Venelin Shurelov graduate “Scenography” at the National Academy of Art, Bulgaria – PhD (2009). Co-founder and Associate Professor in MA program “Digital Arts” (2008-), National Academy of Art; Co-founder, part of the curatorial team and technical organizer of DA Fest, International Digital Art Festival, Sofia (2009-). Founder of ‘Subhuman Theatre’ (2004-) and the International art group ‘Via Pontica’ (2002-2005).
Venelin Shurelov is the author of various interactive installations/performances, some of which are "Drawing machine" (2005), "Fantomat” (2008), "Orthoman" (2009) “Tabula Rasa” (2010), “Shooting Gallery” (2012), "Rotor" (2016) - presented at Ars Electronica center, Linz. In 2011 he realized the cyber lecture “Man Ex Machina”, and in 2016 he directs a durational performance/installation "Post-Everything", as a guest lecturer at Towson University, USA.
His works explore the transitional states of the human body by focusing on his marginalization. They also relate on decoding the language of modern myths and encoding them in new creatures, to the intersection between man and technology, human and subhuman as a sub-product of the social, political, economical and cultural situation. His projects are multifaceted and include drawings, interactive installation and performances, digital technologies, video and art theory.
He has had a number of stage design projects, individual exhibitions and participations in general exhibitions and festivals in Bulgaria, Europe and USA. Awarded many times for his work in theater and contemporary art.
Lives and works in Sofia, Bulgaria.
In my works are intertwined theoretical searches, various digital technologies, interactive performances and interactive installations, cyber lecture, theater practices, street actions, video art and video installation, sculpture, drawing and electronics.
This complex artistic activity is sign with the name SubHuman Theatre.
SubHuman Theatre is manifested as a sub-product of social, political, economic and cultural situation. In its conceptual framework I explore intermediate states of the human body, focusing on its marginalization. It refers to decode the language of modern myths and encoding them into new creatures at the intersection between man and technology.
SubHuman Theatre is a wide platform, which collects many aspects of the forgotten humanity. In the term "subhuman" appears oppressed humanity. Occurring in various forms, which can be summarized with the term subculture. The outline of the subculture is usually considered ugly, monstrous, deviant, pathological, marginal, subversive. Technocracy, techno-culture, techno-aesthetics and general technological manifestation with which we communicate constantly is a special kind of monstrosity aesthetic. It fascinates and repels, seduces and scares, legitimize and destabilize.
In my art works is presented a special emphasis on the human body as a means of expression. In most cases I use my own body as material for experiments, mutations and transformations as ritualized personal experience. Typical of the role of my own physicality in the presented projects is its "incorporation" in various facilities, immurement the human body in structure, placing the body in the ordeal, the boldness of physical effort.
SubHuman Theatre is an informal pseudotheatrical structure, the core of which is the combination of social reflection and empathy. Context to build a kind of modern mythology as the sum of actual and epohal, mythos and logos, fabulous and critical. I stand behind the conviction that the artist must build its own mythology, consistent with the environment and the time in which he lives.
- Venelin Shurelov
Tabula Rasa, 2010.
- Property of: Author
- Description: TABULA RASA (Wunderkabinet)
Performance, Interactive Installation, Print work
The sumptuous entertainments organised for the amusement of the European elite between the 16th and the 18th century adopted the practices of the anatomical theatre and arranged fantastic, precious and uncommon objects in encyclopaediac collections. This kind of entertainment transformed the ‘cosmos’ from a static tableau for contemplation into an occasion for theatre research. All kinds of cabinets of curiosities (Kunstkammern, Wunderkabinette) displayed minerals, engraved jewelry, insects trapped in amber, butterflies, mummified ears of Egyptian bulls, Babylon bricks, antiquities, medals, coins, clocks, astrolabes, compasses, prisms, mirrors, microscopes, telescopes, magical kaleidoscopes, camera obscruras, wax figures, intelligent machines, marvellous toys and automata. These cabinets made up what Samuel Quiccheberg defined in his ‘Inscriptiones vel Tituli Theatri’ (1565) as a theatre of the universe... In this universal theatre, the visitors admire a variety of scenes on the stage rather than in dark auditoria. The universal collection provokes its consumers to become performers who hold the means of to better comprehend the world. From being mere witnesses, they start participating in the cultural migration across the borders of the visible and the invisible, real and imaginary, natural and artificial, biological and synthetic, born and made, human and inhuman. This ‘migration’ animates the greatest fear of human beings: a self-awareness of their own fragmentation, disintegration, decomposition, and death. This, however, at the same time constitutes their greatest desire too: ‘All dreams return again to the only remaining instinct, to escape from the outline of the self’ (Hans Bellmer).
‘Tabula rasa’ (Latin: ‘blank tablet or slate’) is a work of art consisting of an object-box-table divided into multiple sectors below which is placed the author’s body. In each of the sectors there is a whiteboard marker that the visitors may use in order to draw, scribble, or write on the separate parts of the body. Thus, each movement of the spectator/participant is a kind of dissection, objectification, categorisation, description and research that directly affects the author – both physically and emotionally. The ‘vitality’ of his reacting, hurting, laughing body, poses the question of the direct effect of the study of ‘otherness’ and of the way in which its objectification can be understood as a form of violence.
The second phase of the project involves the photographic documentation of the visitors’ pictographic interventions. The photographs are then printed out in the actual size of the respective bodily parts and in a certain number of copies, which are then used to replace the living body. The sum of printouts transforms the ‘reminder’ of the body into a collection or into an abstract fragment.
An analogy can be drawn between this performance and the image of the helpless, nude and cold bodies placed on the dissecting tables in the operation rooms of some of the renowned anatomists from the Age of Enlightenment. This can be linked to their research of an ‘other’ and can also be described a kind of spectacle: an atypical form of initiation, an unveiling, and a ritual for the chosen ones. These particular spectators are competent enough to enter the imaginary and at the same time fit to create a basic model of the human body according to the stereotypes of their own age. The ‘Tabula Rasa’ project aims at the stereotypes of our times: nowadays, many secrets of the body have been disclosed and it thus becomes increasingly emptier and artificial. This is a body reduced to a systematised, generalised, controlled, universalised, exteriorised, tailored, reshaped, stuffed, prosthesised, objectified thing.
There is a twofold issue I would like to draw attention to: it is not only true that during the Enlightenment scientific knowledge was the first to recognise the body as a dissected body, as a source of information and as a specimen. At the core of these processes actually lies a colonial aspiration. It is a practice of domination, a privilege in the production of objective truths akin to various forms of social engineering: anthropology, eugenics, euthanasia, sterilisation, segregation, genocide, biotechnology, birth- and death-control.
The similarity between scientists from the Age of Enlightenment and us lies in the fact that we too are fascinated with dread and the universal allegorical nature of anatomic images. These have continued to exist and in our times have been replaced by a world with no secrets left, a world of naked flesh whose fragile potency is smashed by commercial, media and popular pressure. We encounter a weak body, which reminds of the lost battles with Nature, evolution and politics; a body that is dependent and brittle; a body unable to retain its intimacy and identity. The modern human from the late 19th century up until the present day has been successful in overcoming the fantastic moral classifications of the 18th century. However, these have simply been replaced with an epidermal sack, a creature of duplicates and clones and a genetic identification turned upside down. The new human design has given birth to an object-human, an aggregate-human, a hybrid-human, a Monster, an Other.
The project was awarded by the National Competition for Young Bulgarian Artists and Critics, St. Cyril and St. Methodius International Foundation, Sofia
- References: http://subhumantheatre.com/en/subproduct/performance/2010-tabula-rasa.html
- Description: Orthoman
Cultural actors sustain a game between real and imaginary, an epistemological tension between organic and inorganic, as well as a genre’s hesitation regarding the boundary between life and death, artificial and natural, made and born Body.
Through the image of this crippled creature I engage once again with the discourse of monstrosity. It is one of the particular ways in which the boundaries between human and almost human manifest themselves. Monsters serve not only to mark a boundary line, but also to signal the fragility of these borders. They are indeed monsters as they both demonstrate and destroy the differentiations through which culture distinguishes natural from artificial, human from non-human, normal from pathological. Their representative functions serve not only for description and communication, but also for legitimation, reproduction and normalisation – or, vice versa, for subversion, refutation and destabilisation. I describe such representers as ‘cultural actors’. They serve as a critique of humaneness. My searches lead me to deciphering their language and to encoding it in the creation of new creatures.
Orthoman and Fantomat won at the M-tel Awards for Contemporary Bulgarian Art, they also was ranked first by the audience.
- References: http://subhumantheatre.com/en/subproduct/installation/2009-orthoman.html
- Property of: Author
- Description: Fantomat
This object’s name is composed of two words: ‘phantom’ and ‘automaton’. Phantom derives from the Greek word φάντασμα and signifies a shadow of a being, an apparition, illusion, or ghost.
The project consists of a series of humanoid machines (‘Fantomats’) operating similarly to penny arcade machines (vending machines, slot machines, gambling machines), which appear to be an extreme expression of alienation in the commercialised public space. The idea of the project was provoked by the need of subverting that commercial space by using its own rules. The Fantomat (an automaton for fantasies) provides with an alternative by replacing commercial principles and products with an unexpected artistic reality. The Fantomat is a humanoid wooden sculpture furnished with a coin mechanism, a mini flat screen and a DVD player. The insertion of a coin activates a particular audio-video landscape, projected through the Fantomat’s eyes. Its figure is crafted according to the logic and the aesthetics of the android, the robot, the cyborg; however, its function is dictated by human choices. In this project, I would like to juxtapose the human with the technological, social reality with science fiction, a sense of humour with a sense of responsibility.
SubHuman Theatre’s action strategy is partly based on the distinction between the primacy of the original and the secondary nature of its dangerous, potentially destabilising copies. Figures, objects, and automata act, imitate and adopt the status of the human: they resemble, but aren’t. They are mimicries: travesties, camouflages, and endangerers… They are projects for inscription and disguise; they are stains – a provocation in the space between eye and gaze. The Fantomat produces a travesty in the public space by taking up the position of a helpful automaton. It adopts the form of a machine for consumption and entertainment that provides with unexpected content.
The ‘Fantomat’ project brings to light an innovative artistic and technological solution. It occupies the interstices between theatre, performance, installation, multimedia, art criticism and theory.
In collaboration with Dritero Kasapi
co-producers: Intercult, Via Pontica Art Association
- References: http://subhumantheatre.com/en/subproduct/installation/2008-fantomat.html
Man Ex Machina, 2010.
- Photographer: Andreas Haider (muk)
- Material: Metal construction, electronics, video projection
- Property of: Author
- Description: Man Ex Machina
Cyber lecture, Performance
‘A construction and a destruction of the self in the phantasmatic realm of technology’
Мan еx Machina is a theatre play for a small audience and is a mixture of installation, performance and lecture. It deals with those relationships between human and technologies, which provoke the creation of various hybrid creatures. These supernatural, spectacular creatures mark the borders between human and technological, born and made, between fact and fiction. The main character of the performance is a complicated eclectic object, which includes new technologies and old mechanisms, the body of the artist and sophisticated electronics. It does not simply constitute an intersection between machine and organism, but is also a construction where the individual, social perceptions and projections, realities and fictions all come together.
What are the fantasies of a cyborg? How does the technological fulfil human desires? How does one construct or destruct oneself in the phantasmatic realm of the technological? The man from the machine (Man ex Machina) – much like the deus ex machina of ancient Greek theatre – is a figure capable of providing with answers to these questions.
Man ex Machina is a peculiar subject, built upon the metaphor of human – pseudo-human, and viewed through the socialisation and dramatisation of the human double.
- Copyright: Author
- References: http://subhumantheatre.com/en/subproduct/performance/2011-man-ex-machina.html