like a torturer and assume control. It’s easy to torture people when you have power over them.” Andres Serrano.
Produced in 2015 by a/political, the series was initiated the week the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture was released. As the US continued to stall the release of thousands of photographs showing U.S. military personnel torturing detainees, Andres Serrano began to visualise the reality the government was fighting to conceal.
The series has been presented as solo exhibitions at Collection Lambert, France; VOID, Northern Ireland; Station Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston and Stills Centre of Photography, Scotland.
Masters of Photography is part of the Calendar of Cultural Events of Sofia Municipality for 2022 and is implemented by the MUSIZ Foundation in partnership with the National Gallery, with the assistance of Granda Hotel Sofia, and with the financial support of Lachezar Tsotsorkov Foundation and UniCredit Bulbank.
Andres Serrano was born in 1950 in New York City. He attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School from 1967 to 1969, where he studied painting and sculpture. Andres Serrano’s name, along with Robert Mapplethorpe’s, was at the crossroads of the 1989 Cultural Wars when Serrano’s photograph, Piss Christ, became the subject of a national debate on freedom of artistic expression and the public funding of controversial art. Serrano works primarily with photography, formally addressing universal themes of death, religion, sex and bodily fluids. Throughout his confrontational and challenging work, Serrano unpicks the hypocrisies and highlights similarities within religious, political and social constructs. On 6th January 2022, Serrano presented Insurrection in Washington D.C., his first feature film.
a/political explores radical knowledge through the principle of Cultural Terror. Working with artists and agitators, the collective platforms voices that undermine the dominant narratives of our time. a/political functions through interventions, commissions, and a collection of modern and contemporary art, featuring politically engaged artists such as John Heartfield, Nancy Spero, Gustav Metzger and Cassils alongside representations of the a/political projects. Previous projects include Santiago Sierra, Black Flag, 2015; Democracia, Order, 2018; Andres Serrano, The Game, 2019 and Laibach, Alamut, forthcoming.
The Foundry, discovered and rehabilitated by Andrei Molodkin, is an experimental space for the materialization of ideas outside the mainstream system. Located in Maubourguet, west of Toulouse, it is situated 50 kilometres from the Pyrenees mountain range and covers an area of over 4,500 m2. The Foundry has been the site for the realization of international projects that include Erik Bulatov, FORWARD (Tate Modern, UK), Andres Serrano, Torture (Collection Lambert, France, VOID, Northern Ireland, Stills, Scotland and Station Museum of Contemporary Art, USA) and Petr Davydtchenko, Millennium Worm (Palazzo Lucarini, Italy and BPS22, Belgium). Installing representations of the projects on site long-term, and being the site for performances, most recently by Laibach, The Foundry is an alternative Museum concept that reflects the global political landscape.
© Andres Serrano, “Fatima,” captured and tortured in Sudan, 2015
© Andres Serrano, Bridle of Skold IV, 2015
© Andres Serrano, Untitled X – Triptych, 2015
© Andres Serrano, Untitled XIII, 2015
© Andres Serrano, portrait. Photography: Irina Movmiga