Æxchange Sofia-Haga

In May and June Æxchange Sofia-Haga took place, an exchange between two artists from Sofia and The Hague. The project was initiated by Voin Voinov and myself, as a result of a collaboration in our own art practice and my involvement with Æther, the art space that Voin established in Sofia in 2016. From this Æther Haga emerged, The Hague’s little sister who occasionally appears with art news from the East of Europe.

In the course of a week, an exhibition was made at both locations and we showed the participants around along art initiatives, monuments of nature and sights that are typical for the city. During the opening of the exhibitions, the exchange between the artists themselves took place. Two intensive weeks were filled with valuable impressions for everyone to take home with them.
The four participating artists were Stela Vasileva and Svetlana Mircheva from Sofia and Arianne Olthaar and Marjolijn van der Meij from The Hague.

Æxchange Sofia-Haga
The whole Æxchange bunch in "State of Apparition" by Stela Vasileva and Svetlana Mircheva at Æther Haga

State of Apparition
Stela Vasileva and Svetlana Mircheva, May 23 – June 01 at Æther Haga

“The magic of the unpredictable of everything that might be”, is how I could describe the core of “State of Apparition”, the exhibition of Stela Vasileva and Svetlana Mircheva. Both of them made new work on this theme, in relation to each other and more concretely to the space of Æther Haga which is characterized by the presence of two large roof lights.

Mirchevas in copper bronze reflective Cyrillic letters, each of which has been cut vertically into two and three, form, staggered and hanging from the ceiling, the word “МОЖЕ”, translated into English: “It May”. The elusive promise that the meaning of this word carries within, in combination with its external appearance in a lettering that is difficult to decipher for most visitors in The Hague as such, covers the meaning of the title of the exhibition in many ways.

Æxchange Sofia-Haga
"Може"/ "It May", Svetlana Mircheva

Vasileva’s sculptures consist of mirrors placed upright behind each other in sharply cut triangles and rectangles. Through the reflection of light, they form an ever-changing pattern of shadows in space. Inevitably, the use of this material has a direct relationship with the viewer, the space itself and everything else in it. Walking through the complete installation, the work of both artists sometimes literally comes together in its reflection, depending on how the viewer moves through it. Vasileva’s sharply angular formal language is in no way a friendly element in this, but rather feels like an alarming warning signal.

In contrast, like a sweet-pink waterfall, hanging from the ceiling and ending draped over the floor, there is Mircheva’s “Palm Trees”. In the two connected lightly waving banners, a series of words has been cut out in the opposite direction, which together summarise her personal associations with and the physical characteristics of this tree species in word and image. The regularity and unpredictability in which both nature and what we describe as artificial go hand in hand, shows in “State of Apparition” that these concepts are perhaps closer together than is generally assumed.

Arianne Olthaar and Marjolijn van der Meij, June 8-23 at Æther Sofia

Arianne Olthaar and Marjolijn van der Meij share a long history of friendship and have collaborated for years on different films. A period of concentration on individual work followed in which Olthaar focused on video work on the past glory of interiors and buildings from the 70s and 80s. Van der Meij developed from large charcoal drawings with mythical surrealistic-looking scenes to work in which she increasingly distorted the flat surface of paper with various techniques, resulting in sculptural work.

A shared fascination of them is the work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The decors from his films were used as a starting point for the exhibition “FEAR” at Æther Sofia.

A flaming red marbled carpet leads you inside where, communicating as if in negative, but in shades of grey, the same pattern hangs perpendicularly down, descending over the floor (a nice coincidental resemblance with Mircheva’s “Palm Trees”). As a result of this change in perspective and colour, the marble pattern suddenly appears visually as a heavy draped interior or curtain fabric. The whole thing that is still attached to the role on the floor seems to want to emphasize: “Don’t let yourself be fooled, this world is one of the imagination; it’s not real”. On and against this decor by Van der Meij, three images printed on silk are displayed like in a shop window. Each of them reveals a scene zoomed in on the hands. In the centre of this, hanging over a display intended to show chic necklaces, is a pair of hands that seem to want to clasp something, a shoulder or a neck, it doesn’t become very clear, while on both sides, rooting in a handbag with impeccably red-lacquered nails, is being searched for a cigarette. It evokes a calming, but also an unpleasant and ominous feeling in me.

At the same time, from the basement, clear sounds of footsteps on a staircase, the lighting of a cigarette and then a doorbell are reaching me; I’m not alone here. This is where the work of both literally comes together. The sound effects of Olthaar’s video installation in the downstairs space are partly responsible for the feeling that Van der Meij’s work is able to evoke one floor up. The video itself shows still and rotating shots of a dark lit ’70s interior of what could be a hotel room or apartment for temporary rental. The interior is limited to a few pieces of furniture. A number of empty drinking bottles are spread across the floor, but most of them are still filled on the table. Whoever just left here, has been here alone. The projection that covers the entire back wall of the low basement space gives the feeling of standing in a life-size diorama, an apparent contradictio in terminis, which actually turns out to be able to exist within the limits of what is possible. And this brings us back to “The magic of the unpredictable of everything that might be”; it all starts and ends within a certain State of Apparition.

Æxchange Sofia – Haga is made possible with the kind support of Stroom Den Haag.