Digital Art in Bulgaria – Electronic Media, Multimedia Installations, Internet Art

by Galina Dimitrova-Dimova

Digital arts made their appearance on the Bulgarian art scene in the late 1990s. At the time this new phenomenon on the scene was called “new media art” to set it apart from experiments in video and computer art thus far. This innovative attitude towards art created with new information and media technologies was brought about by a young generation of artists who stepped on the scene in the mid 1990s.

Artists interested in the new media in Bulgaria include Krassimir Terziev, Petko Dourmana, Ventsislav Zankov, Rene Beekman etc. In the beginning most of them were united in the InterSpace Media Art Centre - association established in 1998, which brought together artists, designers, computer specialists and other experts interested in new media. InterSpace was the first organization in Bulgaria active in the field and implementing many local and international projects between 1998 and 2010. 

The new wave opened up a space for artistic experiment using the aesthetics of electronic media. Inevitably in the beginning many of the authors got carried away in experiments with the new form of artistic expression so their first attempts are often quite “formalist”. This happened in line with the techno culture boom in Bulgaria of the late 90s, which inevitably influenced the form of visual expression of young artists making this type of art. New groups of artists came onto the scene who mainly did DJ/VJ parties – audio-visual sets where the visual is mixed in real time following the rhythm of the music. This gave rise to a specific subculture which became quite popular at the time and drew large audiences of mostly young people.

Among the artists working with new media there were some who approached it with a quite mature attitude and began making artwork marking new territory in contemporary Bulgarian art.

One name that must be mentioned is Krassimir Terziev who is one of the most renowned video artists in Bulgaria. He is one of the founders of the InterSpace Media Art Centre and  an engine of these processes in Bulgaria. His early works done in 1996-97 such as Let’s Dance, The Infinite Puzzle, Library Paranoia are impressive with their strong artistic idea and well developed visual expression,making these video installations emblematic for their time and showing a new approach to video. 

Krassimir Terziev

Let's Dance, 1996.

Installation

Details

  • Photographer: Pravdolyub Ivanov
  • Material: white shirts (modified), plastic circular support construction, fishing cord
  • Sizes: height approx. 210 cm, diameter 260 cm

  • Property of: EA3 + 1AP
  • Description: Let's Dance modifies a technique from the craft of cloths design. Eight white shirts are sewed with one sleeve serving two adjacent shirts, leaving no individual space for movement outside of the circular group. The composition references the traditional Bulgarian folklore dance "Horo".

Krassimir Terziev

The Endless Puzzle, 1996.

Painting

Details

  • Material: 749plaster casts; TV monitor; video; no sound
  • Sizes: dimensions variable

Krassimir Terziev

Library Paranoia, 1997.

Video Art

Details

  • Material: 33 min, Beta SP, PAL, color, stereo

  • Property of: EA 5 + 1AP, P.A.R.K. 4DTV, Amsterdam
  • Description: An ordinary visitor in a library (the author) paying a regular visit suddenly finds himself the main character and victim in a lethal action drama. Amidst unceasing gun-shots, screams, crashing vehicles etc. (the sound is a remix from popular action movies), he wanders among the bookshelves, trying to understand, to find his way out, to survive.

His was the idea for Urban Cycles which was one of InterSpace’s first large-scale projects (2000).  Urban Cycles is an interactive video installation at the National Palace of Culture featuring 10 Bulgarian and British artists using a common platform to develop and present their works – a series of 4 video screenings placed in a public environment reacting to the visitors movements in the space through sensors system. The Bulgarian artists in the project were Krassimir Terziev, Petko Dourmana, Nikolay Chakarov and Maria Berova, and the curator was Galina Dimitrova-Dimova. The project was built around the idea of the “multiplication of the cinematic effect in public space through the intervention of the viewer”. It’s based on the intentional non-linear construction of the narrative making the work a composition of fragments, scenes, moments constructing its final outlook. Krassimir Terziev’s work called Recycling Stories was most in line with the project idea. The author cut up the classical film Casablanca into short fragments which, having been arranged in a list, are played randomly once the viewer activates the sensors. This makes it impossible for the film to repeat its order and each visitor constructs their own story out of images and scenes. This project shows the artist’s interest in the cinematic effect and the film industry, which he developed in subsequent projects such as: OnThe BG Track 03, A Film, The Battles of Troy, etc. 

InterSpace Media Art Center & IDEA

Urban Cycles, 2000.

Video installation

Details

  • Material: http://openartfiles.bg/en/topics/1434-%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%B3%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BA%D1%83%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B0-%D0%B2-%D0%B1%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%82%D1%80%D0%BE

  • Description: Interactive video installation in public space at National Palace of Culture, Sofia

Galina Dimitrova-Dimova

Urban Cycles, 2000.

Video installation

Details

  • Material: http://openartfiles.bg/en/topics/1434-%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%B3%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BA%D1%83%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B0-%D0%B2-%D0%B1%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%82%D1%80%D0%BE

Krassimir Terziev

Battles of Troy, 2005.

Film

Details

  • Material: 51 min., SDV PAL, 4:3, color, sound

  • Property of: Centre Pompidou (musée national d'art moderne, Paris; ARTEAST +2000, Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana; Sofia City Art Gallery, Sofia
  • Description: “Battles of Troy” is a study on the internal economy of contemporary globalized cinema production, see through the eyes of the lowest unit in the production hierarchy - the extras. The focus of the study is the making of the Warner Bross Motion Picture “Troy” (2004). Starting in 2003 with a budget of 185 000 000 USD, Troy is one of the most expensive productions ever made. It interprets on screen the Homer's Illiade.

    The project is based on the fact that 300 people from the core “specialised” group of stunds in “Troy” are Bulgarians.The warner Bross project, executed by the British branch of the company, shot in UK, Malta and Mexico suddenly appeared to be in need of an elite group of extras that not only possessed the physical prowess necessary to convincingly stage the battle scenes, but also had a believably Mediterranean look. The perfect soldiers were recruited from the Sports Academy in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. On a first sight this a producer’s decision, following pragmatic and logistic reasons. A more careful study on the other hand discovers a sophisticated grid of geographic/political/cultural connotations shaping a rich field for a serious study of the word of the globalised film industry.
    At first place, it is interesting to map the trajectory, drawn by the production.
    Imagine the route: USA (producer), UK (staff), Malta (film shooting location), Turkey (the site of ancient city of Troy), Greece (Illiade as part of the Ancient Greece History), Bulgaria (source for the extras), Mexico (film shooting location).

    Imagine a group of ~300 athletes of Bulgarian origin, collected from all-over the country to be a core of the armies in the movie Troy. For most of them this is a first close contact with the cinema world. They are coming from the Fitness Halls and the National Sports Academy – large, strong, muscled, “Meidteranean-looking” guys, close to the classical parameters for a male body (assuming that were the major criteria, the Bulgarians were chosen for this task),

    And now imagine all these men, flown to the Mexican coast, where they spent 3 months in training and shooting the mass battle scenes of “Troy” as background of the feats of arms of Eric Bana and Brad Pitt.

    This background behind the main characters is the subject of “Battles of Troy”.

The other prominent figure in these processes is Petko Dourmana. He was one of the first to begin working in the internet and subsequently went on to make experiments using new technologies such as Bluetooth, Augmented reality, infrared etc. 

One of Dourmana’s first online projects – Metabolizer(1997), became emblematic of the new trend. In it the author allows the viewer/user to model the artist’s body by injecting it with various substances selected from a menu on the website – proteins, vitamins, hormones etc.. Dourmana’s project Turning On (2000) in UrbanCycles project had a similar aesthetics.Here once again the artist’s nude body is subject to interaction– if the viewer approaches it turns its back to them, it turns its face when the viewer enters the screening zone and it bends when the viewer stands on the screening.

Petko Dourmana

Metabolizer, 1997.

Digital Art

Details

  • Material: http://openartfiles.bg/en/topics/1434-%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%B3%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BA%D1%83%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B0-%D0%B2-%D0%B1%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%82%D1%80%D0%BE

  • Property of: Petko Dourmana

Another one of Dourmana’s interactive projects - Bluetooth_Graffiti deals with history, politics and memory by displaying the torn down building of the Georgi Dimitrov mausoleum on the internet. The author shares photographs and audio files to visitors’ mobile phone over Bluetooth. Visitors are invited to study them and thus recreate the memory of one of the emblematic buildings of communism in Bulgaria.

Petko Dourmana

Bluetooth_Graffiti, 2006.

Digital Art

Details

  • Material: http://openartfiles.bg/en/topics/1434-%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%B3%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BA%D1%83%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B0-%D0%B2-%D0%B1%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%82%D1%80%D0%BE

  • Property of: Petko Dourmana

One of Petko Dourmana’s most internationally successful projects is Post Global Warming Survival Kit, which was shown at major festivals such as Transmediale, ISEA, Sundance etc. The installation presents the author’s dark post-apocalyptic vision including a deserted seashore and a caravan full of various measuring devices which the viewers can observe through special infrared devices. 

Petko Dourmana

Post Global Warming Survival Kit, 2008.

Digital Art

Details

  • Material: http://openartfiles.bg/en/topics/1434-%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%B3%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BA%D1%83%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B0-%D0%B2-%D0%B1%D1%8A%D0%BB%D0%B3%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%82%D1%80%D0%BE

  • Property of: Petko Dourmana

As one of the main figures in InterSpace, Petko Durmana was the driving force of processes related to the development of new media in the sphere of art and culture in Bulgaria. He brought together people to work in various formats and projects and helped realisation of many projects that were important for the Bulgarian cultural scene such as CULT.BG – Bulgaria’s first online media about culture, the art:box mailing list for art and culture, TOSMI project, aiming to promote the use of open-source software in the NGO sector in Bulgaria, various streaming projects and many more.

Among the first artists turning to the digital video and its presentation in public space are Nina Kovacheva and Valentin Stefanov, an artistic couple, working under the name ninavale who has been living in Paris since the mid-1990s. Their most popular work is "Beyond the Visible" (Au-delà du visible) (2004), originally made for the windows in their atelier in Paris, opposite the Georges Pompidou Centre, which tours many places around the world, including Sofia - at the National Academy of Art (2011). Especially for the facades of the National Art Gallery and the National Academy of Art they create two video installations, which have both visual and thematic connection with each other. " Phases of Accumulation and Extraction in a Limited Space" (2005) symbolically breaks the facade of the National Art Gallery in Sofia. On four of the windows two female and two male hands ritually fill and empty the space behind. In " Play for Two Hands and Black" (2006) two female and male hands are projected on two windows, moving in a dance. The works of the ninavale (as the tandem is signed) are lyrical, intimate and highly emotional. "With clear means of expression and precisely found solutions, they speak of the freedom of the individual in the modern society of complex social relationships. The road to this freedom goes not through isolation and closure, but through sharing. That's why their projects are becoming areas for real and emotional interaction[1]. "

ninavale (NINA Kovacheva & Valentin Stefanoff)

Phases of Accumulation and Extraction in a Limited Space, 2005.

Video installation

Details


  • Property of: National Gallery, Bulgaria, Sofia
  • Description: Four-channel video installation designed for the facade of museums and other public buildings.
    Shown: National Art Gallery, Sofia, 2005 / Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg, France, 2006 / Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan, 2010 / Kapana, Plovdiv, 2018

    Installation view, National Gallery of Art, Sofia

Rene Beekman is also among the pioneers of new media art in Bulgaria. Born in the Netherlands and having settled in Bulgaria in the mid 90s, he works with Bulgarian artists such as Krassimir Terziev and Albena Baeva in various formats, such as GMT+2 and Reaktiv Studio. Beekman organised a series of lectures on art and new media - Dorkbot Sofia (since 2004), co-organiser (together with K. Terziev) )of the xfilm festival (2005) and the lecture series by the same name (2008-2012) and curator of the Being Post-Digital exhibition, part of One Design Week in Plovdiv in 2015. He is one of the founders of the MA program of digital arts at the National Academy of Art in Sofia (2008) where he taught until 2016. Because of this, he was also one of the curators of the DA Fest digital art festival between 2009 and 2011.

 

(from left to right) Addie Wagenknecht, Albena Baeva, LIA, Carl-Johan Rosén, Gilles de Brock and Frederik de Wilde

“Being post-digital” (exhibition overview), 2015.

Digital Art

Details

  • Photographer: Maritsa Kolcheva

  • Description: Exhibition overview of Being Post-Digital at gallery of the Union of Artists in Plovdiv. Being Post-Digital took place within the framework of One Design Week 2015 in the gallery of the Union of Artists and the City Gallery in Plovdiv. A total of 30 artists from 8 different countries took part. The exhibition was curated by Rene Beekman.
    Works in the photo, from left to right are: Black Hawk Paint by Addie Wagenknecht, The Last Benjamin by Albena Baeva, Filament Sculptures by LIA, I Speak Myself Into an Object by Carl-Johan Rosén, The New Public Space by Gilles de Brock and Quantum Foam #1 by Frederik de Wilde.
  • Copyright: On the photo: Maritsa Kolcheva (One Design Week)

Rene Beekman’s art projects are in the field of sound art, video installations, interactive visual environments, live-cinema & networked performances, interactive installations etc. At the first edition of DA Fest together with Xavier van Wersch (Netherlands) they presented the network performance Antipodes – People with Ideas Opposite to Our Own. The two performers are joined by a computer as a third independent performer with a mind of its own, recording, decoding interpreting and interacting with the two artists in real time. Together they create sound and image through shared control strategies. 

Among Beekman’s latest art projects are two works part of the Friendly little creatures exhibition which he also curated together with Albena Baeva - When There’s a Way – an autonomous car with a mind of its own and Aya – a robot scanning the space around it for human presence. When she discovers a human, she is ready to follow them and declare her love for them by using fragments of texts by Milorad Pavich. 

Rene Beekman

Whenever there is a road, 2016.

Digital Art

Details

  • Photographer: Ivan Peykov
  • Material: custom electronics, aluminium, wood, silikonе

  • Property of: Albena Baeva
  • Copyright: photo: Ivan Peykov

Albena Beekman and Rene Beekman

Aya, 2016.

Digital Art

Details

  • Photographer: Rene Beekman
  • Material: mac mini, web camera, radio, plywood, custom software, custom electronics
  • Width: 70.00 cm    Height: 60.00 cm    Depth: 50.00 cm   

  • Property of:  Rene Beekman
  • Description: Aya is a collection of redundant equipments with a webcam attached and is part of the exhibition Friendly Little Creatures with curators Albena Baeva and Rene Beekman. The camera searches faces in the audience. When it finds someone, it follows the visitor around and attempts to declare its love. Aya’s words are based on texts by Serbian writer Milorad Pavic.
  • Copyright: photo: Rene Beekman

The other prominent name in the field of digital art is Venelin Shurelov – an artist and scenographer working mainly with digital media, co-founder and lecturer in the MA program in digital arts at the National academy of Art (the founder of the program Svetoslav Kokalov along with Svilen Stefanov, Rene Beekman and the mentioned above Venelin Shurelov), curator and organiser of the DA Fest digital art festival. His artistic output is large-scale and varied in genre and form but the thread that binds it together is his interest in the hybrid form of human and machine as well as the interesting results of their interaction.

Most of his works are presented under the label of SubHuman Theatre, a platform established by Shurelov in 2004 г. „My works explore the transitional states of the human body, focusing on its marginalisation. They are about decoding the language of contemporary myths and their coding into new creatures, the intersection point between man and technologies, both human and non-human as a sub-product of the social, political, economical and cultural situation.“.

 Venelin Shurelov’s best known works include interactive installations and performances such as Drawing Machine (2005), Fantomat (2008), Ortoman (2009), Tabula Rasa (2012), Rotor (2016 г.); the Man Ex Machina cybernetic lecture" (2011), the Post-Everything performance installation (2016) etc. - „Specially created for the spot and often presented in public spaces, his “phantomats”, “drawing machines” and complicated electrical objects including video, new technologies and old mechanics, found objects, images, sound, the artist’s body and the imagination of the audience, are situated on the border between the human and the technological, the real and the imaginary.”[2]. 

Venelin Shurelov

Drawing Machine, 2005.

Installation

Details


  • Description: Идея и пърформанс Венелин Шурелов
    С техническата и креативна подкрепа на Недко Жечев

    Художникът трансформира тялото си в машина за рисуване. Публиката може да участва в процеса, като натиска различни бутони и поръчва рисунки. Авторството е "автоматизирано" и анонимно. Поставете монета - вземете произведение на изкуството!

Venelin Shurelov

Fantomat - prototype, 2007.

Installation

Details


Venelin Shurelov

Orthoman, 2009.

Installation

Details


Venelin Shurelov

Tabula Rasa, 2010.

Installation

Details


Venelin Shurelov

Rotor, 2016.

Performance

Details


Venelin Shurelov

Man Ex Machina, 2010.

Installation

Details

  • 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

Venelin Shurelov

Post-Everything, 2016.

Installation

Details


  • Description: Идея Венелин Шурелов
    Дизайн костюми Елица Георгиева, Венелин Шурелов
    Реализация и изпълнение Студенти от магистърска програма „Театър“ (Университет Тaусън) Кори Хенеси, Кевин Бейкър, Рейчъл Томас-Леви, Ребека Лейн, Сара Бърн/Наоко Маешиба, Зак Требино

    Пърформанс-инсталацията Post-Everything представлява театрално, визуално, психическо и научно изследване на произхода, смисъла и значението на човешкия копнеж, в контекста на едно „пост-всичко“ (Post-Everything) общество, където границите между човек и технологии са размити. Тя потапя посетителите в своя магичен свят, обитаван от шест мистериозни, изфабрикувани, архетипни персонажа. Посетителите могат свободно да преминават от един към друг или да седнат до някой от тях, сливайки се с неговото трансцедентно пространство и циклични действия.

 „Специално създадени за мястото и често представени на публични места, неговите "фантомати", "машини за рисуване" и сложни еклектични обекти, включващи видео, нови технологии и стари механика, намерени предмети, изображения, звук, тялото на художника и въображението на публиката, са разположени на границата между човешкото и технологичното, реалното и въображаемото”[2]. 

Svetlana Mircheva is one of the few ladies on the male-dominated digital scene in Bulgaria. Her artistic practice began in the first years of the new millennium and some of her artistic experiments have to do with digital media. "Often using chance, seriality and blind data[3] as a starting point for her works, Mircheva questions our faith in the precision, clarity and reality of our perceptions of the world, which are constructed by contemporary digital culture. Her projects include prints, installations, models, objects, short videos, digital and interactive animation, various digital images, found images and drawings"[4]. 

One of her best-known works is Mistakes, which won her the media art award of the Zentrum fur Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe. The project featured 103 different visualisations of errors of the same corrupt jpg file – a digital drawing of two feet. „Produced by an error in the author’s old computer, the graphic files presented in the project are entirely outside the control of the artist but do look like 8-bit tapestry reminiscent of abstract or folk art. Mircheva’s computers are living creatures brought to absolute submission and therefore inclined to unexpected forms of rebellion“. [5] 

Svetlana Mircheva

Mistakes, 2004.

Graphics

Details

  • Material: digital graphics

  • Property of: Svetlana Mircheva
  • Description: MISTAKES is archive of 103 different provoked error visualizations of one and the same corrupted jpg file - digital drawing of two legs.
    The work is among winners at ZKM International Media Art Award 2004 under the theme "Invisible", best 50.
  • Copyright: Svetlana Mircheva
  • References: http://svetlanamircheva.com/

In her more recent projects Svetlana Mircheva explores sound, shapes and words - Soundscape (2016) where the reflection of sounds is transformed into images hanging in space or light compositions which are a visual reading of sounds – “Sounds of the sea, sounds of a heart or the sound of the sun“ (2018).

Svetlana Mircheva

Soundscape, 2016.

Installation

Details

  • Photographer: Svetlana Mircheva
  • Material: mirrors, color, sound

  • Property of: Svetlana Mircheva
  • Description: Reflections upon sounds turned into image-object suspended in space.
    2 copies of words spoken and recorded, turned into 2 parallel image-objects in space.
    A cinetic view, a soundscape.

    Sound by Angel Simitchiev.
  • Copyright: Svetlana Mircheva
  • References: http://svetlanamircheva.com/

Svetlana Mircheva

"Parallel Sounds", "Sounds of Sea, Heart and Sun", 2018.

Installation

Details

  • Photographer: Hristomir Svoboda
  • Material: acrylglass, light, sound

  • Property of: Svetlana Mircheva
  • Description: Overview of the installations "Parallel Sounds" and "Sounds from the Sea, Heart and the Sun" from Svetlana Mircheva’s solo exhibition "Sounds from the Sea, the Heart and the Sun" at Contemporary space, Varna, 2018.
    Sound: Angel Simitchiev
  • Copyright: Svetlana Mircheva
  • References: http://svetlanamircheva.com/
    http://www.contemporaryspace.bg/en/exhibitions/

Another noteworthy artist working with digital media is Vitto Valentinov. He has studied Mural Painting at the National Academy of Art (1997-1999) and then went on to study in the Netherlands. What is typical of his projects is long research behind them,  minimalistic designer aesthetics, and the participatory approach he often uses.

In Balance (2014) two people sit facing each other trying to balance themselves on a scale.

Vitto Valentinov

Balance, 2014.

Installation

Details

  • Photographer: Justin Hodges

Viseme (2018) is a similar set up with one of the participants trying to read the other’s lips and guess the word they are articulating silently. - The two projects are part of a series of installations involving the audience where the participant’s body is an object to be explored. The visitor is drawn into an experiment where physical actions are minimal but a maximum concentration of mind and body is required. 

Vitto Valentinov

Viseme, 2018.

Installation

Details


The next generation of artists who stepped out onto the digital arts scene after 2010 are Albena Baeva, Iliyana Kancheva, Yana Krachunova, Petko Tanchev, Martin Penev, Valko Chobanov, Stefan Donchev etc. They all graduated from the MA in Digital Arts at the National Art Academy, which is the only program in Bulgaria focused on this type of art.

Albena Baeva was among the first to graduate from the program and quickly develop her artistic practice. She works in the field of interactive design, experimental videos and interactive performances. She is a cofounder of the Runabout Project – a platform for interdisciplinary shows, and the interactive design studio Reaktiv. Her first projects include interactive performances where she works with writers, musicians and dancers. DNA of Words (2011-2014) is a joint project with writer Ivana Mogilska where the two explore alternative ways of presenting written text creating performances with specially devised instruments such as a hacked typewriter, an electro-acoustic banjo, an electric glass base etc.

Albena Baeva and Ivanka Mogilska

DNA of words III, performance by Runabout project, 2013.

Performance

Details

  • Photographer: Thorsten Marquard
  • Material: typewriter, custom electronic, computer, musical instruments
  • Sizes: sound performance

  • Property of: Thorsten Marquard
  • Description: Documentation from the sound performance The DNA of Words at Scwankhalle, Bremen during Outnow! Festival.
  • Copyright: photo: Thorsten Marquard

ARTeFACT is a joint project with Derida Dance in Sofia (2012) where Albena Baeva created a generative visual media which interacts with the dancer using motion tracking. 

choreograph: Jivko Jelyazkov, video environment: Albena Baeva

Artefact, 2012.

Performance

Details

  • Photographer: Polina Stoyanova
  • Material: interactive dance perfomance

  • Property of: Derida Dance Company
  • Description: ARTeFACT is a multimedia dance performance focusing on the persuit of new identity that overcomes social and cultural boundaries. Such processes often accompany the modern nomad-artist in his/her search for opportunities for being a creator and not a product in the globalized world. The action develops through interaction between visual medium, sound and body, which allows focusing on different stages and on formation of individual point of view.
    The concept and choreography are created by Jivko Jelyazkov who joins efforts in this experimental study with the dancer Petia Mukova, visual artist Albena Baeva and musician Ivan Shopov.
  • Copyright: Derida Dance Company
  • References: http://www.derida-dance.com/qs/en/contemporary-dance-company/productions/artefact

Albena Baeva’s more recent projects include installations in an urban environment – MiReLa (2013), the interactive installations Aya and Concert for CPU in RAM Major done for the Friendly little creatures (2017) exhibition, which she also curated, as well as 3D printed objects – Nudes (2017), part of her solo show at Credo Bonum. 

Reaktiv

MiReLa, 2012.

Digital Art

Details

  • Photographer: Petya Boyukova
  • Material: custom electronics and software, mac mini, loudspeakers, plexiglass, led ligjts
  • Sizes: adaptable

  • Property of: Petya Boyukova
  • Copyright: photo: Petya Boyukova

Albena Baeva and Ivan Shopov

Concert for CPU in RAM major, 2016.

Digital Art

Details

  • Photographer: Ivan Peykov
  • Material: Mac Air, microphone, custom software, plexiglass, plywood
  • Width: 70.00 cm    Height: 50.00 cm    Depth: 50.00 cm   
  • Sizes: interactive installation

  • Property of: Albena Baeva
  • Description: Concert for CPU in RAM major is part of the exhibition Friendly Little Creature. The installation consists of a computer which opens and closes different videos, photos and texts, moves the mouse cursor, and, in short, lives its own life. The computer is enclosed in a plexiglass cube. The audience can listen to the sounds that are produced as a by-product of the object going through its activities. What at first appears as merely chaotic noise, turns into a concert as the activities regularly repeat themselves, creating melodies and rhythms.
  • Copyright: photo: Ivan Peykov

Albena Baeva

The Bitch, view from Landscapes and Nudes exhibition at Project space, ASU Art Museum, 2016.

Sculpture

Details

  • Photographer: Albena Baeva
  • Material: gypsum, 3D print
  • Width: 10.00 cm    Height: 8.00 cm    Depth: 15.00 cm   

  • Property of: Albena Baeva
  • Description: Combination between 3D scans of The Jennings Dog, a Roman copy of a Hellenistic bronze original, 2nd Century AD, The British Museum and Bust of a female diety from India, 8th-9th century, MET
  • Copyright: Albena Baeva
  • References: http://albenabaeva.com/2017/nudes/

The Plovdiv scene is represented by Petko Tanchev who, together with Atanas Dimchev, is behind the Melformator audio-visual collective (established 2013) and the SenseLab studio for digital experiments (since 2018). They’ve done various projects in the field of audio-visual installations and performances, 3D mapping[6]  through a combination of hardware devices and visual software. One of their largest projects is Cnnctr – a 3D mapping installation presented on the façade of the former House of the Communist Party in Plovdiv (2005)[7]. By exploring the relationship between people in the post-digital era, the project allows the viewer to interact with the image in real time. 

Apart from that Petko Tanchev is the author of numerous scenography projects for theatre and dance shows using digital media and interactive technologies. Among them is ARC[1], an impressive show by Aerial Cirque, combining vertical dance and mysterious interactive projections. The project explores mathematics, physics and our understanding of the universe and experience in it. By using interactive software and portable motion-tracking devices, Petko Tanchev creates the visual environment of the show in real time. In 2016 Petko curated Creative Media Lab – a special section of the Night of Museums program in Plovdiv focusing on digital media and art.

Martin Penev is also part of the new wave in digital art, which is characterised by the search for different styles and brave experiments with genre and media led above all by the topic or the artistic idea. He works with new technologies, but also with sculpture, found objects, drawings, crossing the boundaries of the visual to experiment with the language of dance, cinema, performance. In 2011 he took part in the third edition of DA Fest with his Project 01 - an interactive installation about that moment in the encounter of a stranger that has to do with discovering, initiative, improvisation and imitation.

In 2016 Martin Penev took part in the Multipolis – Images of the City project by The Fridge with a series of interventions in the public environment. This produced the Wonderful Urban Story installation where ”the real and the fantastic collide and intertwine on the battlefield of night-time Sofia”[8].

Martin Penev

Walks with Unicorn, 2016.

Photography

Details


  • Description: Documentation of the action.

The same year he did an exhibition in the Vaska Emanuilova Gallery’s Meeting Point entitled Exploiting the Erased Image which was about the human world seen through phantasmic, archetypical images of the non-human and included 3D collage, animation, objects.

Martin Penev

The Eggs аre Great, 2010.

Animation

Details


  • Description: Video still.

These were followed by other solo shows at Atelier Plastelin (2017), at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Sofia[3] (2018), as well as featuring in many collective shows such as the exhibitions of the BAZA Award nominees in 2017 and 2018 as well as the exhibition which was part of the Close Encounters – Visual Dialogues / School4artists program for postgraduate training of young artists at the Institute of Contemporary Art. These works by the artist no longer draw so much upon digital media and technology, using different means of artistic expression. 

Stefan Donchev bravely experiments with media and technologies, uses and invents various gadgets to show the new relationships between people and technologies. He is a member of the Reaktiv studio and works in close collaboration with Rene Beekman and Albena Baeva.

In his installation for the Being Post-digital exhibition in Plovdiv he replaced the usual computer interface of a screen and keyboard with a sensor interface of metal wires and a small printer.  At the Hello World exhibition curated by Rene Beekman and presenting the first class of graduates of the Digital Arts program at the National Art Academy, he presented the installation entitled Erasure – a digital mirror where we can erase our illusions or acquire new ones. For the Friendly Little Creatures exhibition he created grass that purrs. To that end “he developed a special system of capacitive sensors which sense when someone touches the lentils he grows in a pot in his room. This in turn puts in motion tiny engines attached to wooden cups which acoustically amplify the vibrating sound of the engines”[1]. In 2018 he did his first solo show at The Fridge studio – Bodies Generating Images including four interactive installations. “In each of these works Stefan uses a form of selective technological breeding where either a specific feature is separated from a species or features of different biological species are combined“. 

Here we must mention the role of Robotev– a platform created and run by Simeon Yanchev, which provides technical support with interactive technologies to many of the projects mention here. Simeon lectures at the MA program in Digital Art at the National Art Academy and has helped a young generation of artists in their development. 

Valko Chobanov is among the youngest artists on the scene but he quickly became favorite He does mostly video and performances where he interprets important social topics with humour and an original perspective. His performance entitled PizzaSlut presented at the fifth edition of DA Fest is a good example of just that: “A love letter to fast food, religious freedom, the love of freedom. An assimilation of multicultural society with its social norms and behaviour acquired through the mass media. An attempt at making sense of the “American way of life” through the perspective of an internet migrant”. The artist shared in an interview that he often “recycles images through various materials, most often found and used as they are with the choice of media being entirely dependent on the specific project“. 

Finally, let us briefly mention the organisations, forums and events which make up the scene of digital art in Bulgaria. In the last years of the XX and the first years of the XXI century many of the projects and events were organised by the InterSpace Centre for Media Art. The activity of InterSpace was aimed at producing art projects, initiating various platforms and formats having to do with new media, art and culture as well as developing active cooperation with the leading organisations and centres of those years in Europe and the world with whom they did joint projects[9]. 

Another initiative central to the field was the Communication Front, organised by the Art Today Foundation in cooperation with Dimitrina Sevova in Plovdiv between 1999 and 2001. An international forum bringing together artists, theoreticians, curators and other experts in a series of discussions and workshops on topics related to the development of art and technology. 

Currently the biggest initiative in the field is the DA Fest international digital art festival. Having started in 2009 the festival, which takes place at the National Academy of Art in Sofia, began as an initiative of the founders of the MA program with the idea of presenting the newest trends and important achievements in the field of digital video, sound art, net art, multimedia performances and installations robotics[2] and generative systems and other interdisciplinary forms. The festival program, selected by Venelin Shurelov and Galina Dimitrova-Dimova includes a major exhibition, a series of performances, screenings, workshops and talks as well as evening audio-visual sets. The event has a strong international feature but also presents the local scene – all the abovementioned artists have taken part in some of its editions through the years.

In 2017 Rene Beekman started an initiative  - Post-Digital Lab at the Red House Centre for Culture and Debate in Sofia. It includes a series of workshops led by Bulgarian and foreign artists, followed by an open call for the production of new works by participants in the workshops. The selected four projects are displayed in a group show at the Red House.

Nowadays there are many smaller or larger initiatives focused on this type of media. Projects using digital media, technology, robotics, interactivity are more and more frequent in exhibitions, forums, festivals. Artists turn to them to bring to life a given idea or concept in a way that would be in line with today’s visual language and environment which today’s people work with.  

The present article offers a brief overview of the digital media and technology scene in Bulgaria and cannot include all the authors active in this field. There are many more initiatives and artists working in the field and contributing to the diversity of the scene.

[1] Vasileva, Maria. Sharing as a way to yourself. nina kovacheva + valentine stefanoff, nina & valentine, ninavale = surplus enjoyment. Catalog. Sofia, 2015, p. 53

[2] Valyavicharska, Zhivka. 

[3] Hidden or accidentally discovered data in a computer program or on the web, similar to found footage which the artist uses changing their function. (note by the author)

[4] Mihaylova, Vladiya. 

[5] Anitonini, Marco. Nurture Art Gallery, New York

[6] Video mapping or screenings which happen live on the facades of buildings (note by the author).

[7] The installation was part of the One Design Week: Digital program in 2015.

[8] Tsaneva, Stefka.  

[9] http://www.i-space.org/page-2/