Katharina Swoboda












Vampiric infection

installation consists of:

skull (fiberglass), fake “bones”

3 prints on rayon (“flags”), each 150x290cm



Katharina Swoboda is working across different medias. Inside the exhibition room, her video works interact with other forms of knowledge: discourses in cultural theory, performative elements etc. The figuration of the “vampire” interests her, because “Vampires are narrative figures with specific category-crossing work to do” (Haraway). The vampire is an in-between figure between nature and culture, because he belongs to animalistic but at the same come to human realm and imagination. Vampires are figurations of cultural imagination. The vampire is “an imaginary figure so anciently original” (Longinovic), which has been broadly appropriated by popular culture. The vampire is also present in cultural theory, where it becomes an emancipatory figuration to describe creatures out of the social order. Linda Kalof writes, hinting to Donna Haraway, that “vampires transform and cross categories - they are neither good nor bad, they are polluters of the natural, including the purity of lineage, they are mobile, highly ambiguous and invoke reactions of both fear and desire” (Kalof).


Katharinass investigation started with the so-called “Vampire Graves”, which were discovered in different sites in Bulgaria, most prominent in Sozopol (“Apollonia”) and Sredets (“Deultum”). In Sredets, the “world’s largest vampire funeral”, basically a mass grave of 17 skeletons, was discovered in 2004. So far, nearly 100 vampire skeletons have been found in Bulgaria. They were “nailed” to the ground with iron or heavy bricks placed in their mouths. Following an old pagan exercise, these heavy objects would pin the soul to the earth after the death and so “prevent the deceased from rising and going on a Walking Dead-style rampage”, writes The Oberver Online.


In Katharinas installation, a new artefact was created - a ”vampire” skull with a brick in her mouth. The skull was modelled after the artists head. Katharinas search for vampires in Bulgaria was inspired  from a poem by Heiner Müller (1929-1995). The (Eastern-)German author discovered his affection for classical antiquity in Bulgaria and subsequently antique landscapes played an important role in his postmodern theatre work. The poem “Fahrt nach Plovdiv” (“Journey to Plovdiv”) describes Müllers impression of Plovdiv at that time. An excerpt of the poem:


On three hills, three millenniums

History: hungry corpses. Yesterday

That grabs the future with love of the vampire.



text references:

Tomislav Z. Longinović (2011): Vampire Nation. Violence as Cultural Imaginary. Durham and London: Duke University Press, ix

Linda Kalof (2007): Looking at Animals in Human History. London: Reaction Books, 161

Donna Haraway (1997): Modest_WitnessSecond_Millennium.FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™: Feminism and Technoscience. London, New York: Routledge, 79

Jan Volker Röhnert (10.12.2015), Heiner Müller: „Fahrt nach Plovdiv“. FAZ http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/buecher/frankfurter-anthologie…nkfurter-anthologie-heiner-mueller-fahrt-nach-plovdiv-13959160.html





Vampiric Infection. Sewon Art Space, Yogyakarta, ID 2018 http://www.sewonartspace.org/

Operaismo Naturale: Ecology of the Event. Curated by Dimitrina Sevova. Ancient Bath Plovdiv, BG 2018 http://digital-ecologies.arttoday.org/index.html





video still