Hristina Tasheva

BIO ROB 20 18

5’33” – 2015


BIO ROB 20 18 is a track that explores the immigration policy of the European community. Can you tell us more about this work and about the context in which it was developed?

In the summer of 2015, I was invited by Caroline Ruijgrok en Bernke Zandvoort as one of six speakers at the symposium Tussen zwerven en wonen (Between wandering and living), part of their project Object Observer. Their main subject was the house and the way objects in there relate to our identity, how we look at the world outside and how this influences our behavior.

My contribution to this symposium was based on my personal experiences as illegal domestic worker in a West European country and developed into criticism towards the migration policy of the EU. The illegal existence of a migrant means always her/his marginalization and exclusion of the political life in a certain country; it means that someone is bereaved from her social value, identity and turned into a body, that must be invisible while performing as such, must be patient, polite, and thankful, it confirms, bows down and adores. As illegal migrant you have no rights, for defined maximum working hours, a fixed minimum wage, paid leave, provision of food and accommodation, weekly rest periods etc.. As a deprived body you have no family or parents, you don’t have to be loved. This is how BIO ROB 20 18 came into existence, introduced by Europe Enterprise and Bio Engineering Ltd (metaphor for the European Union) and brought as an object to the houses of the wealthy European citizens.

It was born out of all these questions: who belongs where? Whom we welcome to enter our private spaces and under what conditions? Who is responsible for policies that are defining human beings as “illegal”, rejecting to recognize them as citizens? Legal citizens with equal rights, are we aware of our responsibilities for ourselves and for the others? And finally what does it mean “a better life”?
Having all these thoughts and questions in mind, I started to think about a form that could best represent them. An advertisement from the realm of robotics fitted well, as well as the neoliberal ambitions for progress and economical growth in the EU. When the BIO ROB text was ready and recorded, the digital voice read it loud on front of the public of the symposium in Amsterdam. With the help of an iMac, amplifier and big speakers, I actually replaced the usual person behind a microphone in the setting of the symposium.
How did you first start working with sound, and what are your references or inspirations?
When I have a concept for a project and made my research, I try to find the best suitable medium and representation form. The sound installation BIO ROB 20 18 is my first sound work. I choose this medium intuitively and followed the requirements of the symposium as it was meant to be a meeting before an audience.

How does this work fit within your artistic research?

The initial interest in migration was developed in my work after long-lasting experience and observations as an Eastern European migrant in Western Europe. I have established a position as citizen that I express in my projects and opposes the constant attempts of media and politicians to build and consolidate a negative image of migrants as uncivilized, useless and unproductive people. These clichés are creating a lot of tension among the local population and at the same time, marginalize and objectify the 232 million people that belong to the migrant group.
As a migrant, I would like to discover who I really am and to ‘show’ how my ‘world’ looks like out of a mental in-between space, influenced by time and geography and created by the overlapping of two worlds: the one I come from and the one where I am now. Therefore I am the observed (becoming an actor) and the observer (telling stories): my life is the work; I am the work and always in progress. In this process, semi-fictional imagery of people, monuments, recreated rituals, objects from the streets, texts and appropriations come across.
Through my strongly subjective and personal work I am asking: is it possible to build identities based on similarities instead of differences? What is it like to be a human?

We are very interested in the dimension of the collective listening, as it happened in the early decades of radio broadcasts. In which occasions of the past did you present it, and how do you think this mode of presentation can influence the content of what will be heard? 

As I mentioned above, this work was originally presented for collective listening in Castrum Peregrini: a WWII safehouse in the city centre of Amsterdam as part of the symposium Tussen zwerven en wonen (Between wandering and living). The owner of this house, the artist Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht (1912 – 2013) offered young intellectuals and artists refuge in her house. Today Castrum Peregrini became a foundation dedicated to- and “has an unequivocal belief in a society where nobody is excluded and that embraces diversity and equality as conditions for progress.”
Presented within this particular context, the work’s assimilation by the audience was relying also on the knowledge about this. BIO ROB adds a new layer namely, commenting on urgent contemporary issues of migration.
BIO ROB is a strong artistic statement to be shared on a personal level. What I recognize as positive in the possibility of collective listening is the act of togetherness in receiving the information as individual and experiencing the piece all together, it offers an immediate space for reaction, juxtaposition, discussion, becoming aware of what you hear and see on one side and by experiencing the reaction of others on the other on this particular subject.