At the 2024 Venice Biennale, Bulgaria will present the project The Neighbours, an interactive multimedia installation that brings to light the silenced and faded memories of survivors of political violence during the communist era in Bulgaria, it was announced at a news conference on January 4.
The project was chosen from among 17 that took part in the competition to represent Bulgaria.
According to a media statement, 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 media statement said.
“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’,” the statement said.
Photo: Vessela Nozharova
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.
Butseva 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 Topouzovais 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 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, US.
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.
Chehirian 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 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, Vladimirov 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.