Cars, Beasts and Landscapes

Cars, Beasts and Landscapes
Iskra Blagoeva and Mihail Novakov, Plus 359 Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria

Iskra Blagoeva and Mihail Novakov do not work together for the first time, but this is their first joint exhibition. As the title suggests, they develop new versions of previous projects, transforming them into completely new works. At the same time, their works are connected in a new way – by mixing images and ideas, and exchanging roles and positions. However, without the familiar battles of the sexes or for confirmation of authorship.

“Beast”* is a performance by Iskra Blagoeva from 2017, showed for the first time within the exhibition Sex Appeal, One Night Stand Gallery, curators: Ivana Nencheva, Daniela Radeva and Stefka Tsaneva. As part of the performance, the artist makes tours in the neighbourhood around the gallery with the exceptionally attractive and remarkable Jaguar XKR Convertible. The rule is that anyone can get into the car, i.e. be admitted inside the work of art, but on the condition that they post the statement “Women are better artists” on Facebook. This is how Iskra Blagoeva challenges the validity of the sexist idea of the woman, who is attracted by the expensive car as an accessory and attribute of virility. However, she also symbolically reverses the direction of the professional debate on the power between sexes. Contrary to the radical feminism, Iskra Blagoeva goes into the image of the modern woman who needs no validation of skills, independence and womanhood. If somebody is behind on this realization, contemporary art does not need to wait for society to allow the update of old problems. During the opening on April 20, in Plus 359, there will be a new performance, again with the opportunity for the audience to travel in a luxurious atmosphere, but this time with Blagoeva’s new statements and new rules of the game.

“Cars, Chicks and Landscapes” is an exhibition by Mihail Novakov from 2012, displayed in Vaska Emanouilova Gallery, curators: Boris Misirkov and Georgi Bogdanov. On the invitation of Vladia Mihaylova to the most established authorities in the area of photography to present the most interesting of this art in Bulgaria, they chose only Novakov and thus uncompromisingly identified him as ‘the only one’. The exhibition is a selection of hundreds of his photos and demonstrates his method to try not to artificially create stories, scripts or implied meaning. The title highlights this by listing the most predictable storylines, which are at the same time the most difficult. One must rely on an unerring eye and a superhuman visual instinct to catch fractions of a second that are never forgotten. Novakov’s ability to tell a story by capturing the moment, has not only been approbated by the relevant institutions and authorities, but also is confirmed in his overall portfolio.

Mihail Novakov is also chosen for the exhibition “Cars, Beasts and Landscapes”. Iskra Blagoeva invited him as the only one who can capture and document her performance for the second time. She invented the title of the exhibition, mixing the two projects. She selected the frames for her self-portrait, which he had made for her. She examined all of his artistic works and selected the photos that fit to her image from the performance. She posed, but not as his muse, but a muse to herself. Novakov photographed. He did not challenge any conceptual solution, but virtually every image on a durable medium in this project is his creation and bears his authorship.

The exhibition in the specific space of Plus 359 is based on five pairs of perfectly matching large-format photographs of the two artists. At first glance, the theme revolves around cars, travel, luxury, beauty and unfamiliar places. There are confrontations between the images of an over-expensive car and crushed asphalt, or between a portrait of a modern woman and a retro landscape. Questions pop up like “Is this Sofia?” and “Is she from Sofia?”. In addition, the question of whether the work had followed some practical script or everything was intuition. What is important, however, is the positioning of the pair of artists in a situation to share a common space, although the word ‘Beasts’ does not imply a peaceful co-operation, but rather a collision.

“Beast” in Bulgarian jargon can be used in a figurative sense as a definition of aggression, sex appeal, or both. It is often used as an adjective to the female temper. Also to cars or high-tech devices like electronic or photographic cameras.

Daniela Radeva, Curator

Exhibition view:

Dzver (A Beast)

Dzver (A Beast)
2017/2018, performance

The work is a performance, in which I am driving an appealing car – red Jaguar XKR Convertible, usually related to the stereotype of the successful men. The visitors of the show are invited to go for a ride (with the artist) in the city. The individual ride lasts between 5 and 10 minutes and usually is a drive in the very center of the city, attracting the attention to the car and the awkward group of passengers in it. Every time when is performed the work is slightly different, because according to the particular site and situation there is a different rule to participate. Sometimes the passengers are predominantly men, who have to post on the social network the hashtag: #Women are better artists. Sometimes only women are invited to take part by posting a selfie with uncomfortable gesture and the hashtag #dzver (a beast)
Up to the present moment the work was performed twice.

The Last Suffer

The Last Suffer
from the series “Black Paintings of Cheerful Events”
2017, 180x90cm, acrylic on canvas
courtesy of the artist

The painting uses the composition of the “The Last Supper” by Leonardo Da Vinci, substituting the male figures with all women personages. At the center is the figure of the artist, who is vomiting as if being discussed and fed up with the whole situation. In the work I use the classical composition, which I consider to be a manifestation of the dominant culture and structure of the world, created and performed by men. By bringing different women figures, among them Lilith, myself, women of different colors, who are individual but also strangely similar to each other, I aim to invalidate and transform the dominant pattern of representation. The “ritual” is just a form, with no visible meaning and visibly absent enthusiasm. The predominant feeling is the one of total boredom and ignorance in front of the pathetic of the actually male narrative.

photo: Kalin Serapionov

Exhibition view:

photo: Kalin Serapionov

Harpalyce Suddenly Got an Appetite Herself

Harpalyce Suddenly Got an Appetite Herself
from the series “Black Paintings of Cheerful Events”
2015, 2 parts painting (main part – 90×90 cm, second part – 30x30cm), acrylic on canvas
private collection

Harpalyce was the daughter of king Clymenus who was overcome with passion for his daughter. In one version he raped her and she became pregnant. When the son was born she served him up as a meal to his father, who killed her over that. In an alternative version, she was instead transformed into a bird.
The painting depicts Harpalyce as contemporary woman, who just performed an act of consumption.

Never Forever

Never Forever
2015, installation, ICA Sofia Gallery

“The one-artist show of Iskra Blagoeva in ICA-Sofia Gallery is woven out of contradictions. The artist is relaying on visual impact while at the same time composing her objects as obvious or hidden references, hints and quotations waiting to be deciphered.
The used light and color are symptomatic. They are reorganizing the very space of the gallery. The allover glamour of the environment is invaded by text. The fishing pole is marked as a S&M accessory; the musical “merry-go-round” is small and suspended from the ceiling like those toys over a baby’s cradle. It shines and glistens in a fury of pseudo-Swarovski utensils from the beauty markets. The rose neon sign “Never Forever” insistently introduces a hint of whining for the unfulfilled eternal love, happiness, beauty, youth…
The overly beautified atmosphere which the artist has created is triggering the sensation of pretense, and the feeling of unrest and insecurity. Passion and frustration, emptiness and satiation, the feminine and the “lady’s” characteristics are contesting each other as a commentary on the gender identity. The woman envisioned in the show is a product – of gossip and the laic opinion, of media generalizations and statistical manipulation, of misunderstanding and lack of respect, of her own insecurity.”

Iara Boubnova, curator

 

The work has four components:

01: “Dizziness is not Fear” is a children’s music toy, like the once put above the baby’s cot. It plays the popular song “Love me tender”, attracting the viewers with the shining, artificial, obviously cheep and kitschy jewelry.

 

02: “Emma, Don’t Jump in Neva!”
A fishing rod, turned into a strange whip. The work is dedicated to Emma Goldman, who is known as a rebel, an anarchist, an ardent proponent of birth control and free speech, a feminist, a lecturer and a writer. When Emma was a young girl she witnessed a peasant being whipped with a knout  in the street. This event traumatized her and contributed to her lifelong distaste for violent authority. In 1885 Goldman wanted to join her sister, who made plans to move to New York, but their father refused to allow it. Desperate, Goldman threatened to throw herself into the Neva River if she could not go.

Collaboration with Neva Balnikova

 

03: A red curtain framing the whole space. The title “Problema YYY” refers to the PMS (premenstrual syndrome) which in 90’s has been declared as a disease mostly due to the policy of the drug companies developing a new market. The piece is based on the research of Julia T. Wood in her book Gendered Media: The Influence of Media on Views of Gender. She describes the problem as follows – “Facts aside, the myth has cough on, carrying in its wake women and men who now perceive normal monthly changes as abnormal and as making women unfit for positions of leadership and authority. Another consequence of defining PMS as a serious problem most women suffer is that it leads to labeling women in general as deviant and unreliable, an image that fortifies long-held biases against women.”

04: “Never Forever”, pink neon

photo: Kalin Serapionov

What is Love Without Magic?

What is Love Without Magic?
2013, text and audio files

I invited three psychologists, to analyze the human relations which lie beyond the spell and which would be revealed by “removing” it:
Darin Tenev (Literary critic interested in psychology, Professor at Sofia University, Bulgaria)
Cesare Pietroiusti (Professor of Fine Arts, Psychologist)
Radoslav Ivanov (Clinical psychologist, member of the Bulgarian Society of analytical psychology “K.G.Jung”)
Their analyses of the spell are collected in a folder, which accompanies the text on the wall.

“A Love Spell”
This is done in the following way: On a full moon night, when everybody is asleep, a woman well-versed in charms strips stark naked and in complete silence kneads and bakes a round loaf, without anyone noticing her. Then, still naked, she goes to a stackyard or a meadow, puts the loaf in the middle and has a bowel movement in three spots on its rim. Then she starts making all sorts of gestures and bodily movements, keeping her gaze on the full moon and beckoning it. The moon begins to darken in the sky and like a strange light starts descending to the ground, towards the loaf. The closer it gets to the ground, the more it looks like a nice roan cow, which finally puts its hooves on the round loaf. The woman milks red milk from the cow into a pot. Then she starts making gestures and bodily movements again, as if to take the cow back. The latter starts going back, its cow appearance gradually fading away and eventually appearing in the sky in its real form. Then the woman goes back home, kneads a new loaf with the red milk she had milked from the moon and only then she puts her clothes on. All should be done on a single night, all alone and in complete silence, and the woman should be golopara (stark naked). A piece of the moon milk loaf should be somehow given to a lad who does not love a particular girl, so that he loves her and makes her his wife, or to a maid who does not love a lad.”

The text was found in the book Collection of Folk Mindings and Folklore by brothers Dimitar and Kostadin Molerov, edited by Acad. Romanski and published in Sofia / Bulgaria in 1954.

 

Can you feel this, princess?

Can you feel this, princess?
2013, 180x70cm, foam matress, 28 epilators

The work refers to the popular fairy tale The Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Anderson. The object is shaped like a Fakir’s bed of nails, insinuating discomfort, pain and at the same time infantile naivité. It is a comment on the demands on the contemporary beauty industry and the phantasmal world of Barbie culture.