Media > Interviews
Artist Venelin Shurelov: “My Fantomaton is a machine
Street art is resistance art, says the author of
Sfumato's seventh Short Season is over. Once again,
the driving forces behind the theater workshop – directors Margarita Mladenova
and Ivan Dobchev – closed the season by announcing the laureates of the
“Sfumato – New Names” idea. And if this Short Season had a particular feel,
this feel is best exemplified by the fantasies of scenographer Venelin
Shurelov, who received a special distinction for his installation of wooden
figures Fantomata, arranged along the alley in front of the theater.
During the Short Season, you staged your
performance called Transfusion in the space in front of Sfumato. What do you
tell your audience with this creative act? What reactions do you expect?
Transfusion was conceived and staged for the first
time at the Goethe Institute within the Nomad Dance Academy.
As a consequence,the Art Academy invited us to take part in the program of the Night of the
Museums. This was an opportunity to gather a new team which we named the Street
They put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into making this
performance come true in its new shape. They also gave me the courage to
present it once again within the Short Season. In this performance,
expectations come first, as the preparation for a show is usually the key part
of the process. In this case, we rely on the authentic actions of the
performers and the audience's spontaneous reaction. The decision of actress
Yuiliana Sayska to do the choreography played an important role in the project.
She prepared a movement score. This gave the performers a basis upon which they
What place does street art occupy in Bulgaria, and around the world?
This question brings me a long way back to the first
acts I used to do in the late 1990s with the Via Pontica art group. My first
independent projects dealt with the urban environment, public space. I arrived
at an idea brilliantly expressed by Hakim Bey – the potential of urban
landscape to be changed through the means of art and the chance to open zones
where the environment will start breathing again. Street art cannot be
institutionalized; it resists settled zones and figures who steer the artistic
events in public space. It is one of the most primal and spontaneous forms of
making art. It is not subject to regulation, but a question of personal choice.
You've worked along with Ana Vilenitsa and Animatar Animitrov in the
Subhuman Theater. Do you ever get nostalgic about the times when you used to
shape your childlike dreams in the Via Pontica art group?
If there's any nostalgia, it goes to the friendships
and relations that we had inside the group. We were very close. As for the
results of our work, there's no nostalgia. I believe the projects I do now are
a fine continuation of what I used to do. So I feel no nostalgia as an artist.
Right now, I'm lacking people, a team, kindred spirits to work with. The
Subhuman Theater is an unstable formation, more of an idea, a concept, than a
A Theater of the Inhuman is a possible interpretation of the name of
your formation. What is the relation between Subhuman and art and theater?
Subhuman is a broad
platform that brings together a lot of aspects of a forgotten humanness. The
“subhuman” concept should evoke oppressed humanness. It can take shape in
various ways that may be defined as subculture, subversion, subproduct,
How did you come up with the idea of the machine for drawings? Do you
envision its mass application, for instance in supermarkets, petrol stations,
It's quite an utopian question, yet the essence of
the machine for drawings and the Fantomaton is rather dystopian.
for drawings was a much more personal act, as I had embedded myself as the
software of this odd mechanical device made of metal, thereby automatizing my
own art and making it dependent on the user's consumption in public space. My
goal has not been so much to point fingers at the commercialization of
contemporary artists or their transformation into art mass-production machines.
For me, the first and foremost aspect of this sort of acts is contact with the
audience, with the potential user, the random passer-by. I feel really glad
when “users” begin discussing any provocative aspects of what I offer them.
It's mostly about interaction, the opportunity for contact. I can imagine this
machine on the North Pole too. It doesn't chase after mass appeal and
popularity. Whenever I display it, I do it in lively public spaces, but I
wouldn't like to overexpose such objects. The chance to come across one of them
just once is much more valuable than seeing them at every corner.
You've graduated from the National Art Academy, with a MA in
Scenography. What stirs you more – working in a theater or on individual
My path in theater is due to my fortunate meeting
several directors. What is common to most of them is their affiliation with the
Sfumato school. I call those “fortunate meetings” because I too like the risky
laboratory experimental process as modus operandi, no matter how tiresome and
intense it may be.
Your interactive installation Fantomaton is really impressive. What do
you wish to convey with this humanoid sculpture and the embedded plasma screen?
How is an unbiased viewer supposed to interact with it?
As unbiasedly as possible. The emergence of the
machine for fantasies, Fantomaton being an automaton for fantasies, is a direct
consequence of the machine for drawings, which applied the principle of popular
vending machines that take your coin and give a product back. So does the
It uses a coin mechanism, a simple electronic system which allows
interactivity – by pressing a button, the viewer can switch between various
channels and see various images. The Fantomaton aims to utilize the structure
of popular vending machines, slot machines, yet replace the product they offer
with something that is hard to consume in the way the user expects. In other
words, if it offers some kind of product, that product is food for the senses,
the mind, imagination, our consciousness.
When does the boundary between human and non-human get blurred?
It has done it already, long ago. I've taken the task
of discerning humanness in the non-human. Technocracy, technoculture,
technoesthetics, with which we interact all the time, is a particular type of
esthetics of the monstrous.
Each myth points us to those complex, dichotomous,
hybrid creatures. They play a key social role, since they serve as cultural
actors in our society. Their mission is to present the monstrous aspect we each
carry inside our human nature, to create a mirror image that would help us
recognize it and so choose our path.
You have authored the Sfumato trademark. What does it convey?
It belongs to the period when I worked with Via
Pontica. We used to have a motto saying, “Keep walking, never getting to a
destination, until you have turned into a road yourself”. A man who walks along
a circle has turned the road into a home and shelter. The sign is a combination
between the concept of Homo Ludens (Man at Play) and Leonardo da Vinci's
contribution to the name of our theater. It was Leonardo who introduced the
term sfumato, meaning a technique of painting air. This logo may be
called a technique of observation.