Videogames and cybercapitalism: an interview with Victoria Todorov

Victoria Todorov's exhibition Videogames is currently on view at Envy6011 - Real Fine Art. Here, the artist chats with gallery director Billy Bartley-Nees about this suite of video artworks and the avatars she creates.

Date 19 August 2021 Interview Billy Bartley-Nees Imagery Supplied

Victoria Todorov, District [film still], 2021, HD video, 53 seconds looped.

It’s amazing to be able to show your work to an Aotearoa/New Zealand audience. Your exhibition at Envy6011 – Real Fine Art so far has been really well received, have you had much contact with the New Zealand art scene before? Were you aware of any audience or following here?

Victoria Todorov: I’ve been following a few New Zealand artists for a while. I find it interesting to see the parallels between Melbourne and NZ, as an outsider I find the natural beauty, global isolation and gothic curious.

The Videogames exhibition comprises four video works. Can you talk to the visuals and broad concepts in these? Someone mentioned how untitled, 2020 was like a PS2 game whereas the other 2021 works are more like PS4 graphics.

While the games I’ve used are PC, I was inspired by watching my boyfriend play his Xbox and PlayStation games on a cinematic level. The immersion in this virtual world is addictive and quite emotional. I don’t see anything I portray in painting, sculpture or video as a self portrait. I’m direct and obvious enough to tell you in the title if it’s a self portrait. For me the video work is about cybercapitalism, pixel prostitution, dilution of beauty, material aspiration obsolescence, fantasy character design, cyclical nostalgia, marketplace value and customisation and modular control. I wanted to emulate the immediate rush and cringe of platforms like TikTok for example.

The aesthetic perfection of the avatars, the food, the houses—everything is perfect in these 3D games. It’s not flawed or human, it’s perfect and processed. You can even add stretch marks and scars to your avatar but even they almost look covered in glitter and gold. I’m blonde, I’d like lots of filler and plastic surgery but I am not the sculpted plastic beauty I sometimes portray in my work. Maybe an element of wanting to be like that though, a fan, always from a place of the highest admiration and love.

Can you talk about the title Videogames? I remember you mentioned something about online gamer forums and controversy surrounding ‘videogames’ spelt with no space?

I remember some drama online about the spelling of Video Games with no space, and thought it was funny and relevant to the work. Subversion of language is maybe poetic to me. The whole cultural zeitgeist of the gaming industry is bizarre and intriguing, lots of gatekeeping and drama each week. It also did have a Lana Del Rey’s Video Games (correct spelling) as a reference. I thought it was all encompassing and nice having that connection.

Who are Jenna and Thaddeus? Am I old? I Googled and couldn’t find shit, Fill me in…

Two friends from the game I used as models, both beautiful, genuine people with the most fire avatars. Lots of crazies on games but those two are real. Although I don’t play much now, it was mostly for making outfits—kinda like making a hyper-influencer. A hot Instagram influencer but on steroids. These games become some people’s lives in every way though, I can’t explain the extent. The ego is tied so heavily into these games, they are after all an ‘alternate reality.’

“The immersion in this virtual world is addictive and quite emotional… For me the video work is about cybercapitalism, pixel prostitution, dilution of beauty, material aspiration obsolescence, fantasy character design, cyclical nostalgia, marketplace value and customisation and modular control. I wanted to emulate the immediate rush and cringe of platforms like TikTok for example.”
— Victoria Todorov

I would say you are probably more known for your paintings currently, do you find working between disciplines opens you up to new ideas?

I feel like the paintings and videos mean very different things but have this overarching theme. They can correlate with and charge each other sometimes.. Not as often as people might think though. As soon as it becomes a different medium, everything changes.

Do you ever think that interactions over social media help to inform your work and process at all? Can they ever not?

Definitely, social media is integral to my practice. I get anxious and paranoid going out a lot so this is a good way for me to connect with people, even globally. I like to see friends, celebrities, art and memes, or I will feel less happy (maybe happier without, sometimes). It can also be a curse because of the energies, I’m having to distance myself from it a little lately. 

Back to the videos and your work in general, what is it about the consumerist world people are drawn to? Do you see any crossovers in the art market and the materialistic luxury-lifestylers? A Balenciaga bag and new heels vs the hottest new artists’ painting? Is it all just fake?!?

I think a lot of defying or rejecting consumerism is cognitive dissonance. There’s a tendency to fixate and conceptualise the unattainable from a place of frustration. I believe MOST have some materialistic desires, even if they come in an organic package or living off grid. There’s a darkness to it all, there’s too much of everything but it’s not stopping. The world is plentiful, an abundance of all resources. Every industry is trend driven, I do see a connection between art and fashion. Especially elites in the art world seeking the next tax write-off. I’m always intrigued by depreciation or increase in value, how is it all measured? There’s comfort in knowing we all die, it all dies.

Any other things you’d like to mention that I might have missed? I’m looking forward to exhibiting a painting from you in November alongside Pippi Nola (NZ), Michelle Uckotter (USA) and Catherine Mulligan (USA). Will the work in that show continue the ideas you’re exploring now?

I’m excited to show work beside those three amazing artists too. I’m not sure what ideas I’d like to explore yet but I know the quality will be different, I’ve had some revelations in the past few months. I want to make less work with better outcomes. In some ways exhibiting online is most important to me because it’s immediate and accessible to all. It also makes sense for the work to return to the place it was influenced by in many ways.

Victoria Todorov, Videogames. Installation view, Envy6011 – Real Fine Art, Wellington, August 2021. Photograph by Cheska Brown.

Victoria Todorov, Videogames. Installation view, Envy6011 – Real Fine Art, Wellington, August 2021. Photograph by Cheska Brown.

Victoria Todorov, Untitled [film still], 2021, HD video, 1 min 27 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, Untitled [film still], 2021, HD video, 1 min 27 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, Untitled [film still], 2021, HD video, 1 min 27 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, District [film still], 2021, HD video, 53 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, District [film still], 2021, HD video, 53 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, Untitled [film still], 2020, HD video, 37 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, Untitled [film still], 2020, HD video, 37 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, Untitled [film still], 2020, HD video, 37 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, Videogames. Installation view, Envy6011 – Real Fine Art, Wellington, August 2021. Photograph by Cheska Brown.

Victoria Todorov, Untitled (2Life) [film still], 2021, HD video, 1 min 19 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, Untitled (2Life) [film still], 2021, HD video, 1 min 19 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, Untitled (2Life) [film still], 2021, HD video, 1 min 19 seconds looped.

Victoria Todorov, Videogames. Installation view, Envy6011 – Real Fine Art, Wellington, August 2021. Photograph by Cheska Brown.

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