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Three landmark in Plovdiv are changing their look this summer

Plovdiv shines in PURE colors

Artist Christian Bakalov turns the Rowing Base, the Youth Centre and the Brotherly Mound memorial complex into outdoor works of art

Photo: Municipality of Plovdiv

After celebrating International Dance Day by assistant-staging a French choreography in Stara Zagora, Bulgarian artist Christian Bakalov is now in Plovdiv to take a director's role - this time of one of his art projects. Three landmark urban spaces in the city - the Rowing Base, the Youth Centre and the Brotherly Mound Memorial Complex - will be transformed this summer into contemporary art venues as part of his international PURE/Youth project. Three large-scale outdoor installations and two shows will be staged there till the end of September.

Christian Bakalov is internationally acclaimed dancer, choreographer and visual artist who has worked with such names in contemporary dance as Ivo Dimchev, Jan Fabre, and in productions by Robert Wilson, Jérôme Bel, Miet Warlop, Vincent Riebeek and Florentina Holzinger.

He left Bulgaria at the age of 19 to join the Young Ballet of France in Paris. He admits that he is extremely grateful to fate for the fact that for more than 25 years he has always been able to realize all the projects that are close to his heart. For the past seven years, his passion has been the visual arts and his PURE project, which he has realized in cities on several continents.

In the last 18 months alone, Bakalov's colourful, wind-vibrating ribbons have brought a sense of freedom and unity to the people of Turnhout (Belgium), the Saint-Pierre-d'Albigny, France, Hippodrome Park, Sofia, the facade of the French Cultural Institute in Sofia and ReBonkers, Varna. Today they are also interwoven into the atmosphere of the second largest city in Bulgaria - Plovdiv.

The Brotherly Mound Memorial Complex

"I was very young when I left Bulgaria, in 1991, and for years I only returned rarely - for a week or two in summer, and then again around New Year. And to be honest I didn't know Plovdiv at all. Last year I was invited to a performance at the Ancient Theatre, I came and decided to stay a few days. Then I discovered the city and literally fell in love with it. Right away I thought I would do the project here. I talked to representatives of Plovdiv Municipality, submitted the necessary documents and a year later PURE Youth Plovdiv is already a reality," says Christian Bakalov to Radio Bulgaria’s Vesela Krasteva.

As for the interaction between man and the environment, the Bulgarian artist is convinced that it was the chosen places that changed him first, and then was born the desire to intervene in their appearance and to emphasize their architectural value, their history, but with the means of expression of modernity.

The beginning of the transformation of Plovdiv was set this week with the installation of coloured ribbons along the entire length of the Rowing Base.

The official launch of the project will be given on May 17 at The Brotherly Mound Memorial Complex - an "architectural jewel from the late 1970s," in the words of Bakalov himself.  The space has gone through different periods of heyday and oblivion over the last half of a century. From being a must-take a photo spot for newlyweds during Socialism, to a totally vandalized and looted heritage monument at the turn of the century. Over the next three months, PURE PLOVDIV will attempt to change its once political function into a cultural and social one through art and social interactivity between artists and the city's residents.The Brotherly Mound - a digital visualisation of the project of Christian Bakalov.

"This project has the power to visually portray the unity of all people regardless of their religion, culture, colour or political beliefs. We all vibrate in the same way in life, which is personified by the wind. And these colorful bands that I arrange have the ability to kinetically vibrate with the wind and take on a life and flow of their own, which is completely natural, and which even I cannot control. My hope is that one day humanity will similarly vibrate together, despite their differences, to the rhythm of life, of love, of unity, of union. Because that is the only way we can all survive together. The emotion of acceptance is what unites us, because we are in fact all the same," Christian Bakalov told Radio Bulgaria.The Rowing Base

And Plovdiv is the perfect place to embrace the idea of PURE, because it is one of Bulgaria's most multicultural cities, and in 2019 it was European Capital of Culture. Christian Bakalov also notes the incredible chance the Rowing Base has to host the World Rowing Championships for men and women under 23 from 19 to 23 July. The installation will thus also be seen by the thousands of TV viewers around the world. "This is the biggest and largest project I have ever done and I am very happy that it is happening in Bulgaria," the Bulgarian noted with a smile.

PURE at KANAL Centre Pompidou

Photos: Facebook/Plovdiv - European Capital of Culture 2019, Plovdiv Municipality

Video: YouTube/Christian Bakalov

English version: Elizabeth Radkova

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