“The Great Excursion” in London

October 11th, 2010

23rd October (Saturday)
The Critical Debate and launch
3:00PM- 4:30PM | FREE
HANBURY HALL | 22A HANBURY STREET | E1 6QR | LONDON

To mark the opening of the installation at THIS IS NOT A GATEWAY FESTIVAL, Raycho Stanev, Sandra Hall (Friction Arts) and Rouzie Hassanova host a critical debate on race, nationality and cultural identity. What it is that makes us who we are; our DNA, our history, our upbringing? Come down and have your say.

Raycho Stanev’s installation will be at HANBURY HALL 22nd – 24th October (Friday – Saturday)

Raycho Stanev’s interactive installation contains memories of Bulgarian Turks, hundreds of thousands of whom were expelled from Bulgaria in 1989.

A shameful, hidden chapter of European history, almost unknown in the West, it is a reminder of what happens when DNA, rather than our shared humanity, is the focus of attention. Imagine everyone with Jamaican ancestry suddenly being sent from the UK back ‘home’ to Jamaica – a place where nobody knows you, where you have no connections, leaving behind the community in which you grew up.

The Great Excursion gives a fascinating and disturbing insight into what happens to a community when politics takes over from reality. Is it where you’re from, or where you’re at, that matters?

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The Great Excursion is an installation examining my memories of the expatriation of Bulgarian Turks into Turkey in the summer of 1989.

Sometimes it’s difficult to collect your memories from 20 years ago, especially if you were a child, at the age of 12 – only fleeting fragments, bits and pieces of stories, emotions and feelings. I create an imaginary puzzle of memories and feelings, stories: neighbors – an insult – a truck – bed-quilts and pillows – a fridge – farewell – tears – empty houses – empty classrooms – expectation are some of the words I associate with the term The Great Excursion.

I am trying to fill up the emptiness which this period has left in me, to spin threads between the different stories, to understand – as a direct witness – what the excursion means to me, since no one around me talks about it. I almost can’t recollect whole stories; and I am surprised to discover that the people around me can’t do it either. I have grown up in the town of Kurdzhali (situate in South Bulgaria where live a lot of Turks), I am a Bulgarian, but there were several Turkish houses on our street, Alen Mak; at school I also had Turkish classmates. My father worked as a teacher in the Turkish villages around the town – from 1972 to 1980; my mother was also a teacher, even though only in Dzhebel – with more than 30 years of professional experience.
We are all directly connected to these events but we seldom, almost never, talk about them. Why? I am trying to understand and to initiate a conversation – how did people actually feel, we, my neighbors, what have we gone through in that period, why no one is sharing? Both Turks and Bulgarians speak of the general facts, men remain in the the background.

Raycho Stanev

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Remembering 1989 the Goethe-Institut Bulgarien organized 2009 a series of events showing the impact of the changes wish happened along with the fall of the wall. Some of these events focused on specific Bulgarian aspects, among them the expatriation of the majority of the Bulgarian Turks in summer 1989. In this context the Goethe-Institut supported Raycho Stanev’s installation project “The Great Excursion”, exhibited in the gallery of our institute from October 15th to 30th 2009.

Raycho Stanev is examining his memories on the tragic banishment using emotions and stories from people who had to leave the country. His artistic and mere descriptive approach to a political and sensitive topic is free of accuse. The installation project is unique, since it is the very first attempt in the past 20 years in Bulgaria to talk about the expatriation.

Dr. Rudolf Bartsch
Director
Goethe-Institut Bulgarien

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What I like about Raycho’s project is its simplicity. It sounds so innocent that you need some time to realise that the core of the project is trauma. Collective trauma is „blow to the basic tissues of social life that damages the bonds attaching people together” ( according to sociologist Kai Erikson). Bulgarians know that process – the so called “revival process” – the process of forceful change of the turkish names of the turkish population in Bulgaria with slavic names in the 80-s that ended with huge wave of migration to Turkey in 1989 and was followed by unended wave of shame and guilt, still unspoken in our society – this complex very emotional story is presented in Raycho’s work through the eyes of a child. These are his own eyes, the child who witnessed the “trauma” that expelled from school and neighbourhood his friends and peers. The child who just observes without understanding. It is exactly this simplicity and innocence that make the project powerful. Memories and fragments – the only remains and the only way to know, to access the untalkable.
It is deeply moving, honest and personal project executed in the typical for the artist precise, clear and beautiful style.

Diana Ivanova,
Culture manager

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The Great Excursion is sound installation dedicated to … silence. It is presented very briefly in the small hall of Goethe institute: short daily phrases written in mixed order on the walls, central text with conception and facts, on the space between the two windows, and beneath – the computer through which the spectator/listener drives the composition.

In a way it is autobiographic also. The author – Raycho Stanev – has been a 12 years old child in Kardzhali, when “The Great Excursion”- in a mass emigration of the Bulgarian Turks to Turkey, happened in the summer of 1989. The fearful compulsion, grotesquely given formal legalization by tourist visas for tens of thousands people, penetrates through the deeply moving, banal childhood memories and observations. Worries about a video game, given to a neighbor child-Turk who may leave and not return it (“they did not left. he gave it back.”); a dog, which returnes back home alone after a whole year; the father, who works at the editor’s office in the morning and at the tobacco field in the afternoon (“and he was not complaining”); the rumors, selling of properties, cars and animals at a knock out price; counting in the autumn the number of children remained at school (“Did Hristinka left also – I thought she is Bulgarian”)…

The eyes pass over all these while the words of the emigrants sound. Each key of the computer brings out a short phrase – one or two sentences at most, in which female and male voices build the picture of the Great Excursion with pieces of their lives. Literally. The horror to leave to an unknown country, without any relatives there and without knowing the language, drowns in the hectic preparation, overwhelmed with providing provisions, waiting for visas, travelling of whole families with infants in overloaded cars and trucks, waiting for days at the border and for some of them – way back as cruel as that (when Turkey cannot accept more emigrants).

You can press the keys of the computer in a mixed or consecutive order but the picture did not change. You will anyway fall on the light motive “The most fearful was the change of names”, referring to the winter of 1984-1985 with the pompous heading “Revival Process”. In general, only loud headings mark the complicated life of these people and, in big extend, my own also.

Because, at the time of the Great excursion I have been almost at the age at which is the author of installation at the moment. And, in this sense, I do not have the excuse of the childhood. I continue asking myself if I could do something different at that time from watching with disgust on TV the ironic reports of Margarita Mihneva, making fun of the miserable queues of crowded cars with “excursionists”, or crowds at the meetings of the government with waves of highly patriotic hatred.

And also for the fact I was in Shumen, Targovishte and Razgrad during the Revival process. There is no way to forget the bristle and at the same time painful atmosphere; the triples of a policeman and solders slowly walking over the streets; meetings with people who have hided for weeks in some cave, under temperature of minus 20 degrees, however renamed in the long run – some of them twice (because of bureaucratic mistakes); the trains I was getting on and was suddenly finding myself not among peaceful citizens but fully armed soldiers (I have travelled this way only in ex GDR – in wagons with Russian soldiers); the rumors about Kardzhali and the region, which were totally disconnected from the world… Could I do something else than sympathizing to known and unknown people – with the entire guilty discomfort of the accidental fact that I am a Bulgarian.

And more, because someone told me that all this was boring to my young colleague. If honest, I envied her – she does not have my questions with twenty years prescription.

Diana Popova
“CULTURE” newspaper,
issue 38, 6th November 2009