Background Action is a spatial narrative that reconstructs a journey into film making in a globalized mode of production.
It was a three-month long journey made by 300 Bulgarian men, hired by Warner Bros as “specialized extras” for the filming of the battle-scenes of the motion picture Troy (2004).
The Bulgarians were hired to represent ancient warriors from the Greek and Trojan tribes in the epic war, described by Homer in Iliad, that was to be brought to life again by the movie Troy.
And as in Iliad, where the entire Book 2 is dedicated to the narration of the alias of the Achaean and Trojan armies hired from all the lands in Homeric world, the 300 Bulgarians were hired along with 1000 Mexican extras to stage that war. The only difference is that they had to battle both sides depending on the filming plans of the day.
Most of them made the journey with the idea to see how movies are made, to see Mexico and to meet the great movie-stars. Some of them hoped they might be picked up and developed in the movie-business.
In fact the trip to the movie-world turned out to be a constant shift of the way they perceived their roles. The extras were totally confused by the technique of film-making. They saw only a few square kilometers of Mexico itself, the part of the desert where the film-set was built and where they spent 12 to 14 hours a day under the scorching sun. The stars were severely guarded, if they were ever there.
What was left as a memorable experience were the battle scenes that went completely out of control and became very real, with injuries and real blood on top of the emulated make-up, running horses and showers of arrows.
So that by the end of the filming, Warner Brother’s simplistic vision whereby the extras could be misrecognised as Greeks and Trojans became reality, and they became that ancient warriors in order to survive the actual fights.
Just like the warriors from Iliad they brought home their trophies and ransoms in the shape of photos and video recordings. These images stand on a shaking ground between touristic photographs, and documents of hyper-real events and environments. Epic scenes, coming from an ancient world, recreated by perfectly designed sets and costumes are suddenly ruptured by objects, gestures and practices from the everyday world.
The combination of these trophy-images with the personal stories of the extras, maps of the production activities and metaphoric figures creates a narrative that questions self-identification in a war staged by globalized film industry that far exceeds the boundaries of the motion picture.
Project by: Krassimir Terziev
D.P.: Svetla Neykova; Kalin Serapionov
Sound Recording: Ivaylo Stefanov / Petar Yosifov
Technician: Vassil Stefanov
English Translation: Lyubov Kostova
Alexander Dafinov; Alexander Peltekov; Alexander Yordanov; Alexey Cvetanov; Alexi Iovchev; Borislav Limonov; Danail Toshev; Emil Penkov; Galin Petrov; Georgi Telalov; Ivan Vassilev; Ilyan Zarev; Krassimir Mateev; Lyubomir Naidenov; Marin Georgiev; Nikolay Zlatanov; Rosen Ivanov; Rosen Stanimirov; Sashko Kirilov; Svetlin Ivanov; Svetoslav Slavchev; Slavomir Simeonov; Stoilko Popovski; Valentin Paskalev; Valeri Dimentiev; Valeri
Milanov; Vassil Rangelov; Vesselin Takev; Vesselin Todorov; Yavor Michailov
A project supported by Akademie Schloss Solitude during a fellowship of the author in 2006.
The exhibition Dvijenie v zadnia plan (Background Action), 10.07 - 31.07.2007 at Sofia Art Gallery was realised with the support of Goethe-institut Bulgaria, Akademie Schloss Solitude and Sofia Art Gallery.
The exhibition Background Action, 23.02 - 08.05. 2008 at Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart was a joint exhibition by Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart and Akademie Schloss Solitude. Supported by Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst des Landes Baden-Württemberg Kulturamt der Stadt Stuttgart
Special thanks to:
Peter Anders, Rene Beekman, Iara Boubnova, Svetlin Ivanov, Jean-Baptiste Joly, Angela Matyssek, Daniela Radeva, Jelko Terziev, Kalina Terzieva, Maria Vassileva.
All videos in the exhibiton: DV, transferred on DVD.
All photographs printed on DURST THETA/ Fujiflex Professional Crystal Archive by Printo BG, Sofia
In this project amateur photos and video footage made by the Bulgarian extras of
the movie ”Troy” are used with the previous agreement with the authors.
SPACE #1 (mapping the boundaries of a film production).
Double slide projection, dimensions 2x150/225 cm.
1. on the left: 1 static slide revealing the map of the movie Troy.
2. on the right: 35 slides in a carousel, shaping the context in which the film production was situated,
and the context in which the Bulgarian extras were placed in their trip to the film world.
SPACE #2. 9 channel video installation
9 A/V tracks/ 9 TV monitors/ 9 DVD players/ 9 Loudspeakers
18 min. total running time
The 9 channel video installation follows the personal stories told by the extras two years after the filming
of Troy. They try to reply to the question “Why were Bulgarians chosen to play the role of Greeks?”. Each
of them recalls the trip to Mexico, the life and work conditions in Cabo san Lucas, the experiences on the
set and during the battle scenes shots, the aftermath of the battles, and finally finding themselves in the
released film “Troy”.
The personal stories are intercut between the monitors in order to give the different perspectives of the
spoken subject a physical sense, and make the reception of the stories a bodily experience.
An unstable walk in memories, reconstructing events seen from different individual perspectives, that
sometimes mutually deny the real existence of curtain events.
SPACE #3. photo/video installation
(a) Photo-panorama 12x72/63 cm (overall 294/193 cm), Camcorder, tripod,
(b) Small size photos collection, 54 colour photographs: 4 x 24/30cm; 5 x 20/30 cm; 5 x 18/24 cm; 18 x
13/18 cm; 22 x 10/15 cm, framed in glass. Durst Theta 76 print on Kodak Supra Endura E 280gsm
Collection of photographs taken by the extras on the film set, reveals the states of hyperreality in which
they lived for the three month working period.
a) A large format photo-panorama revealing the working conditions on the set, is juxtaposed with a VHS
video camera, mounted on the opposite wall. The camera is placed at eye level. It is set on a VTR mode
and plays a short looped video sequence - a shot of Brad Pitt, made from a large distance on the set. The
shaky camera and pixelated image which are the result of a poor original VHS quality and the large distance
reveal an image in which we are never sure whether we are looking at Brad Pitt or any other person
in the role of a champion.
b) A collection of photos taken on the filmset, that were contributed by the extras.
Custom built room 150/200/200 cm.
One wall open (150/200 cm.), two opposite walls covered by mirror-reflexive foil (200/200 cm.), one wall - back side projection screen (150/200 cm.)
projection: 4/3 portrait, duration: 02:04.68
DVD player, Video Projector (turned aside – portrait format).
One of the walls of the room is open, the opposite wall is a screen
with a video back-projection. The remaining two walls on the left and right of the projection are covered
by reflecting surface, multiplying the video image in the centre into an endless horizontal pattern.
The projection is a short looped video sequence with a wide exterior frontal shot of a single human figure
in a costume of an ancient warrior, approaching the camera from the deepest central part of the scene
until disappearing from the left or right side of the screen. The two mirror walls multiply this single body
into an army of warriors.
It is the final space reached by the visitor that closes the spatial/temporal narrative of the show.