Digital Ecologies 2018-2019, Plovdiv, Bulgaria: a project in two folds

Fold I, 2018. Operaismo Naturale: Ecology of the Event (27 July - 05 September 2018)

Fold II, 2019. Digital Dramatizations: Ecologies from the Future (04 May - 29 July 2019; symposium 05/06 May 2019)

Curated by Dimitrina Sevova

Co-curated by Katharina Swoboda and Emil Mirazchiev

This project is part of the official program of Plovdiv 2019, European Capital of Culture.

Oliver Ressler, The economy is wounded – let it die!, 2016. One of a series of photographs

Digital Ecologies is composed of two folds of an international group exhibition project and takes place across two venues, the Center for Contemporary Art ‘Ancient Bath’ and the former tobacco warehouse SKLAD in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The first fold, an exhibition project under the title, Operaismo Naturale: Ecology of the Event, takes place from 27 July to 5 September 2018, with talks, interventions and performances on 28 and 29 July and on 5 September; and the second, an expanded exhibition project building on the first exhibition and its context, from 4 May to 29 July 2019, with an accompanying symposium on 5/6 May 2019.

Digital Ecologies brings on display art works that engage with ecological domains and constitute a constellation of eco-art, of emancipatory art practices and committed aesthetic inventions. They have ethical implications in the age of meta-data and the political economy of valorization of information under post-internet conditions, and in the troubling times of rapid and unpredictable climate change associated with global warming. The exhibition project is a platform to display, but also a laboratory for joint research to invent new concepts, affects and percepts – a space of experiments on how to turn knowledge into practice, and practice into knowledge, with its own temporality.

In a technologically driven world, in which Data becomes disturbingly indistinguishable from sensation and affectual affinities, almost like fragments of the flow of Nature, the conditions of cognitive and immaterial labor demand that the relation to Nature and the Natural be rethought. The project hits the intensive road to ponder how under these new circumstances, ecological resistance may enact existential territories that constitute new relations with Nature in which to ground multiplicities, taking into account the flexibilization of labor vs social plasticity. It breaks open the synthetic dialectics by the power of an affirmative milieu, by the creativity of unknown quantities, fragments and digits located beyond the cognitive horizon and the phenomenal growth in the speed of computer-aided subjectivity.

The project does not aim to contemplate, communicate or reflect the topic of Nature. All of these would apply a kind of imaginary mastery. Instead, it embraces speculative realism to struggle for the real. “We must make use of fictions and abstractions […] to get to a plane where we go from real being to real being and advance through the construction of concepts,”* in this case, concepts of eco-realism. Rather, it displays a constructivist approach and returns to the working conditions of composition to ground some urgent questions, urge us to assume our responsibility and open up a new field of virtuality with its potentialities to construct new concepts of brain and nature that do not work in opposition.

The ethico-aesthetic aegis of Digital Ecologies partially draws on the three ecologies of Félix Guattari – social ecology, mental ecology and environmental ecology – and their ethico-political articulations in the molecular domains of sensibility, intelligence and desire and then on to molar dimensions. “Now more than ever Nature cannot be separated from culture,” writes Guattari. This has turned into a truism, but we need to “kick the habits” and return this obvious truth to its emergency here and now, and re-introduce transversality, which still has to be learned as a practice of ecological awareness, of de-colonizing thought, re-inventing gestures of solidarity in response to environmental variations. Guattari’s ecologies are governed by a different logic from that of ordinary communication, viz., the logic of intensities and engagement in irreversible durations. Digital Ecologies occupies this logic of an evolutive process and its object-oriented endeavors “to forge incorporeal objects” as the focal points of new subjectivities, as they are catalysts of existential change.

The exhibition project spans two folds, leaving a continuity of time between them to become a discontinuity of our collective living multiplicities in-between the two, to cast a bridge, an elastic spinal column between them with its own sensible temporality. The time between the two folds of Digital Ecologies matters. It is the time to negotiate between the two and consider the work that has to be done in everyday life. As the title of the first fold, Operaismo Naturale, suggests, it is time for operations. It is time for urgent actions, i.e., the work and no work of inventions that are independent from productivity. Operaismo Naturale forges a body of collective and personal artistic research to activate compositional changes between human labor and natural habitats and their biodiversity.

Etymologically, Operaismo derives from Opera, which means a work, both as labor and composition, i.e., mostly an affective bodied work, an extended dramatic collective work – a music play performed that includes numerous heterogenous arts. It emerged as an intermedio between the acts, a “play within a play,” which literally means being in-between. It was Dafne and her metamorphosis. In this in-betweenness, the metamorphosis can take place, these sudden changes by a transformative, plastic and performative force – a ritornello which applies this togetherness and autonomy of nomadic thought that connects transversally between heterogenous fragments. It is a polyphonic dramatic composition of collective work in process and its commonalities with non-work, a dramatization that sets up an event yet to come on the plane of composition. It is the combinations or the play of variables. It is work on oneself, which paradoxically constructs and re-constructs this collectivity, a composition of both existential territories and art work.

Text: Dimitrina Sevova

* Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994 (1991)), p. 207.


Uriel Orlow, Muthi, 2016-2017. Video still

Operaismo Naturale: Ecology of the Event

Fold 1 of Digital Ecologies: a project in two folds

at the Center for Contemporary Art ‘Ancient Bath’ (6th September Str. 179) and the former tobacco warehouse SKLAD (Ekzarh Yosif Str. 16) in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

27 July to 5 September 2018

With works on display and interventions by Donatella Bernardi, Ursula Biemann, Ursula Biemann & Mo Diener, Luchezar Boyadjiev, Delphine Chapuis Schmitz, Voin de Voin & Simone Gilges, Jonas Etter, David Jacques, Monica Ursina Jäger, knowbotiq, Dominique Koch, Marlene Maier, Boyan Manchev, Angela Melitopoulos, Uriel Orlow, Ursula Palla, Elena Peytchinska, Elodie Pong, Isabel Reiß, Oliver Ressler, Dorothea Rust, Kerstin Schroedinger, Pascal Schwaighofer, Sandro Steudler, Axelle Stiefel, Kamen Stoyanov, Milva Stutz, Katharina Swoboda, Una Szeemann & Bohdan Stehlik, Lena Maria Thüring, and Alexander Tuchaček

Curated by Dimitrina Sevova

Co-curated by Katharina Swoboda and Emil Mirazchiev

Opening: Friday 27 July 2018

18:00h Doors open at the two venues

19:00h Welcome and curatorial introduction at Center for Contemporary Art ‘Ancient Bath’

followed by performances by Alexander Tuchaček and Axelle Stiefel

Events: Saturday 28 July 2018

14:00h Curatorial guided tour across the two venues in the presence and with contributions by participating artists, starting at the Center for Contemporary Art ‘Ancient Bath’

16:00h Performative walk and public intervention starting at the Center for Contemporary Art ‘Ancient Bath’, across the two exhibition venues, by Dorothea Rust

17:00h Curatorial guided tour continues at the former tobacco warehouse SKLAD

Evening program at the former tobacco warehouse SKLAD

19:00h Talk by Boyan Manchev, Meteoropolitics

20:15h Performance-lecture by Luchezar Boyadjiev, The Greatest Love of My Life was a Non-Human

21:00h Performance by Voin de Voin & Simone Gilges, Portal 1. From the digital to the physical and vice versa (what is in between)

Events: Sunday 29 July 2018 at the former tobacco warehouse SKLAD

13:30h Artist talks by Kamen Stoyanov, Elena Peytchinska and Marlene Maier

14:00h Performance by Una Szeemann & Bohdan Stehlik, Differences on a shared pillow

14:45h Sandro Steudler, Der Bau: Approaches to a Theory of Data Sculpture (Der Bau: Ansätze zu einer Theorie der Datenplastik)

15:30h David Jacques, An anti-travel travelogue

16:15h Katharina Swoboda, Vampire Graves

17:00h Isabel Reiß, Combs, Waves and Fields

Evening program

20:30h Public interview with Alexander Tuchaček by Dimitrina Sevova

21:15h Axelle Stiefel, Codex Operator

Events: Saturday 01 September 2018 at the former tobacco warehouse SKLAD

19:00h Performance by Delphine Chapuis Schmitz

Ursula Biemann, Subatlantic, 2015. Video still

Operaismo Naturale revolves around what kind of aesthetic practices can urge ecological thought through the multitude of artist practices and art works on display in a multivalent project. If there is some wonder what concept of ecology to embrace, the project embraces particularly the resonances among so many concepts, some of them contradictory, but welcome as ‘Ecologies of Nothingness’ and its voiding love in troubled times, ‘Ecology without nature’ or ‘Dark ecology.’ The project encourages the viewers to explore the potentiality of this “dark precursor” that opens up a new passage of ecological thinking. How do these eco-logical sensibilia of what are doubles of thought relate to the issue of brain creativity that can be grasped as leaving room for more creative tracings? What kind of ecology can happen in the dark room, and how does ecological awareness actually start with the little glimmering in the dark depths of vast nature? This is the ecology of a black box and its lighting system of immediate and infinite reversible movements of lightning flashes. A Furling Machine that creates new ways of seeing and hearing, new ways of feeling, a logological cabinet (by extension curious) that ‘exhibits’ a will to form and affect plasticity.

Operaismo Naturale: Ecology of the Event takes inspiration from the desire by Deleuze & Guattari to write a philosophy of nature in which any distinction between nature and artifice becomes blurred. The ultimate volume of Philosophy of Nature remains an unwritten project in the body of their collective work, in the channels of their non-linear micro-logic of philosophical ideas. It leaves an unoccupied space for us to speculate, to fabulate, to experiment what and how such a philosophy could be that is inevitably a matter of aesthetics and ethics. The unwritten Philosophy of Nature is a project of naturalist materialism in science-fiction that remains an open work, a threshold for ‘heretic’ ideas in the blurred zone between nature and artifice, or what Michel Foucault called points of heresies, which correspond to Deleuze and Guattari’s “Event-centered singularities” and resonances between them that make up the diagrammatic feature of the plane. Their physical magnitude can unexpectedly take us off in a new direction, where there is no longer a need for speculative unity between nature and spirit or between nature and technology, but rather ecologic modulations of micro brains’ plasticity. The plastic forces operate between the organic and inorganic, between human and non-human. Their plastic method is not so much a transformation of one into the other than the passing of one into the other to anticipate the future of social and politico-aesthetic change.

Kerstin Schroedinger, Bläue (Blueness), 2017. Video still

The project interrogates how the relation between the concepts of plasticity in nature, art and the social can be de-instituted, and thought as abstract machine and concrete plastic forces, plasticity as an aesthetic and social force that can be conceived as plastic forces and organic folds in the multi-layered plateaus of matter.

Zooming in close up into these new cerebral maps (not of the objectified brain of biology), Operaismo Naturale considers the concrete performance of these cartographies as the ecology of the event. The event is a separated aleatory incorporeal point at which the brain individuates itself without subject and becomes an atmospheric event, the inorganic (re)double of the biological brain outside of consciousness, what Deleuze and Guattari defined as plastic availability, drawing on the “plastic specter” of Antonin Artaud that haunts the work of art and the new mentalities that have to be invented between the three ecological registers. The event is the consistency or reality of the virtual, the running vectors of micro-brains at the crossroads of multiple paths. Their collection is the brain-event outside of the organic (of the organ and its flexibilization), the event as an embryonic emergence of new material and social realities and of a natural equilibrium.

Text: Dimitrina Sevova

Oliver Ressler, New Model Army, 2018. Installation view

A project of Art Тoday Аssociation, Plovdiv in collaboration with Corner College, Zurich.

Art Today Association    

This project is part of the official program of Plovdiv 2019, European Capital of Culture.

Support by the Municipal Foundation Plovdiv 2019, Pro Helvetia, Goethe Institut Sofia, the Federal Chancellery of Austria (Bundeskanzleramt), the Austrian Embassy in Sofia.

Plovdiv 2019     Pro Helvetia     Goethe Institut
Bundeskanzleramt Österreich     Austrian Embassy Sofia

Media partners

BNT     Katra FM
Media Cafe     Pod Tepeto


Website: code flow / Alan Roth