Re-Import, The National Theatre of Nigeria

Proposal for the open call „The Bulgarian Pavillion“ by Art Affairs & Documents Foundation
Ayodele Arigbabu/Constanze Fischbeck/Daniel Kötter/Andreas Müller


Background: 3 buildings – 1 location
In 1968 the Palace of Sports and Culture was built in the Bulgarian coastal town of Varna. Until today it serves as a center for sport and concert events.
In 1977 the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) was held in Lagos, Nigeria. Looking for a representative building that could host this festival, the Nigerian government considered the Palace of Sports and Culture in Varna to be an ideal model
for a cultural landmark, an artistic facility and a national symbol. Therefore and with the help of the money from the oil boom the Bulgarian construction company Technoexportstroy was commissioned to construct the building a second time, this time in Lagos (another coastal town), and significantly larger: the National Theater of Nigeria. Due to maintenance problems the gigantic main hall
of this building remains empty since the early 1990s, leaving a void in the cultural identity of Nigeria.
In 1989 the Mausoleum of communist leader Georgi Dimitrov in bulgarian capital Sofia was demolished by the democratic authorities
by four explosions leaving a void in the political and cultural identity of Bulgaria.

On the occasion of the open call launched by Art Affairs & Documents Foundation in 2011 all three buildings will merge into one architectural structure:
We propose to (re-)construct the Varna Palace of Sports and Culture a third time, this time as a re-import of the National Theater of Nigeria. By erecting this architecural hybrid on the site of former Dimitrov Mausoleum it will fill the void for a cultural space that represents the national and cultural identity of Bulgaria/Nigeria: The National Theater of Nigeria being Bulgarias contribution for the World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, now featuring as Nigerias contribution to the National Pavillion of Bulgaria. Relocating the relocated Palace of Sports and Culture for a relocation of an Art Pavillion as part of the Venice Biennal?!

We seek to elicit from these historic and cultural exchanges between two countries, metaphors with which to provide a Bulgarian pavilion that responds to the lack of a pavilion for the Venice Biennale (which Nigeria also lacks) and to the other constrictions the Bulgarian cultural space has experienced from the outside world in like manner. We also seek to respond, again through metaphor to the situation of a Bulgarian pavilion on the same space where the Mausoleum of the Bulgarian Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov once stood.

The pavilion is a simple volume on two floors created within the upper crown of the form of the National Theatre: The transference of a form from one culture to another and the ability to transcribe a different sort of programme to that form.

The National Theatre of Nigeria, a cultural mausoleum in itself is quite capable of entombing a scaled down (to the size of a room) version of the Dimitrov Mausoleum, thereby turning it into an indoor folly / sculptural_museum piece / information hub – like a sacrophagus. This heightened use of metaphor literally elevates the pavilion to a state of meta-architecture which gets more interesting when you consider the paradox inherent in fact that- in trying to open up Bulgaria’s locked up art space (Bulgaria could be interchangeable with Nigeria here to some extent) we would have ended up creating a tomb within a tomb.

The two floors within the pavilion are to serve as exhibition spaces, the terrace around the pavilion should serve as a viewing deck for the hanging big screens (which can also be seen from afar) and can also host some outdoor exhibitions / performances.

Re-Import is a collaborative project by nigerian architect Ayodele Arigbabu, german architect Andreas Müller and german video artists Daniel Kötter und Constanze Fischbeck. The project is based on and linked to their former collaboration, the modular film, art and performance project „state-theatre #1 LAGOS“ (2010).