the indecent sincerity of Daniela Kostova
Although Daniela Kostova received a classical training in painting, she has become one of the most exciting young Bulgarian artists. She works mainly in video, performance and installation art and almost always produces works that are interactive or site-specific. She deals with issues of self and other, isolation and communication and cultural, psychological, technological and physical borders.
Although Daniela Kostova received a classical training in painting, she has become one of the most exciting young artists working in Bulgaria. Like all the artists of her generation, Kostova was educated in the 1990s, a period during which Bulgaria underwent severe economic and political crises in an aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Despite the opening of the borders towards the western world, for most of the 1990s the Bulgarian art scene existed in a relatively isolated, self-referential context. This led Kostova, like many of her contemporaries, to experiment with new ideas and artistic mediums outside the educational system. It is perhaps as a result of this self-training that Boris Kostadinov finds her artistic manner ´indecently sincere´.
She explains, ´My years at the Academy coincided with political turbulence, which affected my education experience: there was an urgent need for educational reforms, information on current contemporary processes about the world art scene, and a better ground for experimental work´.
Working independently, she began to explore the possibilities of video, performance art and installations, and now almost always produces works that are interactive or site-specific. Kostadinov has written about her work: ´Her video artworks always search formal impact. Especially important for her are the spaces where the artworks are presented. She realises that the vision must be complete, that the image must be sensational, that the sense is hidden in the skill to be adequately "painted". Her stills try to find resemblance with a painting. There is nearly no plot´.
Yet Kostova insists that her core preoccupations remain conceptual. ´While new mediums provide me with an exciting array of opportunities,´ she says, ´the concept is the underlining factor of my works, avoiding attachment to any particular medium and searching for interdisciplinarity´.
Kostadinov points to a dilemma that might explain this apparent paradox: ´The motivation to create something is quite different from the motivation to show it. This is exactly what defines the dilemma and makes it essential for artists like Daniela. They realise the schemes and mechanisms that mould the artistic activity, but prefer to act "subversively", to "pretend" at being serious artists and at the same time to mock themselves, thus, discussing the dogmas of contemporary artistic practices´.
At the same time, many of Kostova´s works deal with issues of self and other, isolation and communication and cultural, psychological, technological and physical borders. In Frame (2000), for example, Kostova uses the limits of video as a formal medium to articulate the limits of everyday existence. Boris Kostadinov again: ´A story about one of a thousand ordinary days is running. In order to read this story the viewers have a single chance to follow the cuts of reality appearing at the screen edges and analyse the background sound of the events. There is no development. There is neither hope nor hopelessness. Any conclusions would be senseless. The normal and the absurd totally overlap´.
Kostova has also used performance in public spaces in works such as ´Déjà Vu´ (1999) and ´Double Fault´ (1998/2002) in order, as she says, ´to involve the viewer in an unpredictable situation, which offers him or her a new insight into processes of communication´. ´Double Fault´ was first performed in 1998 and shown as a video in 2002. At first sight, it seems that two twins, identically dressed, are engaged in a game of table tennis. Yet, each is actually playing against himself, as, in place of a net, a two-way mirror bisects the table. The ping-pong balls rebound from the mirror´s surface. Each twin is playing his own reflection.
Svilen Stefanov has written about the uncanny sensations induced by this clever work: ´It was the visual, even optical paradox that introduced the visitors to the semantic dimensions of ´Double Fault´. This performance had something of a dream quality to it and after seeing it I felt with conviction that the confusion was inside me.´
From explorations of individual identity, Kostova´s ´I See´ (2001), a 20-minute video, parodying a guided tourist´s trip in Bulgaria, and in particular around its capital, Sofia, investigates national and cultural identity. Tours offered by travel agencies only offer as the artist says, ´an attractive but superficial view of modern cities and to a certain extent of the situation in the country in general´.
She continues, ´Foreigners are left with pleasing impressions and a notion that they had been able to understand everything. Most of them however do not have the slightest idea about where they really are and usually compare Bulgaria with countries like Romania, Albania, and even Afghanistan. Westerners have adopted a fairly clear notion of the Balkans and they find the problems of the countries in this region alien and the local people strange.´
The video depicts a shiny red Mercedes on a sunny day. Yet disallowing any possibility of engaging in breezy cultural tourism, Kostova blocks out the landscape with a black non-transparent strip. One sees an abstract screen while a voice-over extols the beauty of the city. The viewer must build a picture of the scenery from what he hears, but is unable to see its features in their entirety, least of all understand them.
Kostova has participated in exhibitions worldwide and has recently had solo exhibitions in Bulgaria, Italy and the USA. She has won three awards for her work, including first prize in the international competition Onufri 2000 held in Tirana, Albania and completed a residency at the TIME Department in CIA, Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 2002.
Author: Diana Yeh, Visiting Arts
Daniela Kostova was born in 1974, in Sofia, Bulgaria. She graduated from the MFA Program at the painting department at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia in 1998 but now concentrates on installation art, performance and video art. She currently lives and works in Troy, NY, USA studying at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Exhibition / Installation,
Balkan Umbrella Magazine, No. 2, June 2002 , Belgrade/Sofia, Position and Transition,
‘The Sofia Art Scene- “Up” is Down and “Down” is Up. What is “Where” and Where is “What”?’, Ilina Coralova
Flash Art Magazine, November – December 2001, Aperto Sofia, Iara Boubnova
The Annual 2001 Catalogue of association for contemporary art, Graz, Austria
Tirana Biennale 1 Catalogue, Escape, Giancarlo Politi Editore
Tirana International, In and Out, Onufri 2000, Giancarlo Politi Editore
Exhibition / Installation,
2002 ‘I See- You See’, SPACES Gallery, SPACElab, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
2001 ‘Frame’, Placentia Arte Gallery, Piacenza, Italy
2001 ‘Play back’, ATA Center for Contemporary Art, Sofia, Bulgaria
1999 ‘Life is cinema’, XXL Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBTIONS 1999–2003
Exhibition / Installation,
2003 ‘Video Screening 04’, Gallerie Martin Janda Actueller Kunst, Vienna, Austria
2003 ‘slow (e) motion’, Tranzit, Prague, Czech Republic
2003 ‘Blood & Honey, Future’s in the Balkans’, The Essl Collection of Contemporary Art, Vienna, Austria
2003 ‘Mors Impossibilis’, Irida Art Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria
2003 ‘Introducing Sites’, Gallery for Contemporary Art, Leipzig, Germany
2003 ‘Export – Import. Contemporary Art from Bulgaria’, Sofia Art Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria
2002 ‘Beauty and the East’, ISCP, New York, USA
2002 Night of 1000 Drawings, Artists Space, New York, USA
2002 ‘Double Bind’, XXL Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria
2002 ‘Mirror of the Balkans’, National Museum Gallery, Kraljevo, Serbia and Montenegro
2002 ‘Last Minute’, Placentia Arte, Piacenza, Italy
2002 ‘Ostensiv’, Moscow, Russia/ Berlin, Germany
2002Twice Upon a Time... Balkan Video, Instituto Svizzero, Rome, Italy2001
2001 ‘Trieste Contemporanea Video Art Presentation’, Stazione Marittima, Trieste, Italy
2001 ‘Looming Up’, Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna, Austria/ Aspekte Galerie - Gasteig, Munich, Germany. Presentation by Lino Baldini, Viafarini, Milan, Italy
2001 ‘Symposium “Split Reality: EAST + East, Small Power Strategies: Video Program’, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Museumsqartier, Vienna, Austria
2001 ‘Tirana Biennale 1’, Tirana, Albania
2001 ‘Shop Art. Women at (on) the market,’ The Saint Sofia Underpass, Sofia, Bulgaria
2001 ‘Trendification. Contemporary Art from Bulgaria’, association for contemporary art, Graz, Austria
2001 ‘European Perspectives’, International Art Fair, Insbrug, Austria
2001 ‘WRO 01 9th International Media Art Biennale’, WRO Center for Media Art, Wroclaw, Poland
2001 ‘Sculpture Time’, Skopie, Macedonia
2000 ‘In & Out, Onufri 2000’, National Gallery of Art, Tirana, Albania
2000 ‘Video Medeja Festival’, Novi Sad, Serbia and Montenegro
2000 ‘Balkan Art Generator’, Brussels, Belgium
1999 ‘Betaville’, Alternative Space, Sofia, Bulgaria
1999 ‘Millenium Bug’, XXL Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria
1999 ‘Culture - Subculture, Sixth Annual Exhibition of Soros Center for the Arts’, Varna, Bulgaria
1999 ‘Alternative Galleries’, The Bath, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
2000 Onufri 2000, First Prize of the International Competition on Visual Arts, Tirana
1999 Young Artist Award - "Art in Bulgaria" magazine
1996 Grant in competition "Expressing Handicap", Sofia