25th September – 5th October 2013

On September 28th, 1987, 5.000-6.000 people gathered in the center of Ruse in front of the party headquarters and protested against the serious air pollution caused by chlorine gases expelled from the Romanian chemical plant “Verachim” in Giurgiu. Different people went out on the streets – ordinary citizens, dissidents but also people who were actually supporting the regime.

The event “Places and Protests“, which will conclude the three-part project “On your marks“, strives to recall to mind this part of local and national history and put it in the context of more general and current questions. What can the events from September 1987 tell us today? Are new forms of protest emerging? What constitutes a public sphere and how does a counter public evolve? The art projects, lectures and discussions taking place in this week will pursue these and similar questions und try to draw a connection between the past and the present.

Welcoming speech by Veselina Antonova
5 pm Canetti House

Veselina Antonova is main researcher at the State Archives of the City of Ruse. As an activist and historian, she contributed essentially to the making of the documentary “Six Women“ on the organizers of the protests in 1987.

photo: State Archive Ruse

Counter Public – Lecture with Tsveta Nenova and Dimitar Lipovanski
5.15 pm Canetti House

Any news coverage being forbidden, the protests which took place in Ruse in 1987 were not present in the state media. Nevertheless, there formed a lively counter public. Tsveta Nenova and Dido Lipovanski will investigate how that happened and what role the independent media played in that context.

Tsveta Nenova is a journalist, chief editor of the news desk of Arena Media and president of the NGO “European Spaces 21“ which curates artistic events, develops partnerships for the protection and promotion of cultural heritage and organized the annual media festival “The Bulgarian Europe“.

Dimitar Lipovanski is director of Arena Media and co-founder of “European Spaces 21“. As a film director, he shot, among others, “Nevidyanata Bulgaria“ (“The unseen Bulgaria“).

photo: Lisa Schurrer

Exhibition opening
6 pm Canetti House
26.09 – 05.10, Tue – Fri, 4 – 7 pm

Gangart: Breathe! II

Shot by independent journalists and media producers, the documentary film “Breathe!“ is one of the most significant outcomes of the 1987 protests. The project Breathe! II will use the film as point of departure to ask questions about the appropriation of public space as an area for articulating commun interests in today’s Ruse. It will involve agents of the historical movement as well as young citizens of Ruse to analyse selected moments of the demonstrations as depicted in the film and reenact them on the original sites. The resulting series of photos will be exhibited alongside contextualising texts.

Gangart is the name of a group of Vienna based artists around Simonetta Ferfoglia and Heinrich Pichler. Since 1986, gangart has been realising artistic interventions which involve the appropriation of physical and social spaces, examining them for their ideological implications. Dealing with economical and political realities as factors of artistic production is a key aspect of gangart’s work.

photo: Kamen Stoyanov

Kamen Stoyanov: Boxing Farm

Two eras, two political systems, two forms of commitment: Kamen Stoyanov’s project links the 80ies with the present. In the background of the exhibition room, there’s a projection of Dobril Hristov telling the story of him smuggling the then forbidden classic “Animal Farm“ into Bulgaria. In the foreground, participants of a performance taking their (politically motivated?) anger out on punching bags which they created themselves, while the artist walks around and reads out passages of Orwell’s book.

Kamen Stoyanov is an internationally acclaimed Bulgarian artist. After studying arts at the Academies of Fine Arts in Sofia and Vienna, he currently works as a research assistant at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. In his artistic work which is often playful and ironic, he reflects upon sociopolitical and economic topics as well as on the art system itself.

NAGLEDNA: The Year of Our Discontent

“The Year of Our Discontent“ is a project initiated by a group of designers and artists from Sofia, called NAGLEDNA, after the massive protests against the corrections to the Forestry Law in 2012. It consists of a series of 12 posters each of which represents a political action provoking a wave of public discontent. The local problems depicted on the posters are indeed global problems, each of them relevant outside Bulgaria as well. As artistic means, NAGLEDNA chose the direct visual language of pictograms, without text in order to leave room for the imagination of the audience and for debate. The videos which will be exhibited alongside the posters show 12 activists each of whom speaks about one of the depicted problems.

NAGLEDNA, founded in 2007, is an association of Sofia based designers and artists whose work includes art installations, mulimedia and illustrations. For their projects, Raycho Stanev, Evgeni Bogdanov, Radomir Dankov, and Penka Dincheva have been awarded several prizes. In 2008, they received the Special Award of the Union of Bulgarian Artists in the First Biennale of Bulgarian Design. In 2011, Studio NAGLEDNA participated in 12th Istanbul Biennial of contemporary art.

The exhibition will be open from 26th September to 5th October (Tuesday to Friday, 4-7pm).

photo: momchilmihaylovimageware studio

Lectures and discussion
6 pm Canetti House

Lea Vajsova: The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Comparing the protests in Bulgaria in June 2012 and 2013

In June 2012, the new amendments to the Forest Act which allowed the construction of ski lifts and other commercial buildings in protected areas set off a wave of outrage not only among environmentalists. The lecture will draw a comparison between the protests which followed then and the large-scale anti-government demonstrations emerging this year after 14th June.

Lea Vajsova is a PhD student at the New Bulgarian University, Sofia (Department of Philosophy and Sociology). Her research interests are in the field of social theory, environmental sociology, civil mobilization, and visual research methods.

photo: momchilmihaylovimageware studio

Catalin Augustin Stoica: Does the polenta explode?

For years, it seemed that polenta couldn’t explode – polenta in Romanian meaning also a resignative attitude towards politics. But since January 2012, Romanians have repeatedly taken to the streets, the current demonstrations against a giant mining project in Transylvania being only the last in a series of protests. In his lecture, Catalin Stoica will analyze last year’s and the ongoing protests and will discuss the larger structural and historical factors that shape Romanians’ civic and political mobilization.

Catalin Augustin Stoica holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University and is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the National School for Political and Administrative Sciences, Bucharest. His research interests focus on social stratification and inequality, social movements, survey methods, and political sociology. Recently, he co-edited a volume that addresses the recent protests in Romania (“The Winter of Our Discontent: The Romanian Protests of January-February 2012“).

Subsequent to the lectures, the speakers will take part in a open discussion which will be moderated by the journalist Tsveta Nenova.

photo: momchilmihaylovimageware studio

The Protestor’s Manual – Project presentation
5:30 pm Canetti House

How to protect oneself from aggression? What to do when arrested? How to use public spaces? How to attract civic engagement? Drawing from the experiences of its authors, the Protestor’s Manual conveys practical and methodological advice, as well as theoretical reflections on the actuality of protests in public space. It should also serve as a provocation and a catalyst for civic participation and debate on the meaning of protests in the democratic process.

Originally conceived within the framework of the Flow Festival 2012, the Protestor’s Manual is the outcome of an international project team consisting of Ani Marinova (Bulgaria), Dražen Crnomat (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Mihail Zhekunov (Bulgaria), Svetozar Krstić (Serbia), and Saša Kuzmanović (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

photo: momchilmihaylovimageware studio

Breathe! – Film by Yuri Zhirov
9:00 pm Ploshtad Svoboda

“Breathe!“ (1988, 43 min.) documents a protest rally against the massive air pollution by chlorine gases in Ruse in 1987. For the first time in decades, the civil society openly rises against the communist party officials who refuse to take any responsibilty for the environmental desaster. The film did not only portray and reflect the events, but became, itself, a symbol of change and forwarded the foundation of many oppositional groups. It will be screened on the original location on Freedom Square.

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