Fund for Art Projects by Women Artists: Interview with Albena Baeva

  •  July 14, 2022

Albena Baeva works within the intersection of art, technology and social sciences. Her interactive art installations for urban spaces and galleries use machine learning and artificial intelligence, new technologies, creative programming and DIY practices.  

In 2019 she participates in BFW’s first edition of the Fund for Art Projects by Women Artists with the series “Dangerous Female Creatures, Living in the Deep”. She is among the 11 artists chosen by the jury to participate in the group exhibition of the Fund – “Everything is (Just) Fine” in 2020. The exhibition remained closed for its entire duration due to the COVID-19 government measures.  

“Dangerous Female Creatures Living in the Deep” 2020 

Oil painting, Stylagan Algorythm, 2020

About the series, we read the following:  

“Portrait, human figure, a woman in urban environment – it’s hard to describe the images that welcome us in “Dangerous Female Creatures Living in the Deeep”. Albena Baeva trains the generative nervous system Stylagan through a carefully executed dataset of images of women and sea creatures. The goal of the system is to learn how to generate images, which resemble the source material. Due to the lack of homogeneity in the initial dataset, the result contains inaccurate images.  

And exactly the “wrong” result gets selected. The artist transfers the selected images onto canvas using an oil technique attempting to mimic a materiality typical for digital reproduction. Another algorithm analyses the created pictures, attempting to understand what they represent and concludes it in a short text. This capricious dialogue between a machine and an artist is a consequence and reaction of over 60 thousand documental photos, downloaded from the Internet. The series of translation, that the figures in front of us can go through, allow us to take a new look at the source material in search of the portrait of the contemporary woman.“ 

We talk with Albena Baeva about the things, that inspire her, the specifics of the artistic environment in Bulgaria and the place of women in it.  

Why do you create art? What are your biggest inspirations?  

I create art, because it is interesting, and I have the need to do it. I am inspired by the chaos, the coincidence and the mistakes.  

How important is life context for artistic work?  

Life context is always part of the formation of a personality, and it is crucial for the forming of an artist. The strong author is always an individualist. This is exactly why it is possible for them to distinguish themselves from the others. Additionally, the environment is incredibly important for the development of new authors. When the environment is toxic, unsupportive, lacking finances, a small number of authors remain on stage. Most of them either leave the country or give up. This does not necessarily mean that they were not talented but that there was no environment for them to develop in.  

Is the role of women artists on the Bulgarian scene changing? How?  

Today female artists have a very big chance and understanding in order to develop. They apply on equal grounds with others, and more and more international organizations are developing sensibility to support women artists. When you succeed abroad, it is easier to influence the internal scene. Even though in the minds of many of our contemporaries the great artist is still a man we do have many strong women authors.  

However, in my opinion, a lot of work is needed in terms of their visibility. Two years ago, I held a lecture on the beginning of the media art in Bulgaria. When I opened Monoskop, the most famous international source on the topic for the past 20 years, there were only men listed in it. You would say that probably in the beginning there was not much female participation. But there was. These women are still active artists with whom you can converse.  

What challenges do women artists face?  

Women artists face the same stereotypes as all other women. While they are young, they are mostly rated on their looks. When they decide to have children, they automatically are out of the game. Often their projects do not develop on the necessary scale and remain in the less visible spectrum, away from public attention either because they make less than their male colleagues or because they care for children. 

Why is art created by women important for society? What about for the artistic environments?  

Art reflects the contemporary, our culture. When the voice of a certain group is not included in the creation of art their position is also not included. Women are half of society and the topics, which concern them, are of course, incredibly important. In order to grow as a society, in order to have a quality life, we need to hear the voices of marginalized groups, such as women, LGBTQ+ people, Roma people and disadvantaged people.  

How did the Fund for Art Projects by Women Artists help you? What happened afterwards?  

The Fund provided me with the time I needed in order to deepen my research on artificial intelligence which I started in 2019. The work I created then helped me gain a place in various international forums on artificial intelligence and new technologies such as the MUTEK Montral AI Art Lab and the Goethe Institute’s EthicAI= Lab, where I learned many new things and created new partnerships and projects. Additionally, the painting series “Dangerous Female Creatures Living In the Deep” is now also a part of the Art collection Telekom of Deutche Telekom.  

The support of the Fund for Art Projects by Women Artists came at the end of my maternity leave and gave me the push I needed in order to jump over the vacuum that often accompanies such a hiatus in the artistic scene.  

What advice would you give to the future participants in the Fund for Art Projects by Women Artists?  

Go forward boldly. Share your knowledge and build networks. In order to be successful you need to build a network of colleagues to work with and assist each other. The success of a project is not always dependent on money. Sometimes working with the right team is way more important. When a colleague who needs help or advice comes to me, I do not require to be paid. When I cannot get a task done, I recommend my colleagues. But I also know that whenever I need it my friends and colleagues will support me.  

Participate in the new edition of Fund for Art Projects by Women Artists: Open Call “State of Emergency“! We invite women artists from all spheres of contemporary visual arts to propose projects for new works addressing issues and problems relevant to our society. The deadline for applications is August 15 and the maximum project funding is BGN 5000. Find out more HERE.

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