The Boundaries Between my Skin and its Concrete
This artist intervention wants to discover, explore and underline the patterns of interference – diffractions – at present-day Buzludzha, a vestige of communist Bulgaria. In this way, we want to highlight the complex agencies at work in this monument. The monument can be understood as root, pointing at a specific historical moment, but also as Deleuzian rhizome, through its numerous appropriations and re-significations in the present. This project is a work of memory and an activist intervention which wants to subvert appropriations of the past, then and now.
Notoriously, the Benjaminian notion of the ruin is a place that stands in between past and present that shows traces of degradation, while at the same time it invites for its edification. Moreover, Michael Bakhtin understands the ruin a spatio-temporal singularity, which serves as a generative point for narrative construction and for the narrative work of collective memory.
We propose accompanying Buzludzha as a ruin, while rescuing, captivating and documenting the different voices entangled with the ruin. Preserving Buzludzha, contrariwise, would imply to impose once again a hegemonic, top-down narrative, which in a way restores the 1981 nationalist discourse of the 1300-years Bulgaria celebrations. Therefore, historian Ricard Vinyes proposes “to not intervene in its reparation and to accompany the natural destruction of this lieu de mémoire of the dictatorship (…). The only intervention in this space should be to facilitate approaching the space” (2016).
Our intervention is diffractive, because instead of imposing boundaries, between discourses, between the personal and the public, between the material and the human, between the ruin and nature, we want to acknowledge their mutual connections. And, diffraction, a concept taken from philosopher Karen Barad, marks precisely the limits of the determinacy and permanency of boundaries. In a material way, the permeability of the ruin invites for the exploration of the inside and the outside, construction and deconstruction, utopia and dystopia. Material preservation, on the other hand, imposes clear boundaries, not only of accessibility, but also in the reparation of cracks and fissures that otherwise allow the visitors to understand the impermanency of its boundaries.
Alive in decay
The present-day accompaniment of Buzludzha should be appreciated as a non-mediated and bottom-up memory practice, which includes graffity, robbery, film, photography and art projects that accompany and comment upon the ruin. Even the disinterest by the Bulgarian society at large can be understood as a type of accompaniment, a clear positioning towards the monument and that what it represents. The variety of appropriations and fluctuating discourses is what makes the ruins of Buzludzha into the perfect non/monument of communism.
This project, therefore, celebrates the life of Buzludzha, through its decay. Here, decay does not correspond to the loss of memory, but to the transformation of memory. The monument’s connection with the visitors has intensified while it has lost layers of its skin. Transients accompany Buzludzha in its nudity, fragile, stripped from past hegemonic discourses. Similar to an accompaniment to those who will die, and physically will disappear, but who, nonetheless, will live on “in one’s skin, in one’s bones, in one’s belly, in one’s heart, in one’s nucleus, in one’s past and future” (Barad 2007). Precisely for Benjamin, the naked ruin offers a means of approaching historical truth through reduction, at the expense of romantic aesthetics. Trying to preserve it, avoiding its death, would be to nullify its essence and convert it into a dissected animal. Dead and silenced. Which fascinate us about the monument are the cracks in its skin; the nostalgia that it releases and which is impregnated in ours. Stopping this process at a random time, with the excuse of preservation, closing those cracks, would mean nothing but silencing memory. Notably, as a site of ambivalence, it allows us to confront the ruins of the utopian project of communism and incorporate it into our fleeting present while requiring an ongoing interpretation.
Our intervention was to consist of small QR codes, resonating with the destroyed murals inside of the ruin. As a new layer of meaning, these codes will take the curious visitor to different sites that comment not only upon the history and ideological origin of the monument, but also give access to a project of (re)signification, through oral interviews, art projects and visitor’s comments. Preservation of memory has less to do with the preservation of a specific site, than with the possibility of remediating, retelling and reviewing. With that, we want to underline the life of Buzludzha as a root (through its history) and rhizome, a network of entangled histories and materials, which make us question the boundaries between our skin and its concrete.