Apr 19, 2013

Visual Relicts of desert Spheres

Degree Dissertation in Visual Communications from Hristina Vardeva

Hochschule für Bildene Künste Hamburg 2012


is not only a geographical region but a whole cultural and historical thematic park itself. Te term occurs in variety of diferent disciplines: from mythology, religion, philosophy and literature to fne arts, flm and comics. Wherever I looked in and compared, I found an extraordinary discrepancy between polyvalent defnitions and interpretations, often tenably captured in metaphors. Desert spheres built a whole universe of symbols and images, each one unique and true for itself. Tey appear as an ideological concept, political platform, art practice and metaphor of life. Te images of deserted landscapes became a symbol of the alienation of humanity and a metaphor of the relationship between man and machine, civilization and wilderness.

Before I started working on my flm “ In the middle of the Desert” I had a vague idea of about deserts and their signifcance as cinematographic landscapes. With the typical naivety of a beginner, I was simply trying to imagine what kind of space would be able to visually express the existing alienation and emptiness in the todays ́ society. I thought of it not as a modern phenomenon but as normality that accompanies our daily life. I read that some people, who were chronically sufering from depression and melancholy, often depicted their state as an disorientated walk through a barren landscape. It is not only the sick imagination that makes the desert appear but the “reality of absence” that surounds us. Te modern urban surrounding is a gigantic labyrinth of sounds, walls and streets, in which people move and behave like machines. Tis modern life with its psychological, ecological and economical facets, has devastating impacts over people ́s imagination. What is thought to be an individual disability to adapt, is for me a clear sign of a modern disease, deeply-rooted in the fear from the inevitable end of human progress. From the moment in which we realize that democracy, global wealthiness and freedom are just an illusion, in which our parents desperately believed, we become children without future. In the era of modern apocalypse, we all witness how human lives, dreams and desires disappear, but we shrink with shoulders and continue, as if we know- this story was already written. So isn ́t this world without any meaning and dreams as empty, inhuman and hostile as the desert itself ? Is the desert a visual relict of the end of human civilization or the image of one new beginning?

In my flm “In the middle of the Desert” I don`t try to fnd answers, I just point out a way out of the general disorientation and show the reality that surrounds me. In this essay I don`t try to make general conclusions about the relation between and modern reality, I just try to encrypt its metaphorical meaning in modern cinema. I start my explorations with a short introduction in the etymology of the word , that would inevitable lead us back in the past to its cultural and historical backgrounds. I put an accent on desert ́s signifcant presence in ancient mythology and 19th century literature. Tis retrospective shows how the desert transformed from natural event to culturally produced space and fnally reached the modernity as an esthetic concept. I will try to distinguish the borderline between cinematic setting and landscape, referring to Martin Lefebvre`s observations on paintings from the end of 17th century and their later transformation into modern cinematic forms. I will mention couple of Land art projects which played essential role in the further conceptualization and politicization of the desert landscapes in the end of the  ́60s and the beginning of the  ́70s. Tis period of political turmoils and ideological transformations will influence the appearance of new abstract visual forms and shows the eforts of some modern flmmakers to show the ambivalence of human nature through the metaphor of the desert.

The conjugation reflects the constant confrontation of nature and culture. With the fast-growing industrialization of the rural zones and the urbanization of the city, the image of the desert became visually present in human lives. Modern city landscape was a human invention but it surely appeared to many who were unable to adapt to it as another planet, like for Giuliana in Antonioni`s “Red desert” . Te feeling of alienation, disorientation and forlornness of many flm characters fnds expression in the threatening monstrosity of the industrial sublime. It is amazing how exact the cinematic landscapes can reflect the storm of feelings, how near the mirages from the desert can appear to the modern reality. becomes projection surface of extraordinary kind that overthrows the conventional order, deconstructs the space and the time and disbands the imagination. In many flms the barren landscapes reflect the disrupted situation of human civilization, lost in the ruins of its social order, torn between animal instincts and artifciality.

In the modern civilization deserts represents anti-spheres, opposed against the normality, against the logically explainable events or answerable through science phenomena. Tey are a places, where every moment something can appear and disappear, where the modern civilization does not have control and thus loses its superiority over life. Like a white piece of paper on which one could draw, the blank barren landscapes encourage the explosion of phantasies that go far beyond the dream- like illusion. As a ground zero, from which nations were built and identities have been grown, the empty desert suddenly hosts flm characters and encourages them to start a dialogue with their inner and think about the meaning of their lives. Under this groundlessness of the desert the reflexion about existential questions appears almost automatically. Te lonely fgure of wanderer in the desert is a metaphor used in many flms to illustrate the disorientation and estrangement in the modern civilization. Trough the medium of flm the desert becomes a world of poetic phantasies and political utopias, a new beginning and an inevitable end.

You can download all the text here:

Jan 6, 2013


“In the middle of the desert“ is a cine poem about the existential emptiness and the human alienation in todays` postmodern world, in which we wake up and fall asleep with the images of total destruction and death. This monstrous reality, resembles a vast lifeless desert, where no one can see beyond the endless horizon.


In this monstrous creation of the modern industry, surrounded from endless fences, squeezed by the bustling crowds, illuminated from thousands of billboards, Phoenix heads on into her bleak future. With every step she makes her breath speeds up, she loses her dreams, her purpose, her mind. She wakes up and falls asleep with the images of total destruction and death but the future lasts forever. Phoenix is just one example from millions of people, whose lives are ingrained by thoughts of the end of the world and the feeling of hopelessness and despair. This reality resembles a vast lifeless desert, where no one can see beyond the endless horizon or imagine any new beginning. Once Phoenix starts understanding the nature of the desert growing around and learns how to survive in it, she can see the unique forms of life existing there. Then everything seems the same but is a little bit different.



Director´s statement:

Today we are waiting for the apocalypse to come, torn between the feelings of growing despair and uncontrollable rage, without recognizing that we already live in the midst of the total destruction. We can imagine the end of the world, but we cannot imagine the new world which would rise from the ashes of what was already destroyed. Only when this reality suddenly breaks down into pieces, we can realize how fragile our world actually is. The desert is physically present in our lives. It is not an imaginary world, it is the world we live in.This film is a reflection of the indefinite fears of the modern humanity from the bleak future where there is no more difference between dream and reality.

Director: Hristina Vardeva
Script: Hristina Vardeva and Harry Halpin
Director of Photography: Michael Steinhauser, 

Marcus Hoffmann, David Tena and Jytte Hill
Overvoice: Eni Aksoy
Director Assistant : Frauke Ludwig and Janne Jürgensen
Music: Pawel Wieleba and Rannug Fflow
Editting: Hristina Vardeva

Official screenings at: Konstanzer Kurz.Film.Spiele 1.9, Sofia Film Fest 2013, Chicago Anarchist Film Festival,  EUROPEAN MEDIA ART FESTIVAL Osnabrück , FilmFest Münster 2013

You can watch the whole video online:


 TRAILER - https://vimeo.com/46257408

After the End of the World: Film and Text  оn CRIMETHINC

Jul 10, 2012

Oct 15, 2010



Part of the film " In the Middle of the Desert" was shot in the impressive gigantic flying saucer building called the Buzludzha. The monument is situated on the top of the historical peak Hadji Dimitar (1441m) in the Central Stara Planina, Bulgaria. On this peak was the final battle in 1868 between Bulgarian rebels led by Hadji Dimitar and Stefan Karadzha and the Turks.

The architecht of Buzludzha is George Stoilov. The construction of Buzludzha was made possible thanks to government funds and supporters’ donations for an amount of around 14 186 000 leva (around 7 000 000 €). The site was built by civil engineering troops from the Bulgarian army and volunteers. The construction was finished on 1891. Buzludzha was built in honour of the socialist movement and stays as one of the symbols of the socialism in Bulgaria. The monument was hosting the congress meetings of the socialist party and mayn public celebrations. 

Ever since the superseding of the Bulgarian president Todor Givkov and the political changes that occurred in Bulgaria after 1989,  the monument was abandoned.  Since then no public institution seemed to be concerned about the conservation or the renovation of the building. After  media publicity in 2010 the history of the monument got some public attention again. Politicians from the Bulgarian Socialist Party stated that they consider the monument their property and showed strong interest in getting it back from the Bulgarian state. 

The renovation of the building is expected to be very high because of the bad shape of the building in the last 10 years. Eventually the current Prime Minister Boiko Borisov officially handed the ownership of the building back to the socialst party. Nowadays Buzludzha is still falling apart and there is no intention from the BSP Party or the state institutions to start soon with its renovation. It is also not clear what purpose the building would serve after the reconstruction- if it shall be a museum ot can also be used for commercial purposes like restaurant ot party centre. While the destiny of Buzludzha is still vague, many artists, filmakers and travellers continue visiting the abandoned monolite building and report about it.



The apocalypse is not happening in the future,

it is happening NOW...

To our parents, civilisation offered houses in the suburbs, computers, and automobiles.
And civilisation delivered. To the children of these workers, civilisation offered life on the moon, artificial intelligence, endless peace. All of which have failed to emerge. This world offers nothing to us: no meaningful work, no rest, no futureonly fear.


The apocalypse is not happening in the future,
is happening NOW.

It is not the result
of our personal sins and
it is not the
collective responsibility of humanity”.
Climate change (or God, or whatever)
will not bring about the apocalypse.
apocalypse began with the advent of our
current form of life based on industrial

It is easy to assume that
there is no alternative to this form of
that the way we live in this present

moment is simply a reflection of the way
things are.
Implicit in this common-sense

is the not-so-hidden assumption that the
present will extend indefinitely into the
which both provides a measure

of comfort as well as the feeling of
In times of crisis, a space
of freedom returns,
and the possibility of
a rupture with the present opens.

long banished to dreary scholastic books,
returns to us fresh and alive.
push away that which is closest to us, our
very form of life, and see it objectively
this might seem impossible.
Yet it is
the first step is to give our form of

life a name, to identify it as something
finite in time and space, so capable of
This perpetual present that has

its only favor being the certainty of its
own destruction has a name:

(Video )


Sep 24, 2010

Body Suspension
A suspension is the act of suspending a human body from hooks that have been put through body piercings. These piercings are temporary and are performed just prior to the actual suspension. 

Historically, suspension rituals were performed by the Mandan tribe, located along the banks of the Missouri River. The Oh-Kee-Pa type of suspension was derived from this ritual. Modern day suspensions are closely related to the artwork of performance artists that use their own bodies as canvases. Roland Loomis was an artist who specialized in suspension and piercing performance pieces, also starting the Modern Primitivism movement. He helped to bring attention to the suspension 'scene' in the United States.[citation needed] Allen Falkner helped to bring suspensions to people who weren't spiritual, as well as a plethora of different and unique suspensions types.

Body-Suspensions wurden vor allem von der Modern-Primitive-Bewegung in Anlehnung an das indianische Sonnentanz-Ritual adaptiert. Die Durchführung einer Suspension kann auf unterschiedlichsten Beweggründen beruhen. Sie kann sowohl eine Herausforderung darstellen, als auch durch den Nervenkitzel und die erhöhte Adrenalinausschüttung motiviert sein, wie sie auch bei Extremsportarten gegeben ist. Meist liegt die Motivation jedoch in der damit einhergehenden Körpererfahrung, basierend auf Belastbarkeitserprobung und Bewusstseinserweiterung. Häufig begeben sich Personen dabei in einen meditativen Zustand. Auch das Gefühl des freien Schwebens dürfte für so manchen ein Beweggrund sein.Indianerverbände lehnen die Aneignung traditioneller Rituale durch westliche Subkulturen ab und distanzieren sich von Suspensions die entgegen der ursprünglich religiösen Bedeutung der Unterhaltung oder persönlichen Erfahrungen dienen.



 Ambiguity of Fire

As fire has also destructive capabilities, the worshiping of fire is necessarily ambiguous.
Worship or deification of fire is known from various religions. Fire has been an important part of the human culture since the Lower Paleolithic.There are so much different rituals, celebrations, tradition connected with the coming of the evils spirits.

Exactly this human belief in the ability of the fire to connect different worlds , realities and states of mind, will send us to different points of the world, where such worship might be still practiced.

Correfoc  The Fire run in Barcelona

The correfoc is a very popular Catalan tradition always seen at neighbourhood fiestas. It consists of "colles de diables" which means "groups of devils" chasing and dancing to the beat of traditional gralla drums and spewing out sparks from fireworks attached to forks.

The legend of Correfoc is that the Mascle Cabró (Catalan) or Macho Cabrón in Spanish - a male goat or ram in English - hears the arrival of the "diables" the devils, and commands his armies to cross the gate of hell called "Porta de l´Infern" which separates the real world from hell.

This video does not try to reproduce the celebration Correfoc realistically. It is a curfew of an abandoned world that appears from the fog and celebrates its powers one time every year. Just a small piece of the pagan heritage spread on five continents that cerebrates the arrival of evil spirits and fire worship.


The Correfoc is one of the most popular events of La Merce with up to 70.000 spectators. About forty groups of "colles de diables" - “groups of devils” from in and around Barcelona, as well as dragons and other "bestiari de foc" - fire beasts, take part in this festival of fire. It starts with spectacular fireworks of the "Porta de l´Infern " - "Gates of Hell," which then open and release the "diables" from hell and so the "Correfoc" - firerun starts. About 80.000 fireworks are used during the correfoc. It's very noisy and to get it all going the "Trabucaires" Catalan "bandits" fire their blunderbuss guns.

Kukeri }{ Kукери

Bulgaria 2005

Kukeri is a traditional Bulgarian ritual to scare away evil spirits, with a costumed man performing the ritual. The costumes cover most of the body and include decorated wooden masks of animals (sometimes double-faced) and large bells attached to the belt. Around New Year and before Lent, the kukeri walk and dance through the village to scare evil spirits away with the costumes and the sound of the bells, as well as to provide a good harvest, health, and happiness to the village during the year.
The ritual is attributed to Thracian origins. Similar rituals can be also found in Romania and Serbia. The masked goat-type figure is known as Capra in Moldavia, Brezaia in Muntenia, Cerbul in Bucovina , and Turca inTransylvania.

"Gritería chiquita"

Nicaragua , Leon 2009

Anlässlich der Gritería chiquita, die heute Abend in León stattfindet, begann der heutige Vormittag mit einer Einführung über die Bedeutung dieses leoneser Festes. Es hat seinen Ursprung in einem einmonatigen Ausbruch des Vukans Cerro Negro, der sich unweit von León befindet. Die Stadt war den gesamten Monat mit Asche bedeckt. Die Leute begannen Kerzen anzuzünden und vor dem Bild der Jungfrau Maria zu beten. Am darauffolgenden Tag hörte der Ascheregen auf. Seit diesem Zeitpunkt wird dieser Tag in León gefeiert. Und wir waren natürlich mittendrin!

Um fünf Uhr nachmittags marschierten wir zur Kathedrale, wo der Erzbischof den Startschuss für das Fest gab. Ein wildes Feuerwerk begann, bei dem unter anderem einige Männer Holzkisten über dem Kopf trugen, an denen Feuerwerkskörper befestigt waren und ständig quer durch die Menschenmenge abgeschossen wurden. Diese Männer, die Stiere symbolisieren sollten, rannten über die Plaza und lösten damit einen riesen Tumult aus, da natürlich jeder Angst hatte, von dem Feuerwerk getroffen zu werden. Es war wirklich spaßig. Danach begann aber die eigentliche Gaudi, bei der alle, und wir natürlich auch, von Haus zu Haus rannten, in denen meist riesige Altare aufgebaut waren mit Jungfrau María und oft auch dem Cerro Negro. 

Alle rannten zu diesen Häusern und schrien: QUIEN CAUSA TANTA ALEGRÍA??? Daraufhin antworteten die Bewohner des Hauses: LA ASUNCIÓN DE MARÍA!! wir: QUE VIVA LA VIRGEN!! sie: QUE VIVA!!! und dann bekam man allen möglichen Scheiß. 

Meistens handelte es sich dabei um knallige Süßigkeiten, teilweise aber auch noch um traditionelle selbstgemachte nicaraguanische dulces. Am meisten haben uns aber die anderen Sachen gefallen, die wir tonnenweise abstauben konnten: Blockflöten aus Plastik, frescos, Ketten mit Kreuz, ein Pediküreset, kleine Säckchen mit Zucker, kleine Bildchen der Jungfrau María, Ansteckbuttons, Streichhölzer und lauter anderes Gedöns. Vollkommen erschöpft und heiser vom Schreien und Herumrennen ließen wir den Abend im Vía Vía ausklingen, wo es ein tolles Konzert einer typischen nicaraguanischen Band gab.