22 Sep 2023

All the Muses are Playing Together at NATFA

Conference "The Image in the Text, the Text in the Image" marks three 75th anniversaries – of NATFA and two institutes of the BAS    
BTA :: All the muses are playing together at NATFA (bta.bg)

All the muses are playing together. This is what Prof. Joanna Spassova-Dikova, director of the Institute of Art Studies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, told BTA on the occasion of an interdisciplinary conference on "The Image in the Text, the Text in the Image." The event, held at the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts "Krastyo Sarafov" (NATFA), was dedicated to three 75th anniversaries – of the NATFA and two institutes at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) – the Institute of Literature at the BAS and the Institute of Art Studies at the BAS.

"Many of us are dealing with this boundary area – between the word and the image. And since each of the three institutions is supposed to have an exact field of work either with the word or with the image, we want to show that this is not quite the case, and that in this border area we can together present some interdisciplinary research. So, the real purpose of this conference, beyond the anniversary occasion, is to show the level of development of interdisciplinary research in Bulgaria, Corr. Member Prof. Miroslav Dachev said before the BTA. He is Head of the Department of World Culture at the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts (Faculty of Screen Arts).

According to him, there are at least two departments at NATFA that are engaged in intensive research. And many of them work precisely in this border area – between word and image, and not only in terms of the image, as expected, Prof. Dachev added.


"The idea came from the Department of World Culture, which is interdisciplinary; we wanted to do something like that. And in order for the conference to be serious and on a high level, we invited the other institutions. These are our friends and colleagues with whom we have always worked – precisely to do something more serious together," Prof. Svetlana Stoycheva-Andersson, PhD,  from the Department of World Culture told BTA.

According to her, such conferences gathering people from different humanitarian departments and people who are engaged in different arts are very rare.

"The idea and the very theme of the conference is to gather together these arts, cross them and see how the languages intersect. How one language can express the other language, how these languages of the arts can be translated and how such phenomena as writer-artist, artist-writer or writer who writes cinematically, another who writes musically and so on are born. These boundaries of the arts are very important to us," Prof. Stoycheva said.

"We support this event because we are colleagues, because we feel empathy for each other, because there are many things that connect us, because I think science really needs to develop interdisciplinary. Different perspectives should be sought to create dialogue between different subjects and fields – even more so in our time, which is extremely difficult, complex and endlessly challenging," Assoc. Prof. Maurice Fadel from New Bulgarian University told the BTA.


"Such conferences are extremely important precisely in our time – a time that really puts us in a situation of a catastrophe and forces us to understand this catastrophe. One of the real salvations for humanity is the occupation with thinking, the occupation with culture, which has always been extremely and truly saving in periods of catastrophes," Assoc. Prof. Fadel thinks. 

"The topics in the conference are extremely diverse. That's why our panels have no special names. Even the topic itself is extremely short in order to open up the possibilities as much as possible. There are people who will deal with the text in theatre, in cinema, in fine arts, in dance," Prof. Stoycheva added. 


"Neither NATFA will enter science for the first time, nor science will enter NATFA for the first time. We are colleagues who represent the humanities in Bulgaria," Assoc. Prof. Penka Vatova, Director of the Institute of Literature at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences told BTA.

"Although NATFA is an educational institution, a higher school, and we are a research institute, the interaction between us has never ceased. The fact that our anniversaries intersect is part of our large humanitarian community in Bulgaria," she added. An interdisciplinary conference seeks to show the subject of our research and how the images of theatrical, film, fine arts, and literature intersect, Prof. Vatova also said. 


The dominance of the image in our culture also prompted us to look for such a common theme, Prof. Svetlana Stoycheva said. 

According to her, there is no danger to text. "Text can express absolutely anything. That is a fact. It can express, if you like, gastronomic sensations, not just the arts. So there is no such danger, but it is good to see how these languages are really translated. What can be said, for example, with a verbal text and what cannot. Conversely, what more can be said with an iconic text and what cannot. And why, after all, creators reach for one language or another. There are many who find one language insufficient and start with another. There are so many examples," Prof. Stoycheva also said. 


Nearly 50 reports were presented during the conference, accompanied by discussions.

Prof. Miroslav Dachev presented his research on the topic of the interference between the word and the image, based on "The Name of the Rose" – the novel by Umberto Eco, the film by Jean Jacques Annaud and the series directed by Giacomo Batiato. "I demonstrate the start from the novel and the arrival to the series and how the novel continues to live in the images, and how the images talk to the word at every moment. I sound attractive to a certain extent, but in fact this is a well-trodden path in science, at least for four decades. We are talking about figures such as palimpsest and rhizome. Moreover, Eco is always presents himself through the labyrinth or rhizome, and Jean-Jacques Annaud himself calls his film a palimpsest of the novel, so with these figures you get a game. I see that other reports show similar games," the scientist commented.

The report by Prof. Svetlana Stoycheva is about the metaphysical landscape of Nikolay Raynov. "It is no coincidence that I have chosen an author who is as much a writer as an artist and an art critic. I try to explain how one helps the other – in his paintings, in what he writes, what he explores, how this affects his poetics, which at the beginning is one type, and then, towards the end of his creative path, changes," she said.  

Assoc. Prof. Penka Vatova's report is dedicated to the work of Boris  Shivachev (1902–1932) – a Bulgarian writer from the period between the two world wars, and to some cinematic principles in the image in one of his works.

Assoc. Prof. Maurice Fadel's report is on two categories – strength and representation in the language based on the poetry of Peyo Yavorov. "In particular, I present two elements of this poetry – the self and the soul, and I will try to analyse poetry in this perspective of Yavorov," he added. 

Prof. Joanna Spassova is involved in theatrical art, cinema art. "But the actor has always been at the centre of my research. I graduated from the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts, I was an actress, and then I graduated in theatre studies. My report is related to monological forms of acting and is called "The actor alone on stage," she said.

"The beginning of the 21st century saw a tremendous boom in monological forms, as well as during the pandemic, when actors were really in survival mode and were left alone on stage, with smaller audiences, and this created great psychological stress for them. But the thing I'm focusing on bloomed at the same time, and it's still blooming now. I also discuss stand-up comedians," Prof. Spassova said. According to her, a scientist should study everything, including kitsch, including chalga. "Naturally, he or she has to study them, to know them. The truth is that when people need something, they maintain it. They are something like a reduction valve," Prof. Spassova said.