Albena Baeva, Eva Davidova, Meredith Drum, Elena Kaludova, and Iskra Prodanova: In the Empty, Still Undeveloped Space of the City

In the Empty, Still Undeveloped Space of the City

Albena Baeva, Eva Davidova, Meredith Drum, Elena Kaludova, and Iskra Prodanova

24-05-2024 until 02-06-2024

Buna 2, Varna See the locations on Google Maps

26 May 2024, 11 am, Guided tour by the curators starting at The Bookstore, Preslav str. 12

Our public spaces, both real and virtual, are privatised at an ever-increasing pace for profit extraction. Not-yet-profitable spaces are left to their own devices to fend off darkness, pollution and indifference.

Children and grown-ups alike believe these not-yet-commercialised spaces are where monsters lurk and where bad things happen.

The exhibition In the Empty, Still Undeveloped Space of the City uses these ignored corners in Varna, Bulgaria, by placing Augmented Reality sculptures in these locations. The sculptures selected for this exhibition confront us with political conformity, violence against women, the rights of others, and the effects of the concentration of technological resources that benefit a few while endangering the rest of us ecologically.

The exhibition turns these dark corners of the city into places of potential, from where change can spring.

Elena Kaludova’s I Love You Very Much is shown at Gallery Gallery’s new permanent annexe in Varna. In I Love You Very Much, Elena Kaludova dances a dance similar to dances common at weddings and celebrations in Bulgaria and across the Balkans while wearing a shirt that displays a text on both sides. “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 text is a quote from a lecture by Margaret Atwood from 1982, but is as true today as it was then. I Love You Very Much is, therefore, an indictment of societal failure to end violence against women. The figure dances her celebratory wedding dance in augmented reality yet, at the same time, among us. The work points to how this violence is kept invisible as we go about our daily lives.

Global Mode > Horsewoman Appearing Normal by Eva Davidova is a sharp criticism of our insisted ecological and social self-destruction by wrecking the world we live in. The work depicts a cross between a horse and a woman, rendered as a three-dimensional object in virtual space, that is about to commit suicide in a gruesome way. The terms Global Mode and Normal are taken from how the work is technically rendered in 3D space but also refer to the political and social situation we find ourselves in today. We are collectively heading for global destruction that feels imposed upon us and is inescapable, while this state of about-to-self-desctruct at the same time appears normalised and implicitly accepted by our lack of action.

Iskra Prodanova’s Not a Rubber Duck refers to the Rubber Duck sculpture by Florentijn Hofman. Hofman’s work celebrates humanity’s oneness by considering the world’s oceans as a giant bathtub where we all play with a giant inflatable toy. Hofman’s work has visited many cities around the world but never Bulgaria. Iskra’s Not a Rubber Duck portrays what Hofman’s duck would look like when it reaches Bulgaria should it ever visit, its playful yellow colour replaced by drab black from oil spills and other pollution caused by humankind in this giant bathtub we call our oceans. At the same time, the negative form of the title is a critique of default negativism that has taken over public debate about contemporary art in Bulgaria.

Global destruction is no longer a threat or a potential in Albena Baeva’s Flag Washed Ashore; it has become a historical fact. In Baeva’s anti-utopia, the oceans have risen to cover the earth, and our civilisation has been reduced to a single surviving orange lifebuoy with a white flag of truce or ceasefire on top. The white flag appears to carry a QR-code-like image, which, upon closer inspection, is not a working code but a failed attempt at visualising one by a generative Artificial Intelligence (AI). The flag appears to be a last-ditch attempt at a truce issued by an AI, as its energy consumption pushed the earth’s ecological system over the edge. This flag floats in the sea in the central exhibition The Nature of Connections, curated by Irina Batkova, and ends up washed ashore as a virtual monument in the exhibition In the Empty, Still Undeveloped Space of the City.

According to ancient mythology, Pandora’s opening of the box, which released mischief and sorrow, plague and disease, was Zeus’ revenge for Prometheus’ earlier theft of fire that had brought humankind technology, knowledge, and civilisation. In Pandora’s Snatch, Meredith Drum restores Pandora as the all-giving, the bringer of the cycles of life and death and the promise of a beginning wherever there is an end.

The works in In the Empty, Still Undeveloped Space of the City tell stories of death and potential rebirth, endings and potential bringers of new beginnings, and today’s monsters that lurk in undeveloped spaces and are tomorrow’s bringers of life.

Albena Baeva and Rene Beekman, co-founders of Gallery Gallery, curated the exhibition In the Empty, Still Undeveloped Space of the City for the Buna Festival for Contemporary Art 2024.

Buna is Bulgarian for a breakwater structure and an old Bulgarian word for uprising, which served as a guiding motto while curating this exhibition.