Nikola Valchev. Black mirror?

Dechko Uzunov House Museum

13.5.2023 — 25.6.2023

Plamen V. Petrov
Graphic designer
Georgi Sharov
Lora Sultanova
Traci Speed

“If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror is set. The ‘black mirror’ of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.” Charlie Brooker

—Charlie Brooker

The exhibition Black Mirror” is inspired by the television series of the same name and presents us with more than 20 canvases in different formats. The artist offers us a concept that includes traditional painting and prints. The prints, in turn, were generated using the program Midjourney, which uses artificial intelligence.

To date, we are not only registering the emergence, but also the transformation of artificial intelligence into a phenomenon because of its everyday application. Like any phenomenon, artificial intelligence makes us rethink our understanding of art, and it provokes extremely contrary opinions in audiences. On the one hand, the artist’s “palette” is enriched by one more new tool; on the other hand, however, the traditional focus of attention on handwork shifts to the ability to manage and communicate with artificial intelligence. The idea of artificial intelligence has its inception in different cultures – in ancient Greece, it is the mechanized servants of the blacksmith Hephaestus, in the Near East – al-Jazari’s book of mechanical devices, and in Judaism, it is the Golem, a being made of inanimate matter and animated by man. One of the peaks of this idea came on May 11, 1997, when IBM’s chess supercomputer, Deep Blue, won the final game of a rematch with Garry Kasparov and became the first computer to defeat a world chess champion in a head-to-head match.

Aware of the polarization of opinions on the subject, Nikola Valchev avoids a categorical answer; he does not attempt to suggest a position, but to provide the public with the necessary visual mass to make their own comparison. The viewer is placed in a hybrid environment where the two realities coexist, left hesitant to define them and faced with the responsibility of his or her choice. The idea of the depersonalization of the personality in canvases is treated, hinting at the depersonalization of the personality in social networks. And although the exhibition does not give us ready answers, it reminds us of the cold atmosphere of synthetic technologies and the sense of worry and anxiety they bring. The viewer has a hard time trying to formulate the idea, since human error is the only difference from “unerring” artificial intelligence. A process that transforms error into a mark of authorship and creativity.

Nikola Valchev was born in the city of Kazanlak in 1994. Here he graduated from the Academician Dechko Uzunov High School of Arts and Design with a major in Advertising Graphics. He continued his education in the Fine Arts Department of Veliko Tarnovo University in the painting classes of Prof. Tsvetan Kolev. In 2016, he went to the Academy of Fine Arts in Lodz, Poland, after winning a place in the Erasmus+ student exchange program. In 2019, he defended his master’s degree, again in Painting at Veliko Tarnovo University. He began his creative appearances as a student, participating in a number of group exhibitions in Veliko Tarnovo and Poland. After his studies, he returned to his hometown as a regular participant in the town’s autumn salons and the collective events of the Academician Dechko Uzunov High School of Arts and Design, where he started working in 2019 as a teacher of drawing and painting. In 2021, he participated in the 6th International Plein Air Large Format Drawing “Dialogue” organized by the School Board of the National High School of Stage and Film Design in Plovdiv, held at the Bratsigovo Ceramics Centre. Nikola Valchev currently lives and works in Kazanlak.