Kalin Serapionov. What Feelings? (Excerpts), 2022-2024, video still

Kalin Serapionov. What Feelings? (Excerpts), 2022-2024, video still

This exhibition is neither about summer nor about dogs. It aims to examine the complex and often confusing relationship between language and meaning, to explore the complexities and nuances of verbal expression, and to observe the profound influence of linguistic structures on human thought. The title is no accident, for it is the impossibility of absolute translation that most clearly highlights the inability of language to convey the entirety of human experience.

In English, “dog days” refer to the year’s hottest days. Contrary to our initial intuition, the expression is not a metaphorical reference to the lethargy, discomfort, and stagnation that often accompany the summer heat. Instead, it derives from the ancient knowledge of the cosmos. In ancient times, people believed that Sirius, also called the Dog Star, was responsible for the scorching heat. But here’s the thing: both the metaphor and the story hidden in this idiom could easily be erased if we allow ourselves to use the Bulgarian translation – “горещници”. The phrase “dog days” does not exist in Bulgarian, but instead, we have “кучи студ” (unbearable cold) and “кучешки живот” (miserable life). Many “dogs” are found throughout the languages, all laden with different qualities, characteristics, and symbolisms. Can two completely identical dogs exist at all? Even behind the simple word “dog” there are so many images that, although its literal meaning is supposedly common and universally known, everyone probably imagines an entirely different animal when they hear this four-letter combination. If a simple noun allows such freedom of individual interpretation, what is left for more abstract concepts such as good and evil, freedom, love, pain…

Considering language as a code or a system of sounds and signs, we might ask to what extent the continuous process of encoding and decoding information that accompanies communication condemns us to misunderstandings. How might individual interpretation contribute to the incomprehension and the distortion of meaning?

We live in a time of hyper-communication and hyper-connectedness, and we feel increasingly lonely and alienated. We are constantly surrounded by visual and linguistic stimuli – messages, pictures, emoticons, advertisements, and all sorts of other notifications whose impact we seem unable to comprehend fully. However, this information leaves lasting, intrusive traces in our minds and subconscious. The deliberate misuse of words is increasingly becoming a tool for polarization and manipulation, propaganda and division.

On the other hand, the large-scale processes of globalization are increasingly contributing to the fact that a large part of the young generations, seeking better education, stability, or economic prospects, are confronted at an early age with the learning of foreign languages, with being in a foreign language context, with the adaptation to other cultural environments. While this inevitably has its benefits, living in constant translation between several languages and between several cultures is likely to have lasting effects on the individual that we may increasingly need to discuss in the future.

These societal processes make it urgent to reconsider our attitude toward language and stop being careless about its use.

DOG DAYS aims to explore the cognitive connections and interactions between language and image, between naming and the named, to provoke more profound reflection on how words shape our perceptions. How are our thoughts formed – through words or images? In what ways is language responsible for organizing and structuring our ideas and creating a sense of individuality and environment? And what is the role of contemporary art in the search for answers to these questions? Is there a “language of art”? Is it possible for art to contribute to making sense of the role of language in everyday life and its shortcomings, to offer a ‘new,’ slightly less ‘biased’ and ‘fallible’ language?

Seven artists were invited to respond to these urgent questions and to create new works specifically for the spaces of Structura Gallery. Each work in the exhibition aims to challenge the viewer to consider the limitations and possibilities of language. It is an invitation to contemplate the power of words, the complex relationships between language and image, and how language shapes and distorts our reality. By exposing the multi-layered nature of words and their meanings, the exhibition encourages visitors to critically analyze the role of language in shaping public opinion and creating ideological rifts in contemporary society.

The project is realized with the financial support of the National Culture Fund.