POSTCARDS AND CONTRABAND

Exhibition of Aaron Roth and Nikola Stoyanov
Curator Hristo Kaloyanov

POSTA SPACE (34 Dondukov blvd.)
Charta Gallery (12 Vrabcha st.)

11. 04. – 12. 05. 2024
opening 11.04. / 18:00

“Postcards and contraband” has its inception in an incidentally found archive from the Bulgarian Customs Agency, Directorate “Struggle Against Narcotics Trafficking” from the period 1975-1985. The official notes, photographs, negatives, and reports mark parts of the routine of customs affairs, such as the inspection and regulation of transit, as well as the diplomatic image that the Customs agency must maintain before the international community. These tracks are fragments of a vast system of customs regulations, trade routes and international agreements.

The leading suspicion here is that the found archives give only a partial insight into the organised “hidden transit” – a term behind which the communist government of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria hid the contraband trade carried out by the State Security through state-owned enterprises and their foreign trade organisations for party purposes. This practice underpinned the subsequent private enrichment of certain individuals connected to power in the early years of the so-called “transition” period and the formation of the private business that marked the 90s with the clear cover of illegal trade and transit activity supported by the state.

The contraband, which is intended to remain hidden, as well as the organisation behind it, remain only partially caught to this day. Can the found archive and subsequent tracing of the negative image of the past reveal what has become of state memory? From here, “Postcards and Contraband” traces various markers of both borders, their customs and the transiting goods, as well as the memory that the archival images transit into the present.

Aaron Roth (1998) works with found images and the mediums of painting, installation, sculpture and photography. His installations move between ready-made and assemblage, while his paintings have a mimetic and ironic relation to the advertising image. The works draw inspiration from chalga, conspiracy theory and luxury goods advertisements, exploring questions of desire, myths of nationalism and capital.

Nikola Stoyanov (1994) is an author, translator and visual artist working in the field of philosophy and history of technology. His interests include the intersection of infrastructure and technological apparatuses with art and everyday life. As a long-time translator and photographer, he interweaves the humanitarian with the scientific towards the speculative.

The exhibition is supported by the Singer-Zahariev Foundation and Pernod Ricard Bulgaria.

Photos: Mihail Novakov @mihail_novakov

✺ Related projects

Opening of History is in the Present by Krasimira Butseva
Site visit with Slav Nedev and Alexander Valchev

Grant Program 2023 — Rolling Invitation

✺ Applications are now open ✺