In the West, it is not unusual for a young person to become the head of an elite gallery, theater or museum. In Bulgaria, this is still rather rare. When Margarita Dorovska became the director of the Museum of Humor and Satire in Gabrovo in 2016, she was 33 years old. Since then, the museum has not only become more prominent, but also increased the number of visitors and its revenue. Dorovska graduated with a degree in Cultural Studies from Sofia University and Contemporary Art Curation at the Royal College of Art in London. She worked as an independent curator and was a member of the Interspace Association, which memorably combined contemporary art and technology. At her new job as director of the museum, she organized the exhibition Born in Gabrovo in 2017, with curator Vesela Nozharova, dedicated to the years the Yavashevi family (the family of artist Christo) lived in the city. The reason for our meeting with Margarita Dorovska is the 25th edition of the Gabrovo Biennale, which will run until September 30 under the ecological motto "Economy of resources."
How did you decide that ecology would be the focus of the 25th edition of the Gabrovo Biennale?
Back when the previous biennale (whose theme was "Public Dimensions ") was happening, we decided to explore the topic of the climate crisis and the need for change in our social, economic and cultural models. Meanwhile, other crises have reminded us how urgent this change is. We choose topics that are relevant and deserving of attention at the current moment. Contemporary art deals with the present.
Judging by the projects selected for the biennale, what’s on the minds of contemporary artists in Bulgaria and around the world?
We repeat the same mistakes, our efforts are for naught. Some kind of Sisyphean fate that we cannot overcome.
What place does the topic of climate change occupy in the main exhibitions and accompanying events in your program?
A central spot. This is a very complex topic and we treat it as such. Any attempt to simplify it takes us away from the possibility of a solution. There is no time for fundamentalism and division into separate camps, we can no longer choose between economics and the environment, between social issues and the environment. The time has come to solve complex problems with many unknowns while also tracking many different variables.
Could you tell us about your partnerships with environmental organizations like Greenpeace? What are the mutual benefits of such partnerships?
We work with many of the key eco organizations in our country. They are our partners with knowledge and experience in this field. We are interested in it, we understand its importance, but we cannot claim to understand it in great detail. They are the people who are elbow-deep in solving these problems every day. And to them, we are like-minded people, I guess we are also good communicators, but above all we share common values and a cause.
Creativity cannot solve environmental problems with a magic wand, but it can...
It can make us more sensitive, and that's a very important start. But we won’t stop there. In addition to exhibitions, the biennale also includes many events, talks, screenings, which feature ecology experts from our partner organizations. This additional program educates us on specific problems, quite real, here in Bulgaria and gives us the opportunity to talk and engage with various causes. Finding solutions to the climate crisis requires active participation and involvement.
Can climate concerns inspire satirical works?
We would like to share one cartoon and one sculpture with you, let the readers decide for themselves.
Untitled, 2019, Dave Coverley, USA
Protest signs, 2022, Olav Westphalen
What green policies have you implemented in your work or are planning to implement soon?
Sustainable practices permeate the life of an organization from top to bottom, at absolutely all levels, and it is extremely important that this understanding and commitment is shared by the entire team. They include energy efficiency, water conservation, using filtered drinking water, waste separation, reduction of stationery, reduction of paper, use of recycled, recyclable and energy efficient materials and equipment, reduction of packaging, efforts to reduce the carbon footprint when transporting works and materials. We're introducing all of this in stages, making it more comfortable, trying not to be too ambitious, but making sure that what we can keep doing the things we’re committing to. When the documentation of this process is ready, we will publish it so that it can be adapted and used by other museums and galleries.
The funny thing is that while we're doing this interview, I'm in Prague at the annual meeting of the International Council of Museums, where the climate crisis is very much present as a topic. It affects museums firstly as organizations that need to introduce green practices in their daily functioning, secondly – as educational institutions that address the topic in their programming and thirdly – as guardians of cultural artefacts that should prepare for how climate change might impact their collections.
What can we expect at the Museum of Humor and Satire in the coming months?
Three major exhibitions – the artist Georgi Ruzhev, the artist and caricaturist Vasil Chakarov with curator Ruzha Marinska, and an exhibition dedicated to the publisher and editor Sava Popov, prepared by the curator-design team Anton Staykov and Svoboda Tsekova.
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