Kamen Stoyanov, Formation of Shadows, Part I: Tbilisi, 2018. Video still

Kamen Stoyanov, Formation of Shadows, Part II Gori, 2019. Video still

Kamen Stoyanov, Formation of Shadows, Part III Zemo Nikozi, 2019. Video still

Kamen Stoyanov, Formation of Shadows, Part III Zemo Nikozi, 2019. Video still

Formation of Shadows, Part I: Tbilisi

2018. Short film, 18′

Formation of Shadows, Part II Gori

2018. Short film, 15′ 30″

Formation of Shadows, Part III Zemo Nikozi

2018. Short film, 25′

The film Formation of Shadows deals with a minimal and old theatrical practice - the shadow play. The shadow play and its representational second reality has been well known since ancient times and subject of investigation in Plato's Cave in his work Republic. The practices of shadow plays have been developed and changed since then, but what still remains the same is its essentially “economical” way of production: one needs only a dark room, a source of light, objects of figures and a screen on which the shadows of those figures express feelings and tell stories. The shadows look like a figure we know from the real life, the life of the outside.

This simple way of production and expression brought the Georgian theatre and film director Gela Kandelaki to the idea to create a theatre play by reducing it further and bringing it back to Plato's description - using only bodies, in Kandelaki's reduction using only the hands of the performers.

There are no figures to be produced and no special equipment needed. The idea was born as a low cost possibility for expression in Soviet Georgia. It resisted not only in its materiality, but survived also because of its independent structure. It was not recognized during the Soviet time and the first big performance happened in 1990 in Paris. The shadow can be called shadow of resistance or resistance in the shadow. After the initial group of performers dissolved in the nineties, it was reestablished again in 2002 under the name Budrugana Gagra. It was built up mainly with people who fled from Abchasia. It was a form of expression, they wanted to practice. Its very minimal way of production makes visible its richness in the context and meanings when one looks at it closely. This is what Formation of Shadows investigates.

The film consists of three parts, respectively the three locations in which the cinematic action is happening: Tbilisi, Gori and Zemo Nikozi. In the first part, Tbilisi, we meet Gela Kandelaki in the workshop space of Budrugana Gagra. He tells us the story of his invention from the 1980s until today. We witness a rehearsal of the shadow play group and interviews with group members from the occupied territories Abchasia and South Osetia.

The second part, Gori, deals with the ideological legacy in the hometown of Stalin (Gori) and how this legacy clashes with the new orientation of Georgia. Things there become more controversial after the military conflict with Russia in 2008. The filmmaker visits the city and looks closely at the Museum of Stalin. The museum is the main tourist attraction and the reason why tourists on their way through Georgia pass through and stay in Gori. In this part of the film, Stoyanov searches and manages to find the dismantled figure of Stalin in a yard outside of the town.

The third part of the film brings us to the village of Zemo Nikozi. It is located on the demarcation line with South Ossetia, just three kilometres from Zhinvali, the main town of South Ossetia. The village was heavily damaged during the five-day war in 2008. An art school was established there immediately after the conflict. Here, among other disciplines children can learn and practice the shadow play Budrugana Gagra. Each September an animation festival takes part there. The film shows its anniversary in 2018, ten yers after the war.

The film project Formation of Shadows seeks answers to the question of what is hidden and can be discovered in the play of the shadows. What is the shadow and who makes it?


Kamen Stoyanov, born in 1977 in Rousse, Bulgaria.

He studied from 1996 to 2003 at the National Academy for Fine Arts in Sofia and from 2000 to 2005 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He now lives and works in Vienna.

Over the past years, his films, videos, actions, installations, photographic works and performances have been shown in numerous festivals and exhibitions.

In his multimedia art works he investigates urban/suburban spaces and their relation to cultural and institutional space. The concepts of movement and self-empowerment are central to his approach. He is the recipient of numerous prizes and grants, among them the Otto Mauer Preis 2011, The Sovereign European Art Prize 2011, Kunstpreis Europas Zukunft, Galerie fuer Zeitgenoessische Kunst Leipzig, 2008, Preis der Stadt Wien 2007, der Preis der Akademie 2005 and others.