Fake Plastic Trees purposes Biliana Velkova’s observations on the branding and commodification of nature. She romanticizes, exaggerates and complicates the exploitation of nature, and nature as artifice, directly referencing tourist tropes found throughout the Saskatchewan prairies and Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.
Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, Velkova lived under the Communist regime, immigrating to Canada in 1991 with her family at the age of fifteen. Her memories of communism have deeply impacted the way in which she perceives the “West.” A lack of access to consumer products during her formative years fuelled Velkova to interrogate issues of capitalism, appropriation and Western femininity. Although her interdisciplinary practice focuses social and political issues from a critical perspective, her delivery is optimistic, convivial, and often humorous.
From iconic fake palm trees found throughout Saskatoon, to the majestic views of Lake Louise, Velkova’s cinematic photographs conflate opulence and kitsch. The glossy images are indicative of her oeuvre in performance art, creating a spectacle from everyday encounters. Through her Bulgarian lens, Velkova inserts the narrative of the Other by presenting alternative ways of viewing and interpreting the Canadian landscape. Moreover, she problematizes the ubiquitous images of Canadian identity, creating space for a more polycentric, multicultural history.
“When an outsider comes to a new place, he sees the picturesque and the freakish, whereas the local sees through layers of emotion and memory.” -Walter Benjamin
Leah Taylor, Curator