Monday, June 9, 2014

Absinthe moves to Ann Arbor!

The Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan is pleased to announce it will assume editorial leadership of Absinthe, a literary magazine founded in Farmington Hills (MI) in 2003. Over the past ten years, Absinthe has promoted international literature and art and showcased contemporary work from a variety of European countries. Under the keen eye of its founding editor Dwayne D. Hayes, the magazine has come to be recognized as a leading publication for translated literature and has played a crucial part in introducing important contemporary voices from Europe to American readers.

The relocation of Absinthe to the Department of Comparative Literature will allow the journal to benefit from the expertise of one of the strongest comparative programs in the nation, and provide a sustainable publishing model to continue Absinthe’s commitment to promoting foreign literature in the United States. At the University of Michigan, Absinthe will provide a space of encounter between new voices in foreign literature, experienced translators, as well as translators in training.

Starting in summer 2014, Absinthe will serve as a platform from which to expand the Department of Comparative Literature’s ongoing engagement with translation activities across the Michigan campus and beyond. The magazine will offer graduate students the opportunity to gain professional experience in editing literary translations and identifying important new trends in contemporary world literature. It will also provide opportunities for collaboration with colleagues across departments, both within and beyond the University of Michigan, on topics for special issues.

In the fall of 2014, The Department of Comparative Literature will resume Absinthe’s biannual print publication as well as create an entire new online presence for the magazine. Two doctoral students in Comparative Literature will serve as co-editors for the first two transitional issues. Their task will consist of maintaining the legacy of Absinthe as established by Hayes, while broadening the magazine’s current focus on European literature to include texts that reflect the very wide range of geographical interests, talents and affinities present in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan.

The first issue in Absinthe’s new incarnation (Fall 2014) will focus on the topic, “Precarious Europe: Writing in Uncertain Times.” Edited by Etienne Charriere, this issue will engage the current stage of crisis across the European continent. In order to understand how literature is written in times of acute precariousness, we look forward to publishing contemporary translated texts from a variety of spaces in Europe –with a special focus on the margins of the continent– that all reflect the ongoing climate of economic and political instability, as well as the profound identity crisis that has affected the entire continent in varied ways.

The topic of the next issue (Spring 2015) will be “Pen and Brush: Europe and China in Dialogue.” Edited by Emily Goedde, it will focus on literary and artistic conversations between Europe and Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and other Chinese communities across Asia. In drawing from European writers (be they of Chinese origin or not), as well as from writers from the Sinophone world who live in or write about Europe, this issue will present a rich body of literary and artistic work that negotiates and illuminates contemporary cosmopolitanisms. It will also offer an opportunity to introduce new examples from exilic and migrant literature.

Future issues of Absinthe will be edited by graduate students and faculty in the Department of Comparative Literature and related departments and disciplines. Proposals regarding future issues will be announced in 2015. Please direct all inquiries and submissions to Etienne Charriere and Emily Goedde at

Sunday, May 11, 2014

PEN America #17: Now on Newsstands

Issue #17 of PEN America, devoted to the recent annual World Voices Festival (now in its 10th year!) features several of last year's PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant winners, including my translation of Jean Ferry's "On the Frontiers of Plaster," also available online at the PEN site. The piece was first published (in a slightly different form) in issue #3 of the magazine formerly known as The Coffin Factory, now Tweed's.

Interestingly enough, Paul Bowles also translated the piece, and named his volume of translations after it: She Woke Me Up, So I Killed Her. This retitle is taken from the unattributed epigraph to Ferry's piece, and differs from my own translation in its interpretation of that famous French conundrum, the imperfect tense. Bowles' volume of translations from Spanish and French is interesting for the liberties it takes as well as its eclectic selection, which includes work by Borges, surrealists Giorgio di Chirico and René Magritte, poet Francis Ponge, Ramón Sender, and another personal favorite of mine, baroque fantasist André Pieyre de Mandiargues. Maybe someday a famous translator will be able to publish an equally eclectic and idiosyncratic volume of Selected Translations. 

One can hope.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Translated Comics at the 2014 Eisner Awards

So last week, nominees were announced for this year’s Eisner Awards, the highest comics industry honor in the U.S. It’s nice to see so many international artists and writers in the 30 categories, including:

Best Reality-Based Work
  • A Bag of Marbles, by Joseph Joffo, Kris, and Vincent Bailly (Graphic Universe/Lerner)
  • Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, by Ulli Lust (Fantagraphics)
Best Adaptation from Another Medium
  • The Castle, by Franz Kafka, adapted by David Zane Mairowitz and Jaromír 99 (SelfMadeHero)
  • The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, by Edogawa Rampo, adapted by Suehiro Maruo  (Last Gasp)
Best Humor Publication
  • The (True!) History of Art, by Sylvain Coissard and Alexis Lemoine (SelfMadeHero)
It’s especially heartening to see nominees are sprinkled throughout the categories, instead of being crammed into the two usual categories for translated material, which are nevertheless full of excellent books:

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
  • Adventures of a Japanese Businessman, by Jose Domingo (Nobrow)
  • Goddam This War! by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Pierre Verney (Fantagraphics)
  • Incidents in the Night, Book One, by David B. (Uncivilized Books)
  • Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, by Ulli Lust (Fantagraphics)
  • When David Lost His Voice, by Judith Vanistendael (SelfMadeHero)
Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
  • The Heart of Thomas, by Moto Hagio (Fantagraphics)
  • The Mysterious Underground Men, by Osamu Tezuka (PictureBox)
  • Showa: A History of Japan, 1926–1939, by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Summit of the Gods, vol. 4, by Yemmakura Baku and Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)
  • Utsubora: The Story of a Novelist, by Asumiko Nakamura (Vertical)
Asia has long had its own separate category, which this year was dominated by Japan.
As is often the case, the international influence was heavy in children’s books (OK, so Fanny Arsenault’s from Quebec):

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
  • Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas, by Philippe Coudray (TOON Books)
  • The Big Wet Balloon, by Liniers (TOON Books)
Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12)
  • Jane, the Fox, and Me, by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault (Groundwood)
Perhaps most exciting of all was to see international nominees crack the coveted top categories:

Best Writer/Artist
  • Judith Vanistendael, When David Lost His Voice (SelfMadeHero)
Best Graphic Album—New
  • The Property, by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
The sheer number of different publishers now doing international material is to be applauded. Among the countries represented are France, Czechoslovakia, Israel, Japan, Spain. Two relative newcomers to the comics scene did very well with double nominations:
  • Austria, with Ulli Lust’s debut memoir of roadtripping Europe in her punk youth, Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, translated by the late Kim Thompson from Fantagraphics. I got to see Lust when her graphic memoir debuted in France at Angouleme in 2011, and wrote about seeing her speak. It was well-received there, an official selection of the festival.
  • Flanders (Flemish Belgium), with Judith Vanistendael’s When David Lost His Voice from UK indie SelfMadeHero, which did awesome this year overall with 7 nominations in 5 categories.
These nominations reflect the hard work of translators like Jessica Cohen, Nora Mahony, Brian & Sarah Evenson, Zack Davisson, Matt Thorn, Ryan Holmberg, Leigh Stein, yours truly, and a few more whose names I was unable to find out. This should not be the case. Translator’s names should listed, if not on the cover, then at least on the title page. They deserve proper acknowledgment via listings in reviews and metadata at sites like Goodreads and online booksellers.
Readers are encouraged to check out these quality books! Anyone can vote for the Eisners by simply registering, and voting is now open. As always, winners will be announced during a ceremony in July at San Diego Comic-Con.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

You Say It's Our Birthday?

We love our birthday cake!
Absinthe is 10 years old! Happy Birthday to us!

Did you know that your support has enabled us to publish 20 issues, featuring the work of around 300 writers?

In addition, we've hosted a reading series, film events, festivals, and more.

Will you help us celebrate our 10th birthday?

Help ensure we're around for 10 more years by making a donation of $10.

Your contribution is tax-deductible and we greatly appreciate your support!

Friday, November 15, 2013

NYC Flash Mob Puts the Spotlight on Translated Literature

Be part of the first NYC Flash Mob that spotlights translated literature.


Where: Queens International 2013 @ Queens Museum

The Flash Mob is the culmination of the SMUGGLED GOBBLEDYGOOK project that is meant to challenge the dominating mono reading and language culture in the U.S., by "contaminating" the public space with foreign languages, as well as literature translated in English from any of the 138 languages spoken in Queens.

The mob was preceded by Book-Crossing, which will continue till the end of the Queens International (January 19, 2014).

The book-crossing is an ongoing public experiment that trades books over mainstream and off-stream social networks. Local immigrant communities or fans of international literature are invited to smuggle books in translation or in their respective native language into the museum and deposit them in the Flip-House*.

As an extension of the book-crossing, the multilingual flash mob uses the collected books to reproduce the Queens communities as a simultaneous read-aloud. At a precise moment the ‘mob’ starts reading out loud, then finishes exactly five minutes later, as suddenly as it begins. At this point, readers disperse and leave their readings in a specially designated box.

Please, come 10 minutes before the start of the flash mob and either bring your own reading material or pick up a book at the site. There will be a short instruction before the start.

Please, come to share your native language & literature, be it in translation or in an original form. You are as much welcome as a text-performer as just an observer!

Make sure to stay little longer and check the rest of the Smuggle Tactics’ works and get а wider picture of the Queens International exhibition.

Many thanks to everyone who has signed up for the Flash Mob or has donated book(s) so far. We have Armenian, Bulgarian, Check, Chinese, Korean, Finnish, Irish, Japanese, Macedonian, Polish, Spanish, Romanian, Russian, Polish, Turkish presence, including translations, donated from premier publishers of international literatures such as: Absinthe, Accents Publishing, Archipelago, Black Balloon, Dalkey Archive Press, Europa Editions, Grove Atlantic, New Europe Writers, Open Letter Books, Spinning Jennie etc. Special thanks to the Immigrant Movement International and the Queens Library who helped me reach out local communities.

*The Flip-House (visualized below) is the main stage of the Bulgarian Collaborative's Smuggle Tactics exhibition.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


November 9, 2013 – January 19, 2014 

Queens Museum
New York City Building
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Queens NY 11368
With the sixth iteration of Queens International, the Queens Museum’s signature biennial evolves into yet another phase. Taiwan-based Meiya Cheng, the first non-New York-based curator to participate, joins the Museum’s Hitomi Iwasaki on an exhibition emphasizing site-specificity as a collaborative practice between the curators and artists and their surroundings.  As one of the inaugural exhibitions in the Museum’s expanded space, Queens International 2013 echoes the institution’s own hyperawareness of its new environs. 

Reaching out to active producers both in and out of the visual arts, Queens International 2013 is composed of a number of event- and performance-based projects, including many off-site programs charged with idiosyncratic and unexpected insights and approaches. 38 artists and collaboratives stretch ideas and practices of cooperative creativity in surprising directions and degrees, between and among artists, Museum staff (beyond the curatorial team), outside organizations and other specialists.  The results transgress the boundaries of disciplines beyond visual art practices – cinema, community engagement, music, open-forum discussion, guided touring, architecture, theatre, literature and food – mashing, matching and revitalizing all for wider accessibility and larger communication. 
From community-based experimental art-sharing programs to specialized investigations into obscure local vernaculars, to seemingly conventional photographs and sculptural objects and performances that challenge the new Museum spaces, Queens International 2013 teems with ambitious artistries that challenge boundaries of media, methods, and concepts in current creative productions and museum practices alike. With a guided fishing trip in search of the invasive snakehead, a Queens/Brooklyn border walk, a pickling workshop, a Bulgarian women’s a capella choir, a do-it-yourself/together movie soundtrack performance,  an participatory DJ performance, group drone-building workshop, paintings exhibited by way of video and live sound performance, an intercontinental duet concert via Skype, and a deconstructed theatrical play taking place simultaneously in multiple locations throughout the Museum spaces, the exhibition both energizes and escapes from the Museum’s new 105,000 sq. ft. home. 

Parameters are further blurred, crossed, and reconsidered by Cheng’s fresh perspective on the borough of Queens today. Together with Iwasaki, Cheng has intensely surveyed the local artistic environment, and infused Queens International 2013 with artistic and socio-cultural parallels and counterpoints from her native Taiwan to examine how these distant places – Queens and Taiwan – define themselves and are defined by each other.  To further explore this dynamic, for the first time, Queens International includes non-Queens-based artists, in this case a cohort of nine artists from Taiwan’s contemporary art scene.  This group investigates the possibility of a community as the collective imagination of “a place” beyond geographical boundaries, societal and cultural divisions, and global conflicts over labor and capital.  Video pieces address the intertwined themes of border control, cultural identity, and the ambiguity of language and translation, all issues germane to ongoing discourse in both contemporary Queens and Taiwan, while additional commissioned performances and site-related projects find the artists interpreting the historical and social context of the Museum and the borough as a whole.   

Queens International 2013 participants include: 
Nobutaka Aozaki; Art & The Commons: (David Andersson and Antonio Serna); Kevin Beasley; Jane Benson; Lynley Bernstein; Alberto Borea; Chang Chien-Chi; Michelle Marie Charles; Chen Chieh-jen; Chou Yu-Cheng; Deville Cohen; Bulgarian Collaborative: Joro Boro, Milena Deleva, Daniela Kostova/Mario Mohan, Vlada Tomova, Tushevs Aerials (Georgi and Nina Tushev), Meglena Zapreva; Jeff Feld; Flux Factory (Douglas Paulson and Christina Vassallo); Richard Garet; Wojciech Gilewicz; Joseph Heathcott; Hsu Chia-Wei; Zeynab Izadyar; Anna K.E.; Theatre 167/ Ari Laura Kreith; Siobhan Landry; Cheon Pyo Lee; Liu Ho-Jang; Luo Jr-shin; Alex White Mazzarella; Florian Meisenberg; Ander Mikalson; Nitin Mukul; Arthur Ou; Queens World Film Festival (Don and Katha Cato); Aida Šehović; Matthew Volz (and Juan Wauters with Carmelle Safdie); Fujui Wang; Kristof Wickman; Jun Yang; Yu Cheng-Ta, and Bryan Zanisnik. 

Queens International 2013 is organized by guest curator Meiya Cheng and Hitomi Iwasaki, the Queens Museum’s Director of Exhibitions. 
Queens International 2013 is supported by the Ministry of Culture, Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York, La Guardia Corporation, Contemporary Art Foundation, Target, and Holosonic Research Labs, Inc.  Additional funding provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. 

# # # 
The Queens Museum is a local international art space in Flushing Meadows Corona Park with contemporary art, events and educational programs reflecting the diversity of Queens and New York City. The Museum presents the work of emerging and established artists, changing exhibitions that speak to contemporary urban issues, and projects that focus on the rich history of its site. In November 2013, the Museum opened its new space, a 105,000 square foot venue with a soaring sky lit atrium, suite of day lit galleries and improved flexible event space.  Some highlights of the Queens Museum after its reopening include the Panorama of the City of New York, the 9,335 square foot scale model of the five boroughs, a reinstallation of the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, a new visible storage facility for the Museum’s collection of artifacts from the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs, and a new studio wing with nine artists studios. It also features a new exhibition in partnership with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection centered on the 1939 World’s Fair WPA model of the watershed and contemporary conservation efforts and the first show in the Shelley and Donald Rubin Exhibition Series, Citizens of the World: Cuba in Queens. The Museum seeks to exact positive change in surrounding communities through engagement initiatives ranging from the multilingual outreach and educational opportunities for adult immigrants, to the residency program, Corona Studio, which embeds artists in the local community. The Museum also conducts educational outreach tailored toward schoolchildren, teens, families, seniors as well as those individuals with physical and mental disabilities. 

The Queens Museum is located on property owned in full by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided though the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. The Museum’s hours are: WednesdaySunday: noon - 6 pm. Admission to the Museum is by suggested donation: $8 for adults, $4 for seniors, students and children, and free for members and children under 5. For general visitor information, please visit the Museum’s website or call 718.592.9700.  

Media Contacts: 
Justin Conner/ FITZ & CO/ +1-212-627-1455 
David Strauss/ Queens Museum/ +1-718-592-9700 

Smuggle Tactics

The Bulgarian Collaborative: Joro Boro, Milena Deleva, Daniela Kostova/Mario Mohan, Vlada Tomova, Tushevs Aerials (Georgi and Nina Tushev) and Meglena Zapreva talk about their project Smuggle Tactics at QUEENS INTERNATIONAL 2013 


Meglena Zapreva (Imaginary International Community Garden Workshop): How it all started was that I received this open call from the Queens Museum of Art. Nina and Joro knew about it, I didn’t, but when it came to me, I thought I should call up Daniela because she might have some ideas and I’d love to write some programming for them but I didn’t know how to do it since I wasn’t sure what artists will be in it. So I called up Daniela and then we went on a tour in the museum. They have this new wing there which wasn’t open, it was under construction. The curator, Hitomi Iwasaki, was there. She explained what she was looking for and Daniela said right away, “That’s perfect for us.” Then Daniela invited everyone else. We were looking for a multidisciplinary, interesting project, so it’s not going to be just an installation, but it will involve a lot of participation from everyone who is visiting the museum.

Daniela Kostova: I think this was the initial idea of the curator as well, because when we went on the tour, they said something like, “Unleash your imagination, go wild,” and also, in the call it was explained that it’s not just about artistic projects, but they wanted to involve people from different walks of life, including musicians, literati, educators, architects, so we decided it was a perfect case for this kind of an interdisciplinary project. I think it all started with the concept of “up and down and all around”, with different perspectives.
Meglena: Because Nina and Joro’s project is so much about different perspectives of looking at things, we thought it would be great and then your project about the inside-out house…

Daniela: Again, a little bit of context, Queens Museum is one of the few museums dedicated to social practice and they really try to get the community involved not only within the museum but to connect it with everything that surrounds it, so the idea of doing something that is expanding on the construction side and creating a relationship between us, like a model of cooperation, and actually the collective came together because of this project, it’s not something we had done before.

Meglena: Bulgarian Collaborative is our official name.

Daniela: Also, at one of the presentations, Nina, Joro and Meglena were there, when we were presenting the project in public, Mario came as well, (for the record, he is not Bulgarian) and he presented his project. We talked after that and found out that our projects had a lot in common, and decided that we wanted to work together.

Meglena: Yes, he is the “smuggled” Bulgarian. But actually when we started working on the project and writing it up, Daniela sent me her description of whatever she was going to do, then Nina and Joro sent me their description, and so did Vlada, and I think at the very end Joro-Boro’s came in, so once I started reading it, I thought, “Smuggled music?! That’s just perfect! I can definitely wrap the whole thing around smuggling.” Then Daniela and I worked on the language so it would all fit together, and all the different projects and ideas started coming to a cohesive one. It’s not just about the events and happenings – there is also material, sort of documentation, that will remain in the museum from almost everything we are doing.

Joro-Boro: We chose the name “Smuggled Tactics” because tactics is something people employ to exploit weaknesses in the system, and in the beginning we were talking about perspectives, but we felt that tactics is much more manipulative in a way, also – much more functional, a little bit militaristic, also it has something to do with games, for example playing strategy games, so all of this shows our approach, and I think all the projects involved are going to use that, for instance building Nina and Joro’s drones definitely involves tactics. So tactics is the overarching project and it will take place in the flip house which is Dani’s project. Maybe we should also mention that actually, after the opening reception, the show will continue for about a month and the highlight of the show will be this flip house.

Daniela: About the house… I’ve worked with Joro-Boro before, on another house, the first one, which we made for an exhibition in Syracuse. It was a great project, so this time, based on what we saw with Meglena and on our conversations, I thought it would be great to capitalize on the reconstruction side, because what we saw there was a museum in flux – everything was open and under construction, there were a lot of materials, the empty space had a lot of potential. So I decided to use the materials found there and build sort of a house which would be an addition to the museum, an appendix, an expansion of it, if you want, and also to think about how to move this extra space out of the museum, how to connect the community, and then Mario came into play, he came up with an idea about how to move it and how to design the whole thing based on what we found there. The function of its space is to incorporate all the other projects.

Meglena: Originally we didn’t think that all the projects would be housed in the flip house but because the curator told us she was insistent on everything being cohesive and together, I think that only Nina and Joro’s projection is outside of it.

Nina Tushev: Two pieces of what we are doing are outside.

Meglena: Yes, everything else will take place inside.

Daniela: I honestly think it’s important for the curator to be part of the project to elevate the process above the result.

Mario: The main issue was to distribute all the artists and determine the space they get, so each wall is pretty much a different part of the exhibit, and also another part was figuring out a way to make it mobile, it’s such a big house that the space the museum has wouldn’t allow us to move the house out in the neighborhood, so we created these mobile shelves as a way for the book exchange to happen and also the temporality of the house – it’s made to look as if it’s able to be transported, even though we’re not transporting the whole house.

Daniela: But you could, if you wanted to.

Mario Mohan: Exactly.

Daniela: We’re working with the idea of shanty houses, like the ones in the favelas – if you go there, you can see that people live in these houses, so I think you can live anywhere and I think the idea of this house revolves around the idea of resources available to the immigrant community – people who go to a place and create a living space based on what they find.

Joro-Boro: These challenges are part of the project – you have to revise it as you go.

Daniela: There were also a lot of institutional limitations because we are not out in the street building something…

Milena Deleva (Smuggled Gobbledygook): About the Book Exchange project – there are two parts – the book exchange and a literary flashmob – the idea has to do with the homogeneous reading culture in America, Queens is one of the boroughs where more than 130 languages are spoken, so I’m going to reach out to these communities and hopefully we will get between five and ten languages – ten will be enough to create a Babylonian Tower, but the thing is that all these languages spoken here will be allowed and English will be kind of an adopted language – it will be allowed only in translation, for example from Turkish, Spanish, Bulgarian, Korean and so on. In a way this is a revenge on the mono reading culture, a tactic. I really like the idea of tactics because it gives us a lot of freedom, for example, we came up with the idea that we can do a flashmob on one of the subway lines here, for instance connecting Radiator which is our headquarters, to the museums: we’ll get on the train, do a flashmob on the subway, then we can video record it, upload it on the Internet, and it will always remain as a language noise which makes sense for the project. So it’s very simple – to challenge this mono-reading culture.

Georgi /Joro/ Tushev: You are turning it inside-out – the exterior moves to the inside, for example our video makes more sense inside the walls, but it’s taking place outside.

Daniela: That’s exactly what the concept of the Flip House implies.                 

Joro (Build Your Own Drone Workshop and Maiden Flight Demo): Our project has two parts – the first one is a video installation displaying aerial footage recorded over the past year and a half on the walls in the house, and the other part – we will basically teach people how to build drones.

Nina (Build Your Own Drone Workshop and Maiden Flight Demo): The video installation is a TV which is going to be placed on a pedestal inside the house, against the back wall, so you can see it through the door and if it's open, you can also see it.

Daniela: You can see it through the window too.

Nina: Yeah, maybe we'll position it so you can also see it through the window.

Joro-Boro: Are you going to put a roof on it?

Daniela: There isn't going to be a roof because there is a second floor so you can see it from above.

Joro: Also, if someone asks us why drones, it's because they’re something new, also something interesting I heard the other day – my friend mentioned the term drone art, and I said, oh yes, I know, drawn art, but he explained that it is art which fulfills the needs of the curator.   

Nina: And we're also going to have another piece which is a screening on a big screen (Queens Museum has a theater), so hopefully we'll get to do a screening there. The video is a compilation of different footage we've recorded around the world. The screening we're going to do in the house will show Queens and New York City.  

Joro: About the relationship between our project and Queens: Corona Park is a historically rich place.

Nina: The World Fair was there, back in the 60's, and it was about what the future was going to look like, so we felt that it's really appropriate that we chose that same location.

Joro: Wasn't the Fair in the 30's?

Nina: I think there were two – one in the 30's and another one in the 60's. Futurama was the name of the pavilion. Tony Stark is also a connection. Also, I work for the UN and its first seat, its first location, was actually there. One other thing about the project is that we actually fly the drones with virtual reality goggles, which is great, I love that part of the project, you can experience actually flying the drone.

Meglena: There were many reincarnations and ideas of my part of the project, but the kernel event is the fact that you can’t import any live plants or seeds from outside the US which always bugs me, so the idea was that there is always something that you find in another country or somewhere where you grew up in the case of immigrants which is really impossible to find here in the US, and for me these are round fleshy peppers (камби). I thought, well, I can never find this particular kind of pepper here, these were some of the ideas going through my mind when I was thinking about smuggling, and I thought that if I had to smuggle something into the US, it would definitely be fruit and vegetables. So basically what we are going to do on one of the walls is I am going to take one of the stills from Tushev’s film which is going to be shown inside the house and we are going to use that still to make up these fake custom forms which the people will fill out and instead of actually describing what they’re trying to smuggle, they are going to draw it. In a way, the idea was that if you actually could bring all these plants into the country and plant them in the park outside, this is going to be what it would look like. So it’s a project about what Corona Park would look like if it was a big community garden, and that’s why it’s called Imaginary International Community Garden. I’ve had many conversations with people who say for example, oh, if only I could find these kinds of spices because in India we have fresh leaves of whatever plant, so I want them to draw it so we can have a documentation of their memories.

Joro-Boro: We’re all doing export-import, or, as we say in Bulgaria, alash-verish (алъш-вериш).

Nina: This could be the name of your next project: Imp-Ex, haha.   

Joro-Boro: Anyway, I’m doing a party. I was invited to do a party because Daniela and I have worked before, actually that’s how we first met – she came to Mehanata and decided to make a documentary about it, and the rest is history. We’ve been doing parties ever since. This time however, since it needed to be expanded into a project, and there were already so many people on board, there was no need to do a whole new art project, so it was much easier to just organize the infrastructure of the party – what goes into preparing it on my side. Because usually people think that when you’re a DJ, you just show up and make great money for just one hour, but it really takes some time, we have to collect the music, go through it, prepare it, organize it, etc., so my project is basically that, but, instead of doing it in my bedroom, this time I’ll be doing it at the Museum. Basically, the audience coming to the House that day, since everyone has a phone these days, and most people have music on it, so I will offer them a charging station in exchange for them giving me one piece of their music. It needs to be local, not necessarily from their place of birth, but it has to be local-specific, for example if it’s from Chicago, it has to be juke, it can’t be a pop song that can be found anywhere. Ideally, by the end of the day I will have a bunch of files that I can just process, organize and do a 1-hour mix. During the mix I’ll be mixing them up because import-export is never a pure signal, there is always some kind of noise getting in the way, so I’ll take advantage of the fact that we’re going to be in a Museum and there are going to be weird moments when it’s going to be just noisy.

A cellphone is a very personal thing, so if the people don’t want to give me access to it, I’ll have a backup – I’ll buy a bunch of CD’s from local vendors around Queens, with different types of music, which I’ve been doing for years anyway.

Meglena: Is it ethnic music or just contemporary?

Joro-Boro: It is ethnic basically, I’ll actually go to a street in Queens with a lot of Indian stores. I know there is a whole scene of people in Europe and the US doing that, it’s called global bass. There are a lot of DJ’s specializing in that – they take local music genres and make them popular, famous and international.

Daniela: But the original concept was to reverse the one-way flow of Western music.

Joro-Boro: That’s still the concept – it’s the smuggling part. Basically, American culture has been exported around the world as a mom-culture, so if you go to Bulgaria, pop music sounds like American pop set in Bulgaria, so the idea is to take other types of music and play them in a sanctioned place like the Queens Museum. This way, if you have a Romanian listening to manelle, they can be like, oh, or maybe uh. If you hear Radka Piratka in Queens Museum, maybe a lot of Bulgarians will be shocked – we have ambivalent attitude to chalga.

Nina: You’re assuming there are going to be other Bulgarians in the Museum, that’s good.

Joro-Boro: I don’t know what to expect. 

Don't forget to check out the Bulgarian Women's Choir ritual greeting and blessing at Queens Museum - A!Capella!Blessing!

For a complete list of the events during the Queens Museum Reopening celebration visit: