Who or what gently whispers information to us? Which of this informations do we share, do we whisper on? How do we find our way in a world and what does it look like when the physical reality designed by humans incrementally merges with a digital reality to form a hybrid mixture increasingly constructed by algorithms?
The exhibition And They Whispered Softly refers to these issues. It fundamentally questions how we communicate about reality.
Born in 1983 in Sofia, Bulgaria, artist Albena Baeva has been working with digital media and technologies for over ten years. She uses machine learning – ML, artificial intelligence – AI, augmented, virtual and mixed reality – AR, VR, MR. She works with generative adversarial networks like StyleGAN and mines some of her works as NFT for digital worlds. In doing so, she provokes questions about the potential of artificial intelligence in relation to her own creative imagination.
Baeva combines all these digital tools with classical techniques, like painting, sculpture, video and text. Resulting in works that show beings having entered into a union of both realities.
In her series of paintings New Breeds and Random Animal Seeds Baeva uses beguiling colors to fixate some of the creatures that a self-learning network, an example of artificial intelligence, had generated from hundreds of images which she had previously gathered on the Internet in months of research.
A 3-D printed sculpture titled xyz//:-@!killall refers to hate speech and specifically to misogynistic, sexist swear words from everyday life. She combines a goose, with a keyboard and a scan of the ancient figure of Aphrodite, creating a new iconography. A goddess from the digital world, whose colorfulness is no longer determined by the classic three-color model of yellow, red, and blue, but by the digital triad of magenta, blue, and green.
Another work in the exhibition, The AI Commandments, provides guidance on the rules we should follow in this hybrid reality and the ethical questions provoked by the use of artificial intelligence and the increasing control of all our activities by algorithms. A QR code directs to a virtual cube, which inserts itself into the image of the cell phone camera as a blended reality, displaying 11 commandments. As the video Quest suggests, this has apparently been found in a lake near Sofia.
The exhibition And They Whispered Softly is a hybrid event itself, a green screen that allows other backgrounds, a combination of the real, the digital, the virtual, of truth, theories and fantasies, much like the everyday, highly complex events around us.
Baeva has two MAs; in Restoration and Digital Arts from the National Academy of Art in Sofia. 2009 – 2015 she was co-founder of Runabout project, a platform for interdisciplinary performances. She is part of the artist run router-gallery Gallery and the sculpture park Ploshtatka, which provides augmented reality projects to the public.
In 2016 Baeva has been selected for CES ArtsLink Residency at ASU Art Museum in Tempe, Arizona. 2019 she was awarded the Everything is Fine grant for new work by the Bulgarian Fund for Women. And in 2020 she took part in the Mutek AI Art Lab in Montreal.
Her works have been shown at Essl Museum, Austria, EMMA, Finland, the Museum for contemporary art Vojvodina, Serbia, and her videos and performances have been shown internationally at galleries and festivals.