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The Neighbours

The Neighbours is an interactive multimedia installation that brings to light the silenced and faded memories of survivors of political violence during the Communist era in Bulgaria. The project was created by Krasimira Butseva, Lilia Topouzova and Julian Chehirian, and is the result of 20 years of historical and artistic research. Vasil Vladimirov is the project curator in the context of Bulgaria’s official participation in the 60th Venice Biennale.

The installation partially recreates the survivors’ homes in which the meetings and conversations with them unfolded. Staged within these private spaces are fragments from oral history interviews conducted by the artists, field recordings and videos from two former camp sites—Lovech and Belene.

These ethnographic and historical investigations trace both the lived experience of violence and the deep scars left by arrests and imprisonment. The project presents the consequences of the deliberate silencing of decades of state violence and the absence of memory in contemporary public consciousness. It forms a space in which one can bear witness to those people labelled as foreigners within Bulgaria’s borders, in direct response to Adriano Pedrosa’s call to analyse the theme of ‘Foreigners Everywhere’.

Krasimira Butseva
photo by Tsvetelina Belutova

Krasimira Butseva

Krasimira Butseva is a visual artist, researcher and writer based in both Sofia and London. She is a senior lecturer at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. Krasimira graduated with a BA (Hons) in Photography in 2016, and an MA in Photography in 2017, at the University of Portsmouth, UK. In 2022, she completed a short course in Activist Cinema & Militant Film at University College London. In 2021, she was a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Germany, and in 2022 she won the BAZA Award for contemporary art. In her creative and academic work, Butseva works with topics such as political violence, traumatic memory, and the official and unofficial history of Eastern Europe. Krasimira employs video, photography, installation, sound and text in the recontextualisation of difficult and erased histories concerning the Communist regime. Her works are both part of gallery spaces and academic journals. She has taken part in solo and group exhibitions in London, Brighton, Ipswich, Portsmouth, Gosport, Pingyao, Sofia, Plovdiv, Lovech, Cape Town, Kyiv, Belgrade, Berlin, and Stuttgart.

Lilia Topouzova
photo by William Nelson

Lilia Topouzova

Lilia Topouzova is an Assistant Professor of History and Creative Nonfiction at the University of Toronto. She is a scholar and a documentary filmmaker whose work is positioned at the intersection of history and memory, particularly in relation to political violence, silence, trauma, and public remembrance. Her writing has appeared in the American Historical Review, Gender & History, The Routledge Handbook of Memory and Place, the Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice, the Journal of Visual Literacy and The European Review of Books. Topouzova was the scriptwriter of the documentary films The Mosquito Problem & Other Stories (2007) and Saturnia (2012), which she also co-directed. Dr Topouzova held fellowships at ZZF in Germany (2013), Brown University in the US (2014), York University in Canada (205), the Center for Oral History and Digital Storytelling at Concordia University, Canada (2017), and at the Centre for Advanced Study in Sofia, Bulgaria (2022). Her scholarship and creative projects have been supported by, among others, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Julian Chehirian
photo by Julia Leiby

Julian Chehirian

Julian Chehirian is a multimedia artist, researcher, and writer who bases himself in Philadelphia and Sofia. He is currently a doctoral candidate in the History of Science at Princeton University, USA. In his practice-based research, Julian Chehirian creates site-specific multimedia installations that employ architectural space, modified objects, video, sound, and experimental technologies. In his scholarship, he writes on the history of attention and psychotherapy, post-war art and transnational history. His dissertation investigates early experiments in art psychotherapy, examining the art studio as a space of knowledge-making. His writing has appeared in edited collections for Yale University Press, Columbia University Press, Bloomsbury, in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, and in The Public Domain Review. Julian has received funding and scholarships from Fulbright, the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Humanities at Princeton, the Centre for Digital Humanities Research at Princeton, the Council for Humanities Research at Princeton, the Institute for Humanities at the University of Toronto, and the American Research Centre in Sofia.

Vasil Vladimirov
photo by Mihail Novakov

Curator

Vasil Vladimirov graduated with a BSc in Modern History at Royal Holloway, University of London, and an MSc in Political Sociology at LSE. Given his background in history and sociology, Vasil Vladimirov’s practice as a curator lies at the intersection between art, politics, and history. He serves as the curator and coordinator of the art programme at the KO-OP art space in Sofia, while also maintaining a freelance role. His extensive involvement in the art scene includes guest curator positions at prominent festivals such as the ‘Month of Photography’ in Bratislava and the ‘International Photographic Meetings’ in Plovdiv. Since 2021, he has fulfilled the role of director for FIG, a distinguished festival dedicated to illustration and graphics in Sofia. In 2022, Vasil served as a guest curator for the Process Anatomy programme at the Structura Gallery Project Room. Additionally, he contributed as a fellow researcher at the Centre for Social Vision (run by Swimming Pool) with a focus on Communist-era cultural heritage. His projects have been financed by multiple public and private institutions, including the Ministry of Culture of Bulgaria; The National Culture Fund, Bulgaria; Sofia City Municipality; Goethe Institute Bulgaria; and Creative Europe.

Nadezhda Dzhakova
photo by Pavel Chervenkov

Commissioner

Nadezhda Dzhakova, PhD, is the commissioner for the Republic of Bulgaria’s 2024 participation in the 60th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. She is the Director of the Sofia Arsenal – Museum of Contemporary Art, a department of the National Gallery, Bulgaria. 

She is also an art historian, curator and critic. Her research focuses on contemporary art practices, contemporary painting and photography, and site-specific art. She has extensive experience in working with audiences and art management of museums. In 2019, she defended a dissertation on this topic at the Institute of Art Studies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

She has managed more than a hundred exhibitions, being the main initiator of projects including ‘Autobiography’, ‘Theatre in the Museum’, and ‘Space – Audience’. She has delivered lectures on contemporary art in Bulgaria, Germany, Great Britain, Russia and China, and is a guest lecturer at the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy and New Bulgarian University in Sofia. Nadezhda Dzhakova is a member of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA).

Organisers

The Pavilion of the Republic of Bulgaria at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia is organized by the Ministry of Culture of Bulgaria. It is produced by the National Gallery, Sofia, with Commissioner Nadezhda Dzhakova.  

http://mc.government.bg/index.php?l=2
https://nationalgallery.bg

Biennale

The 60th edition of La Biennale di Venezia, set to take place from 20 April to 24 November 2024 (pre-opening on 17, 18 and 19 April), is curated by Adriano Pedrosa under the motto Foreigners Everywhere (Stranieri Ovunque). This installment will focus on the themes of migration, exile and ‘foreign origin’. ‘The Biennale itself—an international event with the official participation of numerous countries—has always been a platform for the exhibition of works by foreigners from all over the world. Thus, the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia will be a celebration of the foreign, the distant, the outsider, the queer, as well as the indigenous,’ stated Pedrosa.

address

Sala Tiziano at the Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli
Rio Terrà Foscarini, 909/A, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
(near Ponte dell’Accademia)

organisers