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Slava Savova solo show

27.07 — 05.08.2023

The exploitation of the iron ore open-pit mine “Kremikovtsi” started in the late 1950s, after surveys projected that nearly 250,000,000 tonnes of ore were lying under the village of Kremikovtsi. In the following years the village was relocated eastwards and in the valley beneath it was erected a vast metallurgical complex, comprised of multiple plants designed to utilize the abundant supplies of ore. The pit excavation gradually started spiraling down only to unearth that the quality of the ore deposits was insufficient for the production capacity of the industrial complex nearby. Relying on imports of supplies from abroad and operating at a financial loss, the metallurgical complex was eventually privatized during the transition period, its elaborate equipment dismantled and sold, and most of its factories raised to the ground. After the mine’s dewatering system seized operations in 2011, the pit started gradually transforming into a deep terraced lake.

Rather than focusing on a grand narrative documenting the destructive imprint of the extractive industries in the region, the exhibition is looking across the geological scars and into the intricate workings of the unplanned recultivation that has been gradually reclaiming the pit – the rising ground waters, the plant life and the aquatic, terrestrial and avian beings that have found refuge onto the cascading strata of the former extraction site.

At a time of frantic (and simultaneously faint) efforts to reach global agreements on strategies tackling the imminent environmental consequences of the past century’s extractivist economic policies and preserve small remnants of pristine nature, “Ore” is trying to assemble a constellation of microhistories, narrating about the afterlife of progress. A site of extreme anthropo-geological alternations, emptied of the economic value it once held, the pit has now turned into unexpected infrastructure for a flourishing ecosystem, where memories of its industrial past, archival records and memorabilia transform into exotic objects, becoming extinct nature in their own right.

Slava Savova is a medical anthropology researcher with a background in architecture. Since 2020 she has been researching the sociocultural and environmental history of thermal springs and healing infrastructures, facilitating the access to thermal waters for medical use from the Ottoman period onwards across the territory of modern-day Bulgaria. In 2022 she joined the international research project “Taming the European Leviathan: The Legacy of Post-War Medicine and the Common Good” project (ERC-2019-SyG - ERC Synergy Grant). Her doctoral research, part of the “Leviathan” project, focuses on the postwar balneosanatoria in Bulgaria, seen as a nexus between the social, healthcare and economic policies, and the exploitation of natural resources.

Slava holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh School of Architecture (2012) and a master’s in Choral Conducting from the National Academy of Music in Sofia, Bulgaria (2008). Between 2013 and 2018 she was trained and worked as an architect in the offices of gmp architekten and OMA in Berlin, New York, Rotterdam, and Hong Kong. In 2020, alongside architect Maya Shopova, she led the Sofia Thermae team that won first place in the Open Call for Concept for the East and North Wings of the Central Mineral Bathhouse in Sofia. In 2021 Slava started researching the expansion of the extractive industries inf Bulgaria, with her first text tracing the environmental history of Devnya valley, published in February this year (Seminar_BG, #25, in Bulgarian).

ORE is supported by the National Culture Fund – Bulgaria, Creative Initiatives program 2021.


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