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An Exhibition by Stefan Donchev

„Bodies that generate images“ is the first solo exhibition by Bulgarian artist Stefan Donchev.
Stefan graduated from the MA programme Digital Arts from the National Academy of Arts in Sofia in 2012. He is an artist-inventor who has since taken part in a number of exhibitions in Bulgaria and abroad, including in the Netherlands and in Serbia. In Bulgaria he has participated in group exhibitions such as Hello World (2012, at Vaska Emanuilova Gallery, Sofia), Being Post-Digital(2015, during Design Week 2015, Plovdiv) and Friendly Little Creatures (2016, at Credo Bonum Gallery, Sofia, and Contemporary Space Gallery, Varna).

Stefan’s first solo exhibition includes 4 interactive installations, 2 of which have been created specifically for this exhibition.

In each of these works, Stefan uses a form of selective technological breeding in which either one specific trait is brought out, or traits from two or more biological species are combined. The results of this process are image-creation machines that can perhaps best be understood in Vilém Flusser’s term as being post-historical.

Flusser distinguishes three periods of image creation; prehistorical, historical, and post-historical.
Prehistorical is the period before the invention of writing. It is the period in which images, such as cave paintings, were means to describe and teach about the world around us. The historical period starts with the invention of writing in Mesopotamia. As words in a written text follow one after the other, from left to right, they order the world around us linearly — in terms of first and last, before and after, cause and effect, therefore historical. This new way of seeing the world leads to abstract thinking, to the invention of maths and, ultimately, our contemporary, technological society. Images during this period were largely illustrations to texts or were accompanied by descriptive texts.
We speak about post-historical image production when the results of historical thinking — technology, maths, abstract thinking — are used to produce images that are no longer illustrations of linear texts, but that enter into a new relation between us and the world around us.

Stefan’s creative act recombines our abstract, technological and mathematical understanding of the world around us into living, breathing creatures, that do not illustrate the underlying abstract thought or technology, but instead point in an entirely different direction. These creations present us with an entire universe that exists outside our own, and at the same time they force us to reconsider our own relationships, our own pre-conceived thoughts and ideas about technology, aliens and cyborgs.

In the interactive installation Cilia with metal stalks (2015) Stefan has replaced the customary interface of screen and keyboard with a tactile interface consisting of metal wires and a small printer. By touching the wires, we can write or draw on the printer. The work provokes us to reconsider our ideas about how we interact and communicate with technology around us.

Cilia with metal stalks was first shown during the Being Post-Digital exhibition in Plovdiv in the spring of 2015. This is the first time this installation is presented in Sofia.

The interactive installation Purring grass (2016) combines traits of grass with those of a cat. The work consists of a flower pot with grass in it. When we stroke or pet the grass, a purring sound can be heard.

Purring grass was part of the Friendly little creatures exhibition, a very successful group show that featured artists from the Reaktiv studio, which has has been shown in Sofia, Varna and Belgrade.

The installation Perpetual sorting machine consists of a number of discs, each with black sides and white sides. The discs are spread across a surface and together form an abstract image.

On either side of the discs there is a rail. Between the rails and over the discs, a bridge moves back and forth. The bridge carries a mechanism, a kind of mechanical hand. The hand picks up, examines, turns and puts down the discs. Every time it does so, it changes one pixel in the overall image – from black to white, from white to black. Is the machine engaged in an attempt to sort the discs or is it an apparently perpetual process of abstract painting?

Five times a week for the duration of the exhibition, there will be performances with the mechanical robot Self-portrait. The robot invites us to pose to have our portrait drawn. The design of the machine reminds us of automata-like self-operating machines. The work questions how we see and interact with machines, what our expectations of machines are, and how those differ from our experiences of other humans.

As the machine draws our portrait, we find that, inevitably, it is literally drawing us in its own image. Is it a limitation of the machine or simply the way it sees the world?

Curator: Rene Beekman

The exhibition „Bodies that generate images“ has been made possible with financial support from the Gaudenz Ruf Award.

22 March – 5 April 2018

The fridge, 6-B General Parensov str., Sofia