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Archive of past issues of the Journal for critique of science

Issue No. 261 – City of Women and Concealed Histories II (3/4 2015)

Issue No. 261 – City of Women and Concealed Histories II (3/4 2015)




Vesna Leskošek (pp. 7-9)

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Introduction: City of Women between Cultural Production and Gender Specificity


Vlasta Jalušič (pp. 13-22)

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The City of Women Festival and the Context of the Nineties: From the Journey in a Red Yugo to the Setting Up the Festival



The text addresses the question of political and social circumstances in which the festival City of Women was established in 1995. The main points of discussion are what were the main features of the post-socialist expe­rience in the 90s; what was the attitude towards feminism as a political position, theory and a way of life; what were the relationships between the state and civil society; and how we could assess the emergence of the fe­stival. The contribution builds on the personal recollection of the author and includes some personal accounts, and on already collected documents, material and interviews from the book How We Attended a Feminist Secondary School and some other sources. The main conclusion is that the biggest achievement of the City of Women Festival was that it uniquely brought about the important connection between feminism, art, culture, science and theory, and everyday life experience in the post-socialist Slovenia, and also to other regions. It has also contributed to the birth of a new generation of younger feminists.

Keywords: City of Women, post-socialism, feminism, inequality, theory, art

Vlasta Jalušič is a political scientist, researcher at the Peace Institute in Ljubljana, and lecturer at the University of Primorska. (vlasta.jalušič@mirovni-institut.si)



Lilijana Stepančič (pp. 23-39)

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Pioneer Times: The Memoirs of the First City of Women Festival



The City of Women was conceived in 1995 as a high-budget thematic international festival, specialized in the promotion of women’s contemporary art. It was organized by the Office for Women’s Politics of the Republic of Slovenia. This institutional framework structurally marked the festival with a reliance on the Western culture, a move away from the local history of socialism, and the moderation of the radical nature of feminism. The festival unfolded as a product of cultural industries: leading events were highlighted in a complex program, contemporary art was promoted with populist phrasing, and the festival took on the catchy slogan “Let’s be hysterical!”, which de-stigmatized hysteria as an immanent feature of women as well as deconstructing the negative role of mothers and wives present in the then-popular treatment of alcoholics and non-selfrealized people, as carried out by the psychiatrist Janez Rugelj. The festival tried to establish the levers for the construc­tion of new national collective myths of which women would be a part, but was unsuccessful. Even though more women did enter the world of art and remain in it, the festival could not draw on the local feminist art production as this was either too weak or too radical. Within the then-conservative climate of the independent state of Slovenia, which questioned rights already gained by women and was well characterized by the promo­tional campaign “Each [Woman] Has Her Own [Sun Protection] Factor”, the festival positioned itself as a pro­moter of progressive social thought. As it believed in art as an agent of social change, the Office for Women’s Politics played an exceptional avant-garde social role in all this.

Keywords: City of Women, cultural industries, feminism, women’s art, contemporary art

Lilijana Stepančič is an economist and historian of art. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Asja Hrvatin (pp. 40-47)

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So That We Don’t Become Paintings on Museums’ Walls



The article is an attempt to analyze the possible encounters between art and activism, and to question the role of art in strengthening, expanding and creating the elusiveness of a social movement, as well as to find out when do artistic practices become simply a mechanism of sustaining the status quo in the society. Concerning the first example, I demonstrate how art can encourage imagination, visualize a political message, strengthen it and symbolically portrays what can not be articulated; while it can also confuse the authorities in such a way to enable the activists to avoid repression. Secondly, I analyze the ways in which the established cultural institu­tions exploit critical practices in order to achieve a status of radical subjectivity; I illustrate how artistic practices construct the scenery and costumes for establishing a hierarchy between legitimate and prohibited means of resistance. This has a function of giving way to the criminalization of resistance, which breeds with the distinction between real politics (which uses existing structures of representative politics) and the Other, bar­baric, immature, which takes place on the streets. Here I reflect on the accessibility of public space and political activities within it and point out how the same strategies and practices that are repressed, when backed up by capital and power structures they receive a positive connotation. The analysis is based on the political context of the 15o movement and the period of decentralized protests (insurrections) in the winter of 2012/13.

Keywords: aesthetization of resistance, culture as a mechanism of authority, political performances, criminal­ization, art and activism

Asja Hrvatin graduated from the Faculty of Social Work. Her field of interest is mental health in the community. She is a feminist activist. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Tea Hvala (pp. 51-62)

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Temporary Venues of Persistent Hope: City of Women and Red Dawns



The article compares the two festivals in Ljubljana dedicated to the promotion of engaged women artists, ac­tivists and researchers: the international festival of contemporary arts City of Women (Mesto žensk) and the international feminist and queer festival Red Dawns (Rdeče zore). I compare their struggles for public spaces, their positioning towards feminism and their method of hope, claiming that the latter gave the organizers the strength to insist despite their precarious working conditions and negative reactions from the general public. I briefly discuss festivals Lezbična četrt and Deuje babe from the same point of view. The article is based on my own experience, interviews with the organizers, introductory texts to festival editions, media reports and an­thropological theories of festivals. I consider those theories which, much like the organizers of City of Women and Red Dawns, recognize the potentials of socializing in the festive atmosphere: the gradual formation of po­litical identities and long-term social change.

Keywords: City of Women, feminism, festivals, method of hope, Red Dawns, struggle for space

Tea Hvala is a critic and holds an MA of gender anthropology. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Katja Kobolt (pp. 63-73)

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Feminism, Curating and Canon



In the essay, the author makes use of feminist approaches towards canonicity in order to reflect upon (canon-)political implications of feminist curating. She looks at the examples of several international feminist curatorial projects of the last decade and in particular at two international women’s cultural and arts festivals from Ljubljana, Slovenia—City of Women and Red Dawns. By analyzing these case-studies and engaging with a broader theoretical issues at stake in feminist practices of exhibition making, her intention is to reflect upon the (canon-)political translation of feminist curatorial practices as well as limitation to it. Her aim is to show that (feminist) canon building and (feminist) curatorial practices are deeply and intrinsically connected. As the canon is intrinsically connected to power as well as in some aspects to governmentality, her suggestion is that before we discard the canon as such, we recall the feminist legacy and its approaches to the question of canonicity, with an aim to critically reflect on our own curatorial practices and ask what implications they have for the canon.

Keywords: feminism, feminist curating, feminist art, politics of exhibition making, canon building, festival City of Women, festival Red Dawns

Katja Kobolt Ph.D is a feminist curator, producer and teacher from Ljubljana, based in Munich. Apart from her academic work Katja has (co)curated and organized numerous cultural events and exhibitions in Slovenia and abroad. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Katja Praznik (pp. 74-89)

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City of Women between a Structural Subordination and Effects of Concealed Class Relations During Post-Socialist Transition



The contribution discusses the conditions of production of a Slovenian art festival City of Women in relation to cultural policy. Arguing that the festival is socially subordinated on several levels, in that it presents female artists and belongs to the independent/non-governmental cultural sector, I approach the festival’s economic situation by contrasting the disproportion between the public funding it receives and the scope of the festival’s artistic program and its larger cultural significance. The article demonstrates that cultural policy underfinances City of Women, which is in turn run mostly through unpaid cultural labor. The essay in turn discusses the festi­val in terms of the transformation of social policy for women into cultural policy, drawing a comparison betwe­en unpaid domestic labor and unpaid cultural labor. In conclusion, I interpret the festival’s economic conditions as an effect of class struggle in Slovenia during the transition from socialism in the 1980s to neoliberalism at the end of the 1990s, which resulted in the unsuccessful transformation of the hierarchies of its cultural system and subordinated the independent scene. I argue that this reality of class relations in post-socialist Slovenia is con­cealed: the cultural system is seen in terms of aesthetic distinctions rather than unequal conditions of cultural production, while the socio-economic inequality of women is discussed in terms of identity politics.

Keywords: cultural policy, unpaid artistic labor, post-socialism, class relations, nongovernmental cultural sector, contemporary art production

Katja Praznik holds a PhD in Sociology. She is Assistant Professor at SUNY (State University of New York), Buffalo. From 2007 to 2009, Praznik was the editor-in-chief of the performing arts journal Maska. Between 2009 and 2011 she worked for the Asociacija Association and was engaged in efforts for improving working conditions of free-lance cultural producers. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Maja Šorli (pp. 90-99)

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Images of the City of Women Festival in the Slovenian Media



The City of Women, an international festival of contemporary arts, has earned a great deal of media coverage over the course of its twenty installments. The analysis focuses on the media that existed in the early years of the festival and presents the principal tenets of the opposition that the festival has had to face. The main hypothesis is that the opposition to the festival is similar to the opposition towards feminisms in Slovenia. Un­favorable opinions can be summed up in the assertion that art can only be good or bad, not male or female; the reproach that there is no need for such festivals in Slovenia; and the claim that the festival is an example of ghettoization. The media better acknowledge that the City of Women is relevant for the Slovenian society when it became public that the third installment of the festival had received some minor financial support from the government, however, some paradoxical criticism of the festival remains. Although the author lists several examples of critical views, she emphasizes that positive responses greatly outnumber the negative ones. In recent years, objections to the substance of the festival have become less common, and neutral previews and reports have become predominant.

Keywords: City of Women, feminisms, media responses, reviews and reports, contemporary art

Maja Šorli is a dramaturge, researcher at the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television, University of Ljubljana, author (Slovenian Postdramatic Spring), and editor-in-chief, the Amphitheatre magazine. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Andreja Kopač (pp. 100-107)

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Slovenian Artist at the City of Women Festival – Several Sketches



The purpose of the article is to give a broader contextualization of the Slovenian female artists who took part at the festival City of Women in its twenty-year history. The article tries to capture a number of Slovenian artists through the prism of women emancipation, outline some basic items, and subsequently address them within the framework of the festival. The aim of the paper is to articulate specific value of authors' aestetics and the function of the language of the Slovenian female artists.

Keywords: Festival City of Women, Slovenian woman artists, emancipation, radiation, performativity, Marie Curie.

Andreja Kopač is publicist, dramaturge and is PhD student at Faculty od Arts, University of Ljubljana. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Zoja Skušek (pp. 111-115)

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About Those Women Who Will Never Attend the City of Women Festival



The paper deals with sex ratio, which is demolished after surpassing the ratio of 105 boys per 100 girls. This ratio has long been typical of India and China, South Korea and Vietnam, and recently also for the countries of the Caucasus, Albania and several countries of the former Yugoslavia (Kosovo, North-West Macedonia, Monte­negro). Drastic changes in the demographic balance between the sexes, which call for regulatory intervention, began in the eighties with the onset of prenatal diagnostic technology, amniocentesis and ultrasound in the countries with a strong patriarchal tradition, in which sons are more desirable than daughters, and the decline of fertility rate.

Keywords: sex ratio, demography, prenatal diagnostics, patriarchal family

Zoja Skušek is editor, translator and publicist. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Claude Lévi-Strauss (pp. 116-120)

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Social Issues: Methods of Assisted Reproduction



The translation of Claude Lévi-Strauss’ essay Problèmes de société: excision et procréation assistée (1989) deals with social and legal issues raised by methods of assisted reproduction to which the laws of European countries do not offer any solutions. Modern societies are dominated by the idea that kinship stems from biological ties. Anthropologists have a great deal to say on the dilemma how to define the relationship between biological kinship and social affiliation because these problems have arisen in the societies they study, and these offer solutions. Of course, these societies are not acquainted with the modern techniques for in-vitro fertilization or the removal, implantation, or freezing of eggs or embryos. However, they have imagined and put into practice equivalent options, at least in legal and psychological terms.

Keywords: assisted reproduction, kinship, social affiliation, anthropology




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Curating the City of Women Festival—between the Personal and Political



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Uršula Cetinski
Koen Van Daele
Sabina Potočki
Bettina Knaup
Katja Kobolt in Dunja Kukovec
Mara Vujić






Tatjana Greif (pp. 155-157)

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Introduction: Past – Foreign Country


Joan Nestle (pp. 159)

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I am


Nataša Velikonja (pp. 160-171)

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»She Has a Soul of Ahasuerus, Modern, of Course«: Creative Freedom and Life Entrapment of Modernist Women Artists



The text, strings a few aspects of the period of the late 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century, elements of the system of modernist art, and especially history of literature, which, despite the constitutive role of women artists, simply excluded them from the modernist conceptual frameworks, thematic horizons and value judgments, in other words, from the overall historical attention. Therefore, in their time, modernist women artists often escaped into tragic forms of withdrawal and resignation: in isolation, mental illness and ultimately to suicide. This text gives particular attention to writer Zofka Kveder and poet Vida Jeraj, Slovenian women modernists, who shared with their women contemporaries from the world specific themes, motifs and art streams, but also the frustrations of the artistic and private life, which led them too – as did Renee Vivien, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Beach and many others – to the tragic ending of their life.

Keywords: modernism, suicide, women artists, Vida Jeraj, Zofka Kveder

Nataša Velikonja is a sociologist, poet, essayist, translator and lesbian activist. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)




Alenka Spacal (pp. 172-184)

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A Lesbian-Feminist View of the Picture Two Girls by Elda Piščanec



The painter and graphic artist Elda Piščanec (1897–1967) created at the time when women became increa­singly emancipated in artistic practice. She belonged to the first generation of women artists, who after long centuries can be studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, and finally began to learn painting and drawing the nude model, which consequently affected the free choice of motives. The body of work of Elda Piščanec reveals a number of works in which the author confidently portrayed naked female figures. In this article, I focus on her oil painting Two Girls, which was painted between 1930 and 1935th. With the feminist perspective, I intend to demonstrate the sexual difference in the depiction of lesbian nudes between female and male artists of that time. The painter portrayed the female naked figure in a non-sexist way in the simultaneous roles of object and subject of gaze. At the same time, this raises the question of if and how an image that was created in the early 20th century can be interpreted in the lesbian context.

Keywords: Elda Piščanec, nude, female body, lesbianism, feminism

Alenka Spacal holds a PhD in sociology. She works in the field of feminist and lesbian visual arts. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Tatjana Greif (pp. 185-201)

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The Painter in the Shadow: Gaps in Historicizing of a Woman Artist



The article deals with the figure of the painter Henrika Šantel as it appears within national art history discourse and critics. Besides the abatement of women’s role in art history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the biased interpretation, contaminated with patriarchal gender ideology, is evident. With the revision of sources, biographical contextualisation of artistic production, and the inclusion of feminist theory of art practice, we aim to shed light on the historical contribution of the painter.

Keywords: women painter, late 19th/early 20th century, historical discourse, exclusion, discrimination

Tatjana Greif holds PhD in archaeology, and is an author, editor, activist in the field of LGTB culture, politics and human rights. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Dragana Stojanović in Vladimir Bjeličić (pp. 202-217)

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Mapping Queer Identities and Motives in Modern Art History in Serbia and Croatia



The article deals with with the possibility of researching and mapping female painters’ self-portraits with the key of queer interpretation and with the accent on women’s and queer writings. The research of female self-portraits from this perspective addresses the new approach to modern art history, and the possibilities of con­struction/conceptualization/readings/reflection of gender identity of the artist herself as author and observer of the painting. Theoretical analysis of self-portraits and individual works from the opus of Nadežda Petrović, Danica Jovanović, Milena Pavlović Barili, Nasta Rojc, Beta Vukanović and Natalija Cvetković was conducted.

Keywords: female self-portrait/portrait, gender/sexual identity, queer interpretation, art history

Dragana Stojanović holds PhD in theory of art and media, and is ethnomusicologist, gender studies and feminism studies theoretician. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Vladimir Bjeličić is art historian and freelance curator. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



Janet Flanner (pp. 218-224)

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Memory is all: Alice B. Toklas



An essay of Janet Flanner (1892–1978), American writer and journalist, European, mostly Paris correspondent of the magazine The New Yorker, titled Memory is all: Alice B. Toklas, was first published on 15 December 1975 in The New Yorker. The essay describes the life of Alice B. Toklas following the death of her lifelong par­tner, the writer Gertrude Stein, her efforts and work regarding the posthumous publication of Stein’s books, her care for Stein’s famous collection of paintings, but it also gives us some impressions of the very personality of Alice B. Toklas, while highlighting the Paris salon gatherings before World War II. Above all, it is a descrip­tion of events, vulnerability and helplessness of Alice B. Toklas in the grip of inheritance interests that finally dispersed the very collection of paintings of Gertrude Stein, which “had had the benefit of her pure and sacred passion before price became one of their miraculous merits.” The essay was translated by Nataša Velikonja.

Keywords: Janet Flanner, Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein, Paris Left Bank, art salon



Nina Dragičević (pp. 225-233)

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Streaks of Life: The Introduction and Translation of a Passage from the Autobiography of Ethel Smyth



In the translated passage, taken from the autobiography of Ethel Smyth, Streaks of Life, the author writes about the position of women in music, her own position—that of a female composer in the early 20th century England. The author speaks of terror and the patronizing diction of patriarchal society. She continues with a critique of media representations, but mostly focuses on difficulties in the attempts to place one’s (woman’s) artwork in public space. Despite the fact that she was romantically involved with women throughout her life and wrote about them in her other autobiographical texts, she refuses to connect lesbian identity with her work—perhaps the reason lies in the ‘safety’ of being in a closet, or because of her perceived irrelevance of lesbian identities towards artist’s output. What she emphasizes more is a woman’s perspective—reasonably so, since she was deeply involved with the suffrage movement. In her descriptions, she considers economic and political contexts of the First World War era, which gave the opportunity of holding a (temporary) job for women—both in factories and in orchestras. At the end, she returns to specifics of women’s position in socie­ty, and calls for a rebellion against the tyranny of the patriarchy.

Keywords: feminism, female composer, women in music, media representations, patriarchy

Nina Dragičević is a composer, essayist, writer, and activist. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)




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