Moving Body and School of Kindness present Critical Moves Research Residency and Mentorship, a site-specific residency in Varna, Bulgaria for artists and researchers.

This research residency will take place within the framework of Water Histories: a Case Study of the Black Sea. Mythical yet underrepresented, the Black Sea is the epicentre of this long-term research trajectory. The Black Sea is taken as a case study to unravel its various facets – explored through the lens of (cultural) migration, geopolitics, ecology and climate change. Topics addressed include but are not limited to: territorial behaviours and water borders; (post-socialist) trade; extraction and environmental injustice; aquatic life and meteorology. Not only to show that these topics are indeed related but also that they, together, weave a web that affects human and nonhuman lives alike, both on and offshore. Different strands of research and programmes will explore histories and narratives across waters as opposed to land, to disclose forms of cultural lineage via water that oppose the dominant narratives on how we approach geography.

Critical Moves Research Residency is a project by the Varna-based organisation Moving Body and the itinerant School of Kindness.


Moving Body is a platform aiming to take care of artists and the audience, bring them together and foster an active relationship between them to ask the following questions: How do we move? What makes us move? What are we moving towards? How do we move from an individual body to a collective one, shaping the future of history? How do we move in a time of catastrophe? Employing various formats, such as the yearly Moving Body Performance Festival, Moving Body maps routes for artists and audiences to move through art, with a strong conceptual and choreographic sensibility. Moving Body unfolds in different territories and contexts and with different themes. The program focuses on process-based work; research practices; workshops; performances; exhibitions; screenings and parties, where experience, encounter and dialogue are key. Driven by curiosity and an open view of the world, Moving Body highlights the role of art in promoting intercultural dialogue, kindness, human rights and social cohesion through the promotion and display of socially and politically engaged art. The initiatives of Moving Body Platform 2022 – 2023 are financially supported by National Culture Fund.

IG: moving_body

School of Kindness is a ‘non-disciplined’ performative, educational and discursive program that takes place yearly in Bulgaria and beyond, bringing together artistic practitioners, thinkers and social workers. School of Kindness was initiated in 2020 with the aim to promote kindness as a radical form of action, in a time of real, virtual, and psychological wars, both in the so-called west and non-west. School of Kindness is motivated by the idea that education and ‘other’ forms of knowledge production can lead to social change. The project aims to work both artistically and socially with a philosophical and ethical task: to ponder the very question of what it means to be kind, to listen to and learn from both the human and the nonhuman ‘other’. The curriculum focuses on social and cultural narratives of migration and displacement and develops emancipatory tools for (young) practitioners to confront economic, cultural, and political inequality and antagonism in and on the border with Europe through theoretical and practical-artistic learning.

IG: schoolofkindness

Jonn Gale 

Meet our first resident and mentor: Jonn Gale – we have been following Jonn’s work for a while and invited them to stay with us in Varna. We are very excited to engage with their decolonial approach to the history of natural knowledge and see this research brought to the Black Sea coast.


Jonn Gale is a London-based, queer, Bulgarian-Nigerian ethnobotanist working across botanical collections. They use material archives to ask questions regarding the role plants play in imperial and colonial histories. Their research is focused on interrogating both the cosmologies informing the practices of early natural history collecting, as well as increasing knowledge of the historical contexts within which such collections took place. While early scientific expeditions have been the focus of many studies, there still needs to be more understanding of the role indigenous people played in this history. 


Jonn is currently undertaking an AHRC/CHASE Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD studentship in collaboration with Birkbeck University and (@) the Linnean Society of London, investigating a history that has long remained hidden: that of the contribution of Black and Indigenous collectors and naturalists to eighteenth and nineteenth-century natural knowledge. Their research involves the study of the manuscript and material archives held at the Linnean Society, identifying and tracing collectors and naturalists, mapping knowledge networks, and developing a decolonial approach to recovering and sharing information from this archive. 


Photo credit (@) Huhtamaki Wab 

Petja Ivanova

Meet our second resident and mentor, Petja Ivanova, a native of Varna who was raised in Germany. We are delighted to have her poetic approach to technology and feminism in our programme and to engage with the research on Black Sea mythology and locality that she intends to conduct in Varna.  


Petja Ivanova is a Bulgarian artist, lecturer, poet and performer based in Berlin. Her work is framed by her Studio for Poetic Futures and Speculative Ecologies. Trying to overcome the linear and binary thinking that technology carries, she introduces poetic, emotional, mycelial and psychic relations to the living world into computational art. 

Her trans-disciplinary practice combines archaeology, biology, physics, computation and the poetic to promote the ‘poetic method’ as a counterweight to the socially dominating “scientific method”. Early in her practice, in working with electronics and sensors, she began to include mythological approaches, the magical and non-quantifiable to analyse these connections in terms of deep time of media/technology. 

She works with innovative technologies from a feminist technoscience perspective. Being a bit frustrated by the simple causalities in quantification, she has overcome the conceptual divide between what is natural and what is technological by working with crystals, electronic circuits, plants, micro-organisms, insects and bacteria. 

Petja graduated from the University of Arts Berlin in the class Computational Art/Generative Art in 2015. She is the 2023 Human Machine Fellow at (@) Akademie der Künste Berlin.


Photo credit: (@) Yasmin Nickel

Constant Léon

Meet our third resident and mentor, Constant Léon, joining us after some time spent in Armenia and a recent move to Brussels. We are very happy to connect with his/their political investigation of both intimate and collective spaces and to bring his/their versatile practice to the coast. 


Constant Léon is a French, queer sound artist, based in Brussels, co-creator of (@) Jouïr Podcast, an intersectional feminist oral archive on intimacies and sound creation laboratory, co-created with (@) Aphélandra Siassia and (@)  Élise Boutié in Marseille. Jouïr organises workshops and listening sessions in France and Armenia and is part of the (@) SNAP Project as a toolbox to create podcasts on sexualities and intimacy. 


An aspiring writer, he/they are working on a book based on a fictional incest museum, exploring the connection between trauma as a response to systemic societal dominations and violence, queerness and literature. 


He/they have been based in Armenia since 2018 as a reporter working on geopolitics and environment, creating audio documentaries on topics ranging from a nuclear power plant to Armenian soldiers’ resilience through art therapy (with Gilles Mardirossian and Darya Jumel for (@) France Culture). He/they also conducted investigations on water corruption in Armenia and mining activism in Amulsar. 


He/they loves painting, clowning and practising contemporary dance with (@) CoCholab in Armenia. 


Photo credit: Hanna Mauvieux 

Youssef El Idrissi

Meet our fourth resident and mentor, Youssef El Idrissi. Youssef will join our programme with a philosophical approach to ecology and technology. We are so pleased to welcome this “geopoetical” research to Varna. 


Youssef El Idrissi is a Moroccan, self-taught multidisciplinary artist, researcher and cultural worker, based in Casablanca. He co-founded the collective (@) Kounaktif in 2018, aiming to democratise access to arts operating at the intersection of ecology, technology and art. 

His artistic practice uses node-based coding, poetry, field recording, filming, analogue machines and formats such as video installations, interactive workshops and publishing. His work is engaged with the decolonisation of imaginaries, indigenous mythologies, power relations and the dynamics of the unconscious. He is currently developing a body of work through the (@) DAMJ project that connects territories, disciplines and communities while investigating body-psyche dynamics. 

Youssef holds a BA in Philosophy of Communications and Public Spaces and an MA in Cultural and Artistic Engineering. 

His research for Water Histories will allow him to deepen his interest in the interrelation between psyche and space, body and awareness, technology and living beings, errors (glitches) and symbiosis. The research will focus on the geopolitics and “geopoetics” of water versus its fluid and healing properties. 

Lisette Smits

Founder and the motor behind the School of Kindness

Lisette Smits (b. 1965, South-Netherlands) is a curator, researcher, and educator who works in the field of art and society. She co-founded and co-runs the School of Kindness (since 2021), a performative, discursive and educational platform currently working in Bulgaria. She curates cross-disciplinary programs and develops intersectional curricula, working with different groups and audiences. Her research is engaged with forms of migration and states of in betweenness; ideas of radicality; the agency of voice; and kindness as method. Amongst her achievements are artistic director of Casco Institute in Utrecht (1995 – 2005) and course director of Master of Voice (Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam, 2016 – 2018). She has curated numerous large-scale exhibitions, notably “Depression”, “Madam Realism” and “Deep Cuts” (Marres, Maastricht, 2009 – 2013) as well as performative and educational programs like “The Applicant” (ABA Berlin, 2016) and “Other Voices/ Summer Course” (Nieuwe Instituut – @NieuweInstituut Rotterdam, 2019). She has taught internationally and was a long-term lecturer at Gerrit Rietveld Academie and De Appel, both in Amsterdam. She also has published essays, interviews, books, and magazines. 

Photo credit: Lisette Smits

Anna Lounguine

Founder and the motor behind the School of Kindness

Anna Lounguine (b. 1993, Paris/Armenian/Russian diaspora) is a writer of prose poetry and creative non-fiction, currently based in Paris. Treading the boundaries of intimacy and identity, building narratives through the presence of an indistinct I, reaching out to the infinite possibilities of collective narratives for gender, desire and care. Her practice is research-based and particularly interested in the urgency to intersect such themes. Formerly co-founder of a micro-publishing house, trained sommelier specialised in natural wines and part of opening an independent bookshop, she now co-runs School of Kindness; her work has been included in multi-media shows, anthologies and publications internationally and she is involved with various organisations running writing workshops for children.

Photo credits: Jessica Heffernan

*The festival is realized with the financial support of the National Culture Fund, Culture Fund of Varna Municipality, and Ministry of Culture, as well as individual donations.