Alla Georgieva

BG Souvenir

Guest-curator: Iliyana Nedkova (Bulgaria/Scotland)


Alla Georgieva’s project BG Souvenirs (2006-08) is a critical exploration of the pertinent issues of women trafficking and cultural tourism. It comprises an artist’s film, artist’s multiples and a series of staged photographs. All the works which form part of BG Souvenirs have the air of a tongue-in-cheek flyers for escort services which could have been downloaded from a Sofia by Night guide. Clichés of Bulgaria’s national identity such as the rose, the high blue mountains and the young women clad in national costumes are cunningly subverted.

In the film those stereotypes are complimented by a fitting soundtrack from a popular folk song. Using subtitles in the style of the silent movies the two protagonists Yana, ‘the smiley babe’ and Gergana, ‘the all dressed up lady’ are portrayed as crudely packaged souvenirs, deprived of their own voice and reduced to a set of rhyming advertising slogans. In the photographs, the animated characters from the film come alive parading their attire. The artist’s multiples highten this sense of the carnavalesque by adorning a series of traditional doll souvenirs with a contemporary twist.

The reverie of nationalism is interrupted abruptly – a tantalising slit opens on the front and the back of the ladies’ heavily pleated skirts. The slit opens to reveal sexy lingerie and suspenders emerging underneath the folk dance routine. In her film the artist makes a deliberate use of tacky two-dimensional animation as if to undermine the sexual appeal of these ladies of the night. One is left with a wry grin and the impression of half-stripped paper dolls or poll dancers in sparse attire. Whether due to the lively rhythm or the looping of the sequence, this ultra short video appears longer than its sixty seconds as it overflows with contradictory images and coded messages.

While parodying Bulgaria’s top export product – its folk culture – Georgieva’s installation at the same time calls for a ban on the export of women’s bodies. Bulgaria’s unique traditional culture has long been one of the country’s biggest selling points for tourists. Georgieva’s work-cum-ad however appears designed to put tourists off with its annoying, repetitive and awkward composition, especially those who are looking to acquire a cheap place in the Bulgarian sun with a souvenir wife included.

Circuitously, Georgieva’s BG Souvenirs becomes a comment on tourism, one of the largest growth areas in the Bulgarian economy in the last decade which is set to become the most prominent sector of the economy in the future. A key feature of selling Bulgaria as a tourist destination has been its unique night-time culture, its Yanas and Gerganas. Tourist policy and literature focuses on Bulgarian dance, music, conviviality and conversation. This focus, along with the rise of the Bulgarian theme bar club, has led to a “commodification” of Bulgarian identity and culture. This has had an impact on the perceptions of Bulgarian people in general, but artistic activities are also affected by their reproduction in order to satisfy the tourist market. Georgieva’s choice of form and content seems to demonstrate an abhorrence, or an ironic critical distance, towards this market.

“BG Souvenir” is presented in collaboration with ARC Projects, Sofia. Guest-curator: Iliyana Nedkova

Alla Georgieva

Born 1957 Kharkov, Ukraine. Lives and works in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Alla Georgieva’s latest solo presentations include About Big and Small Love, ARC Projects, Sofia (forthcoming); Happy Birthday To You!, Artists Association FABS, Warsaw and Happy Birthday To You!, ATA Centre and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Sofia.
Most recently she was nominated for the 1st Gaudenz B. Ruf Award for Contemporary Bulgarian Art 2007. She won the Grand Prix 2008 (Caricature) by Union of Bulgarian Artists (with Chavdar Georgiev). Her work is in the public collections of Sofia City Art Gallery, Bulgarian Consulate, Dundee; Stills, Edinburgh; House of Humour and Satire, Gabrovo and Petko Churchuliev Art Gallery, Dimitrovgrad.