Balkan Mine is an extensive multi-disciplinary research of the shifting layers of history, memory and trauma in relation to the forced labour camps of the Bulgarian communist regime (1946-89) by photographer and researcher Krasimira Butseva.
In a multimedia installation including film, photography, sculpture and layers of sound, she is recreating her personal journey through the spaces where a dictatorship was once enforced at its hardest. This ongoing project started in 2016 with Butseva’s collection of accounts of victims, a recording of her own subconscious and fragmented experience of history as an outsider.
By letting the spectator become part of the intimate narratives of both the survivors and the artist, the work constructs a scenery of the unseen historical events and formulates a bridge between past and present, thus referencing the unspoken trauma carried within the Bulgarian society.
The exhibition took place in EEP Berlin , Germany between the 11th and 14th of July 2019.
James Crouchman travelled mainly on foot across Bulgaria's North West - the mountainous lands between the Danube and the border with Serbia, today the Bulgarian province of Montana. He explored and documented on film an area full of history, where dialects overlap and once gold and silver miners came from as far as Saxony, brought in by the Ottoman Turks.
James: I met Asparuh from Glavanovtsi village. He gave me apples and told me he disliked Churchill. He was five during the worst bombing of WWII, but still remembers Allied planes flying overhead to target the oil fields in Romania just across the Danube, before returning and unloading their unused bombs on this part of Bulgaria. He told me about the sound the explosions made, echoing for miles around.
From Glavanovtsi I walked nearly 100km over four days to Belogradchik, crossing mountains and taking detours to villages on the way. People would often stop me and give me food or drink. In Protopopintsi village, two old ladies invited me in to their garden and gave me 'compot', not the British sort but fresh fruit juice from figs and peaches. It's a fascinating area, one that deserves to be spoken about more than just in terms of GDP and employment figures.
Photography © James Crouchman