Irmena Chichikova: Culture is our lifesaver, friend and therapeutist


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Platform for Arts, Institute of Art Studies, BAS, did a series of exclusive interviews with this country’s leading artists and art historians about how does it feel to make art amid the coronavirus pandemic, about its impact on culture and long-term implications.

Irmena Chichikova is a Bulgarian theatre/film actress. She graduated from NATFA (2008) under the tutelage of Profs. Margarita Mladenova and Ivan Dobchev. She played in such theatrical productions as The Art of Sweeping Things Under the Rug, Door on the Left as You Leave the Elevator, Duck Hunting, Nirvana, etc. Filmography: The Glass River, I Am You, Viktoria, Omnipresent, Touch Me Not (Golden Bear, 2018); lead roles in Letters from Antarctica (2019), A Dose of Happiness (2019).

Q: What are you doing now during self-isolation at home? Are you making the best use of your time?

A: I am trying to keep my morale high, rather than feel dejected, holding on to the emotional sharedness with my dearest and nearest and remembering that we are all in this these days. I find solace in this sense of unity. Paradoxical as it may seem, ‘staying at home’ was a thing I almost had no time for in the last decade and a half. That is why I devote myself to making better use and sense of it. I read, write, watch, study, dream, invent new forms, revert to the old, and struggle for self-development and growth.

Q: At what point of your work were you caught up in the COVID-19 crisis?

A: I had to make several exciting trips to the London premiere of A Dose of Happiness with the crew and cast at a terrific London cinema theatre; a photo session in Milan and in Switzerland together with Hristo Bonin we were invited to play in Ivan Dobchev’s Nirvana . Fortunately, I was invited to be a member of the international juries at the International Film Festivals in Sofia and Cyprus.

Q: How did the pandemic change your everyday life, professional agenda and decisions?

A: It did to some extent. I adapted quickly to the new living standards and opted for coping with the situation as with an opportunity for recycling our life what it was until then. I love my profession and miss every aspect of it very much, but I am aware that nothing should be done at all costs, when people’s lives are at stake. Creative work is a vast universe giving us countless ways to develop it and not let it wither away. In my opinion, a healthy mind and a healthy body is what motivates and makes an artist tick. This is the reason why I believe that we should not lose it or underestimate it. The right time shall come for all undone, postponed, modified projects and they surely will be implemented as well as possible. 

Do you have a room of your own to work in or you find it difficult to isolate yourself, taking care of young children or students?

A: I have the room, the time and the inspiration to work.

Q: What smouldering problematic subjects surfaced as a result of self-isolation and with all activities across Bulgaria and the world cancelled?

A: Culture stands out ever more clearly, more pulsating, more significant to our life, but unfortunately, still neglected. Yet, culture is the first thing we turn to in times like these, culture is our lifesaver, friend and therapeutist. 

Q: Your opinion about the impact on creative and research quests and the long-term implications?

A: Hopefully, an upsurge shall come after the crisis. I believe that everybody will do their best to contribute by what they have happened to know about themselves, their fears, desires, potential and the strength of human soul and the power of collective faith in good.

Q: Where do you expect to get support in the declared state of emergency over Covid-19?

A: From the Ministry of Culture.

Q: What about the therapeutic role of art in the resocialization after the pandemic ends?

A: It will play its role by not becoming extinct, by being afforded the opportunity to thrive again and be a natural social mediator.

Q: Any ideas about how to resume this country’s cultural activities after the end of the pandemic?

A: It is still an open topic to me… What I certainly know is that I’d try and actively participate in cultural activities, doing my best to resume this country’s cultural life.

Irmena Chichikova: Culture is our lifesaver, friend and therapeutist

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