Eva Davidova is an interdisciplinary artist with focus on new media(s), information, and their socio-political implications. The issues of her work—ecological disaster, interdependence, and manipulation of information emerge as paradoxes rather than assumptions, in an almost fairy-tale fashion. Davidova has exhibited at the Bronx Museum, the UVP at Everson Museum, the Albright Knox Museum, MACBA Barcelona, CAAC Sevilla, Instituto Cervantes Sofia, La Regenta, and Circulo de Bellas Artes Madrid among others. Her most recent exhibitions are Global Mode > at ISSUE Project Room (online), The Sound of One Computer Thinking at the IMPAKT festival (Utrecht, Netherlands) and Intentions>Transfer and Disappearance II, or: Who Owns Our Emotions? at the EdgeCut series. She is currently a member of NEW INC, The New Museum Incubator.
“Davidova’s practice is manifestly connected to the transformative potential chaos holds. Appearing at the end of a decidedly traumatic year wherein the sum ideological notion of chaos became crystallized in a popular meme diagram: [Chaotic Good, Chaotic Evil, Chaotic Neutral] and tangibly in lives lost to the virus. If the term ‘chaotic’ seems to carry with it a negative connotation, Davidova adeptly inverts this negativity bias by shaping a space which thrives upon vulnerability, human error and potentials in between. “ Marissa Delano
1. Tell us a little about your background and your trajectory as an artist/ scholar.
Sometimes I think I have lived many lives, and can’t say for sure if it is because I lived in three very different countries, and systems, and maybe ages, or because what I had dreamed of as a kid feels strangely connected to the future, but different from the now—worldwide justice, interrelation and communication with other species, space exploration… No, I am not 100% dystopian, but it still baffles me to the point of paralysis how greed and narcissism, with the help of scarcity propaganda have taken over a world where there is plenty. I am the daughter of a journalist and a poet, and the granddaughter of a philosophy driven, wonderful man who happened to be an anarchist in times of dictatorship, and was declared “enemy of the people.” Probably this has a lot to do with my visceral rejection of dualism and the “with us, or against us” mindset (the same one propagated by the “good guy/ bad guy” propaganda machine that is the big media industry).
I spent my childhood in Bulgaria and started painting very early. When we moved to Madrid, less than a decade after Franco’s death, Spain was bubbling with life and ideas. I was just 13, but very determined to study art, so somehow ended up studying at the Complutense University alongside some amazing people (much older than me, but equally curious about everything). I am immensely grateful to these friends and professors who made a discovery of each day. La Movida Madrileña was a kind of university too, and a glimpse on what a society driven by art and music can be.
I didn’t abandon painting, but around 2000 the ever growing desire to pierce the skin of reality and to fabricate “spells” rather than images, coincided with a workshop by pioneer new-media artist Javier Utray and I started making photo-based animations, obsessively mapping pixels from one frame to the next, creating my own time and movements in unsettling, almost sculptural loops. The technical has always been conceptual for me and I tend to use software in a way it isn’t made for. Looking for connections, relationships, cracks and glitches in the wall of certainties, I draw parallels between the powers of architecture and the powers of data, and rely more and more on the surprise of unscripted human movement, on play, and spontaneous bursts of relationships.
Playing with a paradox, I imagine us as being built by our descendants (humans or cyborg), and pose a question: If we are the games our children will program one day, can we influence the code they are writing? Can we pull the genes of another reality into this one? Could we seed enough doubt, so we can “inseminate” this so-called real reality with something else?
2. What are some of your main influences?
The unfolding of the world, love, contradictions… Plenty of literature— from José Luis Borges and Maria Zambrano to Nora Khan or my mother Zhivka Baltadzhieva. Innumerable artworks and artists of course– I am forever changed by Goya, and all the way to Krzysztof Wodiczko or Sondra Perry. One of the first artists I saw in the 2000s making striking new media art on ecological disaster, and who kindled my desire to do more of it was Marina Zurkow. Also mythologies, ancestral mindscapes, non-dualistic and non-hierarchical propositions. The excluded visions seeping into the present through the digital.
I am very lucky to have found an incredibly inspiring community in New York, and to be in dialog with people worldwide who possess the imagination and the will to act against injustice. As Meredith Drum, a dear friend and co-curator of the exhibition “Beyond Fear and Tyranny: The River is Here” says, “Another world is not only needed, it is possible.”
3. New Media is …….
Somehow I relate New Media to media and architecture as powers. If Media shapes our mindscapes, then New Media could be that new model, which Buckminster Fuller had in mind when he said “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing one obsolete.” Maybe it is also a desire, a force enlisted to engage with the present in order to pull in the future. New Media simultaneously is, and builds a language, forging behaviors, “rewiring neurons”, configuring the spaces that configure our brains. Allowing for non-linear history and multiplicity of interrelationships.
4. What is your typical day like?
I always thought that there will be no typical days in my life, that I’ll be traveling and doing something new every day… and at the same time I cherish some routines, for example an apple I used to eat at exactly 12pm while at an artist residency. Now it seems that days and weeks and months have become elastic and fuzzy, the separation between them— irrelevant. (As the alien in the movie The Fifth Element says, “Time is not important, Life is”.) The life of so many people is on the line, and injustice, racism inequality, monopoly, poisonous capitalism and not-so-natural disasters need action so urgently, that I get lost in the historical moment and stop seeing a lot of the beautiful small motions of the days. I wish I was more connected to each minute. On the surface, my days are very common—many zooms, then making images, imagining interactions, and what the things I write about could actually look like, and also cooking, loving, sleeping.
5. What are you working on now?
At this moment I am starting to overcome the dream-only stage of a very ambitious project with the long (and explicit) name Water Fountain made of Data that annihilates Weapons on Contact, at a Distance.
I also have been iterating and expanding Intentions > Transfer and Disappearance II, a project that addresses the hijacking of our emotions, and the potentials of glitch and failure to subvert the underlying purposes of an extractive “emotional” technology. It explores the failure in identity representation as possible means of protest, and the profoundly false public-ness of public space.
And, just recently presented Global Mode > : an experimental online performance commissioned by ISSUE Project Room and Harvestworks. Made with new technology developed in the urgency of the pandemic by Danielle McPhatter and a very unusual spatial treatment, it was a collaboration with amazing performers (who often held the camera themselves), and mind-bending remote/remote Motion Capture. https://issueprojectroom.org/event/eva-davidova-global-mode.
6. Do you have a collaborative idea that you want to get off the ground?
Yes! Water Fountain made of Data that annihilates Weapons on Contact, at a Distance is a project for the magical powers of collaboration. I can’t wait to start conversations and reach out as soon as possible–some funding will be essential, but also a network that can operate surreptitiously, but energetically.
I am also retaking another chapter of Global Mode > from 2016, which relates to Marco Castro Cosio’s “Bus Roots” and will be an absolute collaboration, or it won’t be. It is a traveling VR Troubadour that disseminates non-dualistic mythological stories. The Troubadour uses the everything-is-possible world of VR, and intentionally unscripted interactions to start relationships and invent new actions, a dance of agencies among very different people. Parallel to the VR experiences, there will be workshops unraveling mythological stories and archetypes, and transposing them on our and others’ lives: who is Prometheus? Can he be the opposite? Who is a Cassandra today?
7. What is the most recent thing you’ve learned?
Joy can bring political change