Elena Kaludova: I Love You Very Much

I Love You Very Much

Elena Kaludova

08-03-2024 until 01-09-2024

In I Love You Very Much, we see a figure dressed in black, involved in what appears to be a celebratory dance performed in slow motion.
The figure slowly steps to her right, slightly swings her hips back and forth, then steps back and swings her hips again. She raises her hands above her head before she steps backwards, makes a 180-degree turn and continues backwards one, two, three, four, five steps.

As the figure turns, we see that her shirt has different texts on the front and back.

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them”, one side of the shirt reads in Bulgarian. “Women are afraid that men will kill them”, the other side reads in reply.

The lines are quotes from Margaret Atwood’s 1982 lecture Writing the Male Character. In it, Atwood shares the following story:

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine… ‘men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.’ ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said… I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed.’“

At this point, a certain awkwardness in the dancing figure in I Love You Very Much becomes apparent. The shadows on the figure appear never to change. Her clothes never move around her body as her arms, hips, and torso sway back and forth.

The movements suggest a dance similar to oriental dance or the kyuchek that is common at weddings and celebrations in Bulgaria and across the Balkans.

Movements associated with the celebration of intimate relationships based on promises of perpetual mutual love, trust and care are revealed to point to a much darker truth.

The sentence “I love you very much” is among the most used by perpetrators of domestic violence against women to excuse their behaviour. It is the magic spell that is supposed to make everything alright and make all problems go away. Except it doesn’t.

Bulgaria is one of the last countries in the EU, and the very last country on the Balkans, that has not yet ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, while local law enforcement continues to fail to address cases of domestic violence adequately, and, on average, two women die a violent death every month in the country.

The figure in I Love You Very Much dances a celebratory wedding dance in augmented reality, yet in the midst of us, pointing to this other reality that we keep out of our thoughts as we go about our daily lives. I Love You Very Much is an indictment of societal failure.

Elena Kaludova lives and works in Berlin, Germany, where she co-directs and co-curates Neue Kunst Initiative Marzan-Hellersdorf and the project space Galerie M with Marc Pospiech.
Elena graduated in Painting at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia in 2010 and the Weißensee Kunsthochschule in Berlin in 2015. She is currently a postgraduate student at UDK Art in Context. She has been a member of the Quarantine Artist Collective since 2013.
Elena won the ESSL CEE 2011 Award and the DEUTSCHLANDSTIPENDIUM / MART STAM STIFTUNG 2013/2014. Her works have been shown in Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, and Russia.