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June Poetry Readings

This event is part of the 'HIGH VELOCITY: All about Him' Project

Head of Project: Ventsislav Zankov
Partnering organizations: GEMINI Bulgarian Gay Organization,
MURGASH Art Gallery
Event coordinator: Ivanna Murdzheva
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Modern society is undoubtedly a champion in asserting tolerance to differences. It has repeatedly recognized that difference comes in many shapes - religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation - and has acknowledged the Hollywood credo that size does matter.

Should we dare to identify patterns of behavior which society sanctions as truly tolerant, however, we will arrive at some curious findings. Tolerance is often perceived as the effort to attain social amnesia towards differences. Or whenever this is not a feasible effort, tolerance can manifest itself through acts of outright shake-off and denial. As a result differences get often reduced to irrelevant but very private, and somewhat racy trifles. In many ways the assumption that tolerance is regarded as a vacant attitude is a legitimate one. It is our denial to relate to differences, our deep frozen scare-to-share. The effort to express it, however, is more than we can handle and our negative attitudes are bound to take over the vacancy that we jealously guard from whom?

Following this train of thoughts, it will be hardly a surprise to conclude that fake tolerance generates discrimination. It would not really make a difference if it generates positive or negative discrimination. The positive one is as predictable as the negative. The former will try the hard way to promote the involvement of ethnic minorities in the dynamics of social development only to sustain the pretence of being politically correct. The latter will zero in on a mute, yet straightforward dismissal.

Fake tolerance suspends our capacity to come in contact and to integrate differences in our world.

The Botev Poetry Readings Project aims at mapping out the levels of tolerance in our society. The best strategy, which art-employed-in-research can offer, is easy to sum up in three words: challenge, challenge and challenge. On a hind-sight we can see that the Botev Poetry Readings Project challenged the public in two major ways.

Throughout the years following our country's liberation from Ottoman rule, the national celebrations on June 2nd have become a landmark in the landscape of formal commemorations in Bulgaria. The inherent meaning to this event is to let Bulgarians come together and relive a once vibrant national credo. Paying tribute to those, who sacrificed their lives to the independence of the Bulgarian state plays an essential part in it. The image of the hero, which this ritual celebrates, features the resolve, power and unmistakable appeal of a man, beaten by the ruthless whirlwind of the battlefield. This is the appeal of someone who has taken on himself the responsibility to protect the motherland, his family and the honor of his fellow countrymen. The official endorsement of these celebrations dismisses certain social groups, which by virtue of the choices that they had made, find it hard to embrace this pathos as their own. Chances are that these groups can still relate to the festivities in their own way. To cut the long story short, this is how the official celebrations generate seemingly 'en masse' participation, failing at the same time to evoke true feeling. The Botev Poetry Readings Project, on the other hand, aims at challenging rigid attitudes and stale formats of celebrating. The readings are about opening up space for genuine reflection over differences and about their true expression. They are about searching for common values.
The nationwide festivities, celebrating courage and the call of duty, can reach out and include different social groups: sharing the particular male vigor pathos should not be a must.

Public readings of Botev poetry have long now been considered an integral part of the official ceremony of commemoration. Taking them out of this context changes their interpretation and galvanizes the rich potential of Botev's poetic imagery. It is an interesting transformation: from verses that have articulated our national credo for quite some time now, toward verses that embrace the attitudes of many readers, integrating them into their amazingly vibrant creative powers. The informal 'streak' of the MURGASH metropolitan art gallery, and the alternate approach to celebrating this national holiday challenges the inherent imagery in Botev's poetry and allows the public to experience new attitudes and fresh poetic interpretations. Throughout decades of June 2nd celebrations, this national holiday has been way too much 'felt' through commemoration and death. The Botev Poetry Readings Project challenges certain components in the stylistics of the formal celebrations, and opens up space to re-integrate the versatility of his achievements back into our lives.


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