Eight female artists transform the neighborhoods of Proslav and Trakiya

  •  July 4, 2019

Eight female artists from Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, and Romania created special art interventions in Plovdiv’s neighborhoods of Proslav and Trakiya that rethink public spaces based on a survey filled out by inhabitants of these two neighborhoods. These site-specific interventions are the climax/culmination of Bulgarian Fund for Women’s project Sense of a city: Inclusive, Safe and Sustainable Plovdiv, part of the program of Plovdiv 2019 – European Capital of Culture, whose goal is to achieve an organic connection to the city, and to address the challenges its inhabitants face, as well as to reflect the images of their experiences.

The art installations are curated by The Fridge,  a platform for experimental art processes and original works, founded in 2009 by Ivana Nencheva and Natalia Lenz. The artworks ask uncomfortable and sensitive questions in a direct, fun, and sometimes even painful way. Each of the artists discusses a different phenomenon in the city, such as urban planning, ecology, ethics of the visual environment and, last but not least, the lack of women’s image in public space and its role in society. The chosen approach and locations in both areas are related to the artists ‘ aspirations to express the possible ways of creating an inclusive environment, and at the same time – to recall its functions and collective welfarе.

ACQUA NON-POTABILE by Valentina Sciarra (Italy – Bulgaria) uses a concrete water fountain, built and never used as a water source in Proslav to make us rethink our relations with water and plastic. The installation asks us to rethink our relationship with plastic and water at a time when sustainability has turned into an international concern.

Through PAVEMENT FRAGMENTS Albena Baeva (Bulgaria) examines the visual, historical and cultural context of the different pavement types in Plovdiv, specifically in the neighborhoods of Proslav and Trakiya. A small piece of pavement from each region has been photographed and then turned into a sculpture through the use of photogrammetry. A fragment of the asphalt pavement in Trakiya is on show in Proslav and, vice versa, a broken tile from Proslav is shown in Trakiya.

PLAY 2.0 by Iliyana Kancheva (Bulgaria) is a remake of Lyubomir Dalchev’s emblematic sculpture “Play” from the year 1961, but with reversed meaning. Flat and pixelated, the object aims to draw attention toward the desolate spaces between the many residential panel buildings in Trakiya, whose social function, as a place for socializing, for kids to play is gone. And so are children playing outdoors – their games have moved to the virtual world.

Vasilena Gankovska (Bulgaria) erases graffiti and tags with offensive, racist and sexist content on the walls of a kindergarten in Trakiya that may unlock/invoke feelings of insecurity and even a sense of imminent threat. She replaces them with friendly and inclusive messages and images, which she has named URBAN INTERVENTIONS.

Stela Vasileva (Bulgaria) plays with colors and light in order to overturn our perceptions of reflections’ shape, color, and rhythm. THE LIGHTS OF THE CITY transforms the pedestrian bridge over the train stop in Proslav, with the help of LED lighting and aims to impact the personal perception of the environment on an intuitive level.

PASSAGE by Ina Valentinova (Bulgaria) turns the concrete walls of the train stop in Proslav into a lively, colorful space. The gray concrete panels intimidate people and make them pass by in haste; the train stop saddens them instead of provoking them to think about all the adventures that traveling holds.

Olivia Mihăltianu (Romania) is taking direct photos of the public space and people who want to be photographed using an old technique – direct photography on paper – with the help of a mobile photo lab installed on various sites. DIRECT EXPOSURE brings the public and the artist closer, uncovers the constant development and maturing of the city but it also questions the extended tagging and face-recognition policies of the generalized surveillance practice of present-day society.

WOMEN OF VISION by Simone Gilges (Germany) tackles the lack of representation of womеn in public heritage, one example of which is the lack of monuments or sculptures of historical female figures. Her portrait photography is the tool for empowering and showing contemporary women of achievement, by insisting on the need for equality regardless of origin, gender.

The documentary analysis the art interventions are based on is a result of the active participation of the two neighborhoods’ inhabitants in the process of rethinking the city. In the summer of 2018, they took part in the so-called “exploratory walks”, an innovative tool for empowering local communities, developed by the international non-governmental organization Womenability, based in Paris. In partnership with the Bulgarian Fund for Women, they added Plovdiv to the other 25 cities over the world where they have conducted such walks. For the first time, however, their method doesn’t only identify local problems but, with the artists’ help, it also offers possible solutions.

The interventions were officially presented on July 4th, 2019. The inquisitive audience personally met with the works’ authors and learned more about the method directly from Audrey Noeltner, Director of Womenability. The participants had the opportunity to discuss with the curators Ivana Nencheva and Natalia Lenz whether new ideas are possible for the city, how to renegotiate public space, in whose interest are these negotiations and to what extent do we all recognize our role of a driving force for future development, so that we could turn Plovdiv into a real inclusive, safe and sustainable city.


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