Animator, author of short films and installations, teacher, visual artist – Theodore Ushev is a well-known on the global visual arts scene.
07 december 2015
Animator, author of short films and installations, teacher, visual artist – Theodore Ushev is a well-known on the global visual arts scene. One of his latest projects, the short film Gloria Victoria, was among the top ten short films selected at last year's Oscars. The film was produced by the National Film Board of Canada, where Theodore Ushev has been working for years. He also lectures and leads master classes at universities around the world, including the two most prestigious French academies of art, ENSAD and La Poudriere. He is currently filming Georgi Gospodinov's story Blind Vaysha, which will be one of the first films ever made using a revolutionary new technology. The film is produced by the biggest television channel for culture in Europe, the French Arte. The animated version of the novel Physics of Sorrow, also by Theodore Ushev, is planned for 2017.
Are the boundaries between visual arts blurring today – and where do you position yourself between illustration, animation and installation?
I think that one of the most difficult tasks for an artist is to remain ambiguous, not to get bogged down in cliches. Personally, I consider myself a visual artist because my time is divided between the films I make and the independent projects in between. Last year, for example, in addition to a long-term film project that I will be working on for the next two-three years, I finished another one, Somnambul, based on music by Kottarashky. It will start touring festivals this March. I had a very interesting idea for a "bloody movie," which is also ready and coming out soon. I was busy with a large-scale installation that projected, and mixed in a really unique way, footage from Norman McLaren films onto the facade of the library in Montreal, I organized a poster exhibition in the summer in Plovdiv, taught in Paris in the fall. All this, taken together, seems to keep me away from myself, it does not let me to enter into an artistic schema and start taking myself too seriously.
Yes, I think that today the boundaries of art are blurred. Just as the contours of the life we live are blurred.
What topics do you turn to when creating art?
Real life. There are also topics that find me even when I'm not looking for them, and my inspiration, and the ideas that constantly come to my mind, everything.
You grew up in a creative family. What are some lessons from your childhood that you still remember and apply?
The fact that I grew up with an artist who was making independent art during those years, and was against the system and the status quo, it was like a university. I learned my mistakes before I made them. The most important lesson is that the worst thing for an artist is to become obsessed with himself. To toil like a convict stuck in the mine of his own art, without going outside, to see what the weather is like, whether it is sunny, without seeing himself from a distance. Taking himself too seriously. Nothing is more destructive than complacency and conceitedness.
Physics of Sorrow
How did you start working on Blind Vaysha? What drew you to this Georgi Gospodinov story?
I have been working with Georgi Gospodinov for three years. I read Physics of Sorrow and was so impressed that I immediately wanted to make a film about it. I found Georgi, we met and that's how it all started. The animation for Physics of Sorrow is in the works and should be ready in 2017. There is still time and a lot of work to be done. It is funded by the Canadian Film Board, with which I have been working for 10 years. Georgi is a great author. It is a pleasure to work with someone you feel close to, who shares your worldview. The idea for Vaysha came up by chance. First Arte TV was behind the project, then the Canadian state. Which doesn't happen often. Due to their strong protection of their own cultural products, in Canada they rarely support a film by a foreign author twice if they don't believe in the project. The same applies to Arte, which has broadcast Bulgarian films, but I do not know that they have ever produced any. Blind Vaysha is one of the four animations they are producing this year. The story is about a blind girl called Vaysha, who can see the future with one eye, the past with the other, and is never be able to meet the present; it is an absolute allegory of the world we live in. We're always short on something and it gets in the way of catching the present, it is always slipping away from us.
Tell us more about the new Oculus Rift technology.
This is a completely new, still experimental technology, which allows the viewer to see an image not just on the screen, but also everywhere around them with the help of special glasses. Augmented reality. It's crazy. Blind Vaysha will be one of the first films in the world to experiment with this technology.
Where do you think Bulgarian contemporary visual art is headed?
As far as I can tell from, the situation in Bulgaria is, to put it mildly, stuck in a rut. We will hardly have enough time to analyze it. New interesting forms such as interactive, responsive art are not being created. I come across some interesting painters, most of them studied abroad. The problems start with the Academy and arts education, and end with people's minds. With this status quo, things cannot be good. The fish is totally rotten. Radical change is needed.