Maria Nalbantova
Foxtail, 2023
photo by Maria Nalbantova

Foxtail, 2023

solo exhibition
Curator: Dimitar Kenarov
KO-OP in Sofia, Bulgaria 20.04 - 14.05.2023

eternite pipes, 7 meters “foxtail” removed from the water supply near the village of Bolyarovo, Bulgaria, ceramic pipes, thorns, wooden brushes with natural fibers, oil paint, white tiles, pipe cleaning spiral, cotton paper, oil paint
Paintings made in water - 42 x 57 cm;
Sculptures - 130 x 55 x 45 cm, 115 x 100 x 62 cm - main part, varying sizes; 70 x 53 x 110 cm;
Installation - dimensions variable;
Sketchbook page - 15,5 x 21 cm

Photos by Lubov Cheresh

They know she exists. They know she is hidden somewhere out there, buried underground, in the old etherite pipes of the water mains. They know that she is responsible for the dried up spigots, for the thirst, for the unwatered flower beds and, in general, for all the problems of this world.

"The foxtail is to blame for everything," they say. "Nature is a scary thing."

She is real and mythical at the same time, the foxtail. She's like that monster from Loch Ness. Like the dragon that drains the springs. Like the devil's tail.

They know she exists, but unfortunately there is no device to detect her. And so they dig with shovels, with excavators, whatever is available. When they get to the water main, they drill through it, hoping they'll find her inside.

But there's no sign of the foxtail.

Mile by mile, they rip up the earth and then bury it. One week, two weeks, a month, a year. Finding the foxtail is not easy, just as it isn't easy to find the diseases of this world. Why is there no water? Why are the pipes between the primal spring and people empty? Why have the pipes become monsters covered with spikes? Why are the lips cracked and the tongues dry?

Finally, success. She is there, huddled inside the pipe, wrapped around herself for comfort. They utter cries of joy like sailors coming across a new continent.

They approach her, but she neither bites nor wags. They grab her by one end and start pulling. A doubt comes over them. Are they pulling in reality on the devil's tail? And where the hell is the fox itself?

Gradually the foxtail begins to come out of the pipe. One meter, two meters, five, seven.

They take pictures with her. This will be their most important hunting trophy. The pictures are like pictures of water, water pictures. After so much effort and time, the monster has been defeated.

But doubt remains. Is she really a monster, some ask? Aren't we the monsters who do not tolerate intruders in the pipes of life, who always strive after purity, even at the cost of murder? Is the foxtail actually our own tail that we refuse to accept? Isn't the foxtail actually the braid of an angel?
-- Dimitar Kenarov

Channels are connected in networks, they are flowing in and out, in an elemental circulation of emotions and fluctuations. There, somewhere along the channels that the flowing waters carve, appears a monster, of which we know a little, but it is certain that it exists, and without suspecting about it, it affects our lives. We don't immediately find out about it, sometimes it takes a long time, but when the water stops, the search for it begins.

One such “monster” is the so-called “foxtail”. It forms in the old ethernite water pipes that are part of the plumbing systems in most of Bulgaria. It can reach up to 20 meters, which is known from places subjected to a daily water regulation.

The foxtail is part of our lives, no matter how much we don't like it. When something takes hold and starts to grow, how do we recognize and find it? -- Maria Nalbantova