ICA-Sofia Gallery
34, Vasil Levski Blvd Sofia, Bulgaria, CO 1504


The City, cultural heritage and nostalgia. Images of Labor, Images of Consumption

October 2003 - April 2004

The City, cultural heritage and nostalgia
What do we mean by “cultural heritage” and “memory” of the city: how do the urban material and visual environment remember? How is the city memory localized - scattered in the public spaces, in the buildings and the monuments but also in the private locations, in the ordinary objects, consumer goods and images that surround us?

Is there a clear official policy of the Municipality of the city regarding the cultural heritage and the material environment of Sofia? Is it in conflict or in harmony with the cultural intuition of various urban groups (experts in urbanism and architects, artists, designers, students, children, etc.)? What are the points of forgetfulness, where are the “locations of memory”? Which are the places, the objects and the signs of nostalgia, where in our city one could register social “amnesia”? How do the individual, the group and the official memory interact within the urban environment of Sofia - what are the images of this conflictual interaction? What is the visual relation between the city memory and the city future?

Images of Labor, Images of Consumption
The socialist period was inscribing the city environment with images of the jubilant and fruitfull labor - workers and peasants, etc. The time after 1989 prefers different representations. Industriousness, labor, discipline and productivity have been erased from the imagination of society and are replaced with images of consumption - as if it can exist for itself alone. Seductively colorful or tastelessly aggressive the image of abundance that is flooding the Bulgarian consumer today is dominating (while the era of deficit is fading away into the realm of memory).

Ocassionally however, the presentation of consumption has little to do with reality. Consumption comes often from the realm of wishful thinking being economically unattainable for the regular consumer - advertisement, billboards and TV clips are hammering in the longing for luxurious life styles that are impossible to reach in the modest everyday life.

A symptom of what is the replacement of the images of labor with the images of real or imaginary consumption? Why is it that in this “new time” when the market demands new professional and institutional ethics, public representation avoids images of production? What is specific about the new anti-ascetic, anti-heroic, and hedonistic visions that are surrounding the post-socialist person? What should be the civic attitude towards this new politics of the visual?

The Resident Fellows Program is the product of a partnership between the ICA-Sofia and CAS-Sofia activities and programs on a more theoretical level. It will be organised by the Centre for Advanced Studies Sofia in accordance with the ICA. Within a given year, CAS hosts four resident fellows from Bulgaria for a period of six months each. They come from the fields of contemporary visual arts, other artistic areas, or academia and are selected by the Experts' Unit of the Visual Seminar based on their submitted applications and the application/selection procedures appropriate in such cases. The resident fellows have a stipend and reside in Sofia for the period of their fellowships while working on a specific artistic or research project related both to the topic of the “Visual Seminar” project and to the other activities of CAS. The finalized projects are presented in public in Sofia and discussed by the Forum of Visual Culture (see Module 1).

The idea of cooperation between academics and artists is based on the familiar experience of the Centers for Advanced Study in Europe and USA. Their established practice involves the artists’ participation in the intellectual community of researchers gathered for other research projects of the Centers for Advanced Study. They engage in, and contribute to, the debates and the heuristic atmosphere of the Centers and develop their own artistic projects based on this experience.

Such fellows would be selected by a special procedure appropriate in such cases.

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