In Defence of Solid Material

Luchezar Boyadjiev

How many nails in a mouth? Self-portrait with 2 kg of 12.5 cm long nails in the mouth, 1992-1995

Homage to Günther Uecker 

Passport photographs in a block of 4
13 x 9 cm
Edition 3/1 AP
Courtesy SARIEV Contemporary


Based on the idea that a truer self-portrait is made if the artist finds the Other in the Self, this image represents and attempt at self-exploration. The “How many nails in a mouth?” work started as a pencil-on-paper drawing expressing inner turmoil and anguish related to a deep family crisis. The initial drawing was made in the summer of 1992 on the terrace in front of the Albertina Museum in Vienna. Later on it evolved into a photographic work subtitled “Homage to Günther Uecker” – as a part of a cycle of homage(s) first shown at “Orient/ation”, the 4th Istanbul Biennial, curated by René Block in 1995.

The photographic image was made in a passport photo booth in the center of Sofia in October 1995. The “model” could hold the bunch of nails in his mouth for less than 2 sec due to the very heavy strain on the lower jaw muscles. There were 2 versions/negatives made – a straight up frontal face image and a ¾ side view as in a passport photograph, seen here.