METCH= Music, Exhibition, Text, and Choreography relishes that creation is the lifeblood and bane of existence for artists. The show is a multifaceted expressive experience—an amalgamation of concert, exhibition, auction, dance, and immersive dialogue with the audience, all interwoven with and concocted by Ivo Dimchev's signature songs. While acknowledging that many attendees are drawn by his musical performances, Dimchev deliberately challenged them to engage with his intricate and unpredictable approach to theater and contemporary performance art during his second part of his residency at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, presented this past February.      

Ivo Dimchev with painting (C) Ivo Dimchev, courtesy of Lena Viddo @lenissima_castro.

Who Is Ivo Dimchev And What Is METCH?

Renowned for its embrace of experimentation and providing a secure environment for exploring the unknown, LaMama served as the perfect venue for METCH to come to fruition. It was the birthplace of Dimchev’s previous show in November, In Hell with Jesus/ Top 40 after all. Dimchev embraces the opportunity to present his work in a space where audiences can feel both intrigued and unsettled, “a very safe space to be unsafe,” he remarks, ensuring a transformative experience for all involved.

The artist’s role extends far beyond the stage, as he imparts his wisdom and expertise through master classes at esteemed institutions worldwide, shaping the next generation of artistic trailblazers. With a myriad of international awards and accolades, including the prestigious IKAR Award and the Award of the French Critics, Dimchev's influence as a visionary leader in contemporary arts and culture is indisputable, leaving an indelible mark on the world stage. For Dimchev, art is not just a form of expression but a vehicle for social change, capable of provoking thought, challenging norms, and inspiring actions.

Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, the self-described queer artist is the founder and director of the country’s Humarts Foundation. His works have been presented on four continents and his performances lauded by outlets including the New York Times, New Yorker, San Francisco Chronicle, and more. Among his achievements, he’s crafted a songbook of more than 100 songs, and during the Covid-19 lockdowns, he performed more than 400 private concerts in people’s homes in Bulgaria, Istanbul, New York, and Los Angeles. 

Dimchev's unwavering commitment to amplifying marginalized voices and advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights elevates his work beyond creativity, infusing it with a profound sense of purpose and social responsibility. Through initiatives like the Humarts Foundation and the establishment of transformative spaces like Volksroom in Brussels and MOZEI in Sofia, Dimchev actively cultivates a nurturing environment for emerging artists, fostering a community of inclusivity and artistic excellence. Regarding challenging norms by utilizing art, Ivo states, “You have to be ready for a crime in a beautiful and loving way. Be a kind criminal.” 

Dimchev using his easel as a cross in METCH at La MaMa, New York City, February 2024 (C) Ivo Dimchev, courtesy of Lena Viddo @lenissima_castro.

What Made Ivo Dimchev's METCH At La Mama Special?

In METCH, a solo concert show, flashes of digital scintillating light meandered across the otherwise pitch-black brick backdrop, commanding patrons repeat each phrase inscribed, as previously instructed by Dimchev before the start of his performance. Chants echoed and reverberated within the dimly lit space, harvested by the audience's direct participation. You, the viewer, had no choice but to surrender to your role.

Dimchev involves the audience in METCH at La MaMa, New York City, February 2024 (C) Ivo Dimchev, courtesy of Lena Viddo @lenissima_castro.

Ivo Dimchev On The Creative Process: Post-Finale Conversations With The Shapeshifter

Sitting down with Honeysuckle following a performance of METCH, Ivo Dimchev opened up about his creative process, his relationship with his audience, and the power of art to challenge norms and inspire change.

Dimchev, ever the consummate artist, began by reflecting on his physical recovery following a knee injury sustained during one of his  back-to-back performances. Despite the pain, he humorously acknowledged how he incorporated the injury into his show, using it as a symbol of vulnerability and compassion to further connect with his audience. 

"I embrace everything that is happening… Usually, it becomes the story," he remarked, noting the stream of consciousness weaves from one performance into the other. “I will just jump from one story to another… I don’t think I have the knowledge to really [rest] properly… For me, every show creates a possibility to generate material that they can then decide how to use, how to explore, how to apply, how to transform into something else. It’s always like this. If something [Dimchev’s varied collection of art–music, texts, paint, blood] can feed the next [show] one from the previous one… I would use it.” 

Dimchev dances with an audience member in METCH at La MaMa, New York City, February 2024 (C) Ivo Dimchev, courtesy of Lena Viddo @lenissima_castro.

Ivo Dimchev On Navigating The Intersections Of Art, Identity, And Audience Connection

Ivo Dimchev’s journey into performance art began at a young age, cultivated out of a need to channel his eccentricities into a safe and accepting space. 

Ivo remarked, “[As performers] I think you're just born that way, all the time. Since I remember—I was performing a lot, all the time everywhere. And everything, every place was a stage… My school was the only stage when I was younger, when I was a kid in my house… I had to pay a high price for being a very queer kid. There was a lot of abuse, in school, at home, on the streets, because I was what I was, very queer, out there in all possible ways—Thank God when I was eleven I went to a theater group, which led to theater school when I was about thirteen or fourteen… And I could finally channel all my extravaganza and weirdness and artistic talents, in appropriate, and freeing space, a safe space. Otherwise I think I would probably be in prison.”

Dimchev's early exposure to improvisation and multidisciplinary theater laid the foundation for his unique approach to performance, where the boundary between artist and audience is blurred, and every moment becomes an opportunity for connection and expression.

“It’s really hard for me to exclude the audience from the experience,” Ivo paused with a smile.

Regarding artistic duty, Dimchev affirmed, “For me, it is important when an artist - no matter what aesthetics he professes - reaches at every moment to his absolute truth, to his center, even if it is the center of his hell.” 

(C) Ivo Dimchev, courtesy of Lena Viddo @lenissima_castro.

How Did Ivo Dimchev Incorporate Painting And Creative Paradox Into METCH?

This brings us back to the inception of METCH. Dimchev celebrates the paradoxical nature of creation as both the undoing and salvation of a creative with his usage and intimacy with stage props. “There is a moment where the things you love doing become a nightmare. Later this nightmare becomes an opening.” This dichotomy is almost revered throughout the performance with the iconographic display of the easel and Ivo Dimchev’s body fused into one maladaptive form. Ivo’s words spit tortured tenderness towards his easel, his interlocking arms becoming his cross to bear, as he began stroking his brush on the canvas. 

 “My main partner of course is the easel…I think it is important to have it because it is so much like a cross. Jesus is such a big partner in many works of mine. I always have something to do with Jesus, no matter if it's like we are having a sex scene in Israel, we're doing a healing blow job…etc. In this show, Jesus is this inner voice that is very cynical and kind of supportive, but at the same time tells me that I have more important things to do than complain about my knee injury or that I'm just dead in the show. It's just like, just fuck this, fuck sadness. Fuck your knee, you have more important things to do. It's what my Jesus said. The whole relationship between Jesus and the whore, for me, it's always been very important. That's why I have the song ‘Christian Whore.’ The cross and the easel… I was happy to put my wig on the easel and make the easel the whore… to amplify this metaphor, and this quality of the easel, and the cross of Christianity and Jesus. Sacralizing and at the same time empowering the position of the whore. I'm bringing you to that level.”

Seeing these paintings conceived throughout the show, one wouldn’t have assumed Ivo previously struggled to paint “just for the sake of painting.” He had to create a context to compel him to paint, hence the reason he made a series of shows in 2017 called Avoiding deLIFEath, which consisted of marathon “cycles” broken into eight different creative expressions like free voice workshops, writing poetry, song composition, and painting erotic pictures. “One of the scenes was about all my passions—reading, creativity, improvising with a musician during a concert, teaching, and shooting a music video, like all kinds of weird things, painting, of course, and writing poetry live. Maybe it was like a 16-hour performance in a category. It took a lot of time, but I generated an enormous amount of material. And then I thought I would like to bring back the paintings.” 

(C) Ivo Dimchev, courtesy of Lena Viddo @lenissima_castro.

How Did Ivo Dimchev Conceive Of METCH At La Mama?

Serendipitously enough, LaMama’s artistic director Mia Woo reached out to Dimchev late 2023 after a successful run of In Hell with Jesus for another round of performances. Ivo recounts, “If I do something again—it's a short period of time [in between]—I don’t want to repeat what I have already done in the autumn, I want to do something new. I want to for sure sing, but I also want to move more, I want to paint more… so I thought I am going to make a new show encompassing everything I am passionate about… recycle a lot of old things that are still valuable.

I still was keen on creating something new, and the new thing that came up a lot was my relationship with the audience… all the conversations and dialogues I have with the audience are very important. I want to talk to these people. I want to talk nonsense. I want them to talk to make them… talk my language. It's one manner to just be a viewer and then perceive a dramaturgical text or relationship–-it's completely different if you are imposed to be part of this… I give them the opportunity to enter a little bit deeper into my world.” 

Thus the concept  of METCH was anointed. “'I've never combined painting with my music—I didn't know if this combination was possible at all,” Dimchev noted. 

Although some may misconstrue and oversimplify his artistic vision as solely perversion, Ivo's paintings are the most honest and humane yearning for connection and companionship. “I always start to paint naked bodies firstly, because I am attracted to it and I think bodies who are having sex are representative of life in the most beautiful way. Humanity is vulnerable at the same time in a powerful way… when I make them because I'm such a terrible painter, they become almost abstract. This combination between being like, ‘What is going on here?’ Then you realize they're having sex, but… it is very deconstructed and blown apart. Otherwise, I will just paint weird monsters if it comes out. I also wanted to bring in the conversation, the war, and the victims and the dying children. Because it's part of our visual narrative. If I want to paint something, I would paint something that is part of my reality. I live many personal realities. Private life, sexual life, social life, and that's why I did the selfie portrait live and retelling of the war… Without talking about war, I find it very, very difficult. And if it happens, I find it almost arrogant.”

(C) Ivo Dimchev, courtesy of Lena Viddo @lenissima_castro.
(C) Ivo Dimchev, courtesy of Lena Viddo @lenissima_castro.

Ivo Dimchev On Embracing Openness And Power In Performance

 "I managed to balance it, because I think it's pretty normal… Doesn't feel disturbing to me. If I want to disturb you, maybe I will go much further with it. But I don't want to… I want people to stay with me at the moment. But even with what I'm doing, people are like, this is disturbing. It’s great that it's disturbing, but it's important that it is still bearable, that it's still readable, that it's still accessible, let us have choice. They have enough distance for it. Because when things become too much, you don't have a distance. So you take it personally, and then you leave the theater probably or you shout back or whatever. 

But I don't want to have this, I want to have a continuous conversation. And I know that the more personal I am, the more people feel safe. Because it's not something opposed to having a concept, or a vision. It's just me there. I don't know about the vulnerability, I don't consider myself vulnerable. I am OPEN. To receive more open stages is more powerful I feel. Being powerful is probably a jump from being vulnerable. Because when I fail when I'm open… Everything is possible. And it all becomes part of  the complexity of humanity."

Dimchev concluded, "I don't find this weak, I find it very, very strong. And I believe that it has an impact… showing those colors of the paint. In fact, I don't know if I HAVE to feel vulnerable… When I'm there, it doesn't feel even so personal anymore. I become the material. I will put it on stage and organize it probably at the moment, in the second I will work on the composition. So it becomes part of the composition, becomes part of the painting, as part of the whole of the body of work. And it's not only more about a person or about me anymore. And we can do anything we can to destroy this material. We can change, transport and transform. We can make it intensify and make it super strong. We can make it very small [or] important. It is articulated there in this frame.”

Ivo Dimchev performs live at Joe's Pub on Wednesday, April 24, 2024 at 9:30PM, 425 Lafayette Street in New York City. Click here for tickets. His next performance is on May 4, 2024 at Shedhalle in Zurich, Switzerland. Visit or follow @ivo_dimchev on Instagram for performance dates now through Fall 2024.

Dimchev backstage at La MaMa (C) Mace Manjarres / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @theredpriestess_


Written By:

Mace Manjarres (he/they) is a student in the Business of Cannabis program at LIM College. A proud Quechuen, Mace is ready to help others use nature's tools to connect with their inner potential and ancestors. He hopes to help as many people as possible through cannabis reform.

@theredpriestess_ (IG)


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Featured image: Ivo Dimchev and his paintings in METCH at La MaMa, New York City, February 2024 (C) Ivo Dimchev, courtesy of Lena Viddo @lenissima_castro.