Graduate Student Julian Chehirian Exhibits at Venice Biennale

Written by
Jamie Saxon, Office of Communications, Princeton University
April 18, 2024

Julian Chehirian was born in Brooklyn, the child of artists who fled Bulgaria’s political repression at the end of the 1980s, about a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall. After being granted asylum at the Traiskirchen refugee camp outside Vienna, they waited a year and a half for safe passage to the U.S. They never expected to return.

When the 60th Annual Venice Biennale opens on April 20, the exhibition pavilion representing Bulgaria will display the work of Chehirian, a graduate student in the history of science and the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities (IHUM), and his two collaborators, Lilia Topouzova and Krasimira Butseva. Chehirian’s father died in 2011; his mother, who returned to live in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2018, will attend the opening of the Biennale.

Chehirian’s multimedia installation, ”Neighbours: Forms of Trauma (1945-1989),” on view through Nov. 24, will take visitors inside a chapter of Bulgarian history that has been largely absent from textbooks, museums and public debate — the forced labor and political violence in the Bulgarian gulag under Communist rule from post-WWII through the late 1980s before the fall of the Soviet Union.