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Location: Kings College London Bush House Lecture Theatre 5 BH(SE)2.09


King's Trauma-Centred Study Group is hosting Lilia Topouzova from the University of Toronto for its annual guest lecture. Dr. Topouzova's talk will explore Bulgaria's gulag under the communist regime and the making of "The Neighbours" multimedia installation featured at the 2024 Venice Biennial which brings to light the stories and voices of survivors.

Event Description:

Lilia Topouzova explores the consequences of deliberate silencing of state violence under Communist Bulgaria, the absence of memory in contemporary public consciousness, and the range of creative possibilities available to bring these stories and experiences to light with a focus on her collaborative multimedia installation, The Neighbours, featured at the 2024 Venice Biennial.

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 Commissioner is Nadezhda Dzhakova, PhD.

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’.

This event will be presented collaboratively with the Centre for Grand Strategy. The Ax:son Johnson Institute will offer a full reception to follow.

About the Speaker:

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 situated at the intersection of history and memory, particularly in relation to political violence, silence, trauma and public remembrance. Her academic research on the Bulgarian gulag, state repression and its afterlife in post-communist societies appeared in the American Historical Review, Gender & History (awarded the 2018 Souyz Outstanding Article Prize) The Routledge Handbook of Memory and Place, and in the Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice. For her writing on scholarship as a critical media arts practice see, Journal of Visual Literacy and for her creative non-fiction see, The European Review of Books. Topouzova is the scriptwriter of the documentary films The Mosquito Problem & Other Stories (2007) and Saturnia (2012), which she also co-directed. Her films have premiered at TIFF and the Cannes International Film Festival, have received multiple awards, including the 2007 Human Rights Award at the Sarajevo Film Festival, and have been reviewed in the NY Times, The Guardian, The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, and Varsity.

Dr. Topouzova held fellowships at Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung – ZZF in Germany (2013), Brown University in the US (2014), York University in Canada (2015), the Center for Oral History and Digital Storytelling in Concordia University in Canada (2017), and at the Centre for Advanced Study in Sofia in Bulgaria (2022). Her scholarship and her creative projects have been supported by, among others, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Topouzova’s interdisciplinary work is characterized by a critical engagement with historical sources and her commitment to lend a public dimension to scholarly research through film and media. She currently holds, along with her collaborator Joshua Arthurs, a SSHRC Connection Grant, Authoritarianism: Lives, Legacies, Traumas. Her collaborative work with artists and scholars Julian Chehirian and Krasimira Butseva resulted in the multi-media installation, The Neighbours: Forms of Trauma. The installation will be shown at the 2024 Venice Biennale.

You can register to secure your spot here.