Katharina Swoboda












Tionghoa / Chinese Background

Multi media installation consisting of painting, photographs, 2 videos (5min, 10min)

painting, camera: Kamen Stoyanov


The work relates to its exhibition setting, the container as a sign of trade and metaphor for cultural import-export. "The Austrian Cultural Pavilion" is a container importing “Austrian“ or somehow “Austria-related” art to Bulgaria. National constructs are of course always highly problematic. The exhibition shows such problematic construction at the example of Chineseness in Indonesia and also touches current Bulgaria. The video “Tionghoa”, which gave the exhibition its title, explores, what it means to live in Java, Indonesia today and have Chinese ancestry. Starting from encounters with different people, Katharina tries to find out more about “Chinese Indonesians“ (or “Tionghoa“ in Indonesian). The persons shown in the project are all to some extent “Chinese“ - often these relationships go far back and yet, Chinese ancestry has concrete effects on their current life situation.  For example, Chinese descendants in Yogyakarta cannot acquire ground property. The history of repression began with the Dutch colonial rule, which deliberately put the Chinese people into socially displeasing professions. After Chinese riots, they established “Chinatowns“ on Java, where they now had to live. In the project, several such Chinatowns are visited.

The second part of the project investigates current Chinese traces in Bulgaria. It consists of a painted backdrop covering the backside of the FLUCA. Painted backdrops are popular as background for selfies in Indonesia. (In the video, we see also backdrops from a fake “China Town”, a site of attraction). The backdrop in FLUCA shows the new Chinese Cultural Center in Sofia, the first of its kind in Eastern Europe. The upper floors of the center are not finished yet and the exhibition space is empty most of the time. So far, Chinese culture in Bulgaria seems mostly mediated through Chinese food – the photographs refer to this circumstance.


This work was partly produced during an artist-in-residency in Yogyakarta by the Austrian Federal Chancellery.



Tionghoa - Chinese Background. Solo exhibition, FLUCA, Plovdiv, BG, 2019