Opening of the exhibition: Thursday, 29 June, at 8 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova Press conference: Thursday, 29 June, at 11 a.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova
A person can become free through acts of disobedience by learning to say no to power.
Not only is the capacity for disobedience the condition for freedom; freedom is also the condition for disobedience. These words by Erich Fromm are the threadthat ties together the exhibition focusing on three “positions” of disobedience, with the disobedient in our case being women. Their disobedience stems not only from feminism as a defining point of departure for their actions, but also from a position of revolt against and noncompliance with any form of dominance and discrimination, be it male dominance over women in predominantly patriarchal societies or militarisms, sexisms, and nationalisms of all shapes and sizes, as well as the devastating impact capitalism has on society as a whole. Acts of disobedience occur as interruptions disturbing the ingrained social arrangement of power, whereby the ideology of those in power is questioned and can therefore no longer be seen as valid or taken for granted. On the next level, the identities, borders, disciplines, hegemonic narratives, and automatic bodily responses are deconstructed and new counter-knowledge is produced. Art, as shown in the context of the Disobedient exhibition, is such counter-knowledge, an activity of critical social intervention and political upheaval.
The exhibition presents Eulàlia Grau, Katalin Ladikand the group Žene u crnom / Women in Black. Eulàlia Grau (1946) is a pioneer of feminist art from Catalonia. Her predominant medium is photographs taken from the press, which she then uses in photo-montages (e.g. her series Ethnographies). In addition to this she uses books, posters (as direct social actions in the streets), newspapers and videos. Her work is a testimony of Spanish society since the 1970s, when she produced her first work, and is closely linked to political and social struggle. She is a sharp observer of the class divide, and of the police and army brutality that occurred in the non-democratic, fascist Spain under Franco. For example, in …Inventemos también nosotros… / …Let Us Invent Too… (1976) she tells the story of a construction worker who was shot by the police while attempting to take part in a Catalan Culture Congress, and who committed suicide a day later in prison under suspicious circumstances.
For Grau, art is always a means of social intervention. She is a fierce critic of the unequal position of women in society, and of the mechanisms of social domination that are activated by a repressive system, as was the case under Franco’s dictatorship. There were many feminist protests against the regime in 1975 and 1976. With the support of the Catholic Church, the Spanish government passed an act in 1942 whereby a woman, once married, could no longer work, open a bank account without her husband’s permission, hold a passport or have custody of her children. The use of contraceptive pills was also forbidden, as were abortion and divorce. The protests were indelibly linked with Grau’s artistic work, as is evident for instance in Discriminacio de la dona / Discrimination against women (1977). The curator Teresa Grandas noted that even though 40 years have passed since the artist produced her first works, many of the situations she denounced still exist today.
Katalin Ladik (1942) entered the literary and artistic scenes of Novi Sad (Vojvodina, then Yugoslavia, since 1992 she has lived in Budapest) in the mid-1960s, working in radio, and as an actress in the theatre and films. She wrote poetry in Hungarian, ranging from erotic verse to ritual and experimental phonic and visual works. Her early interest in poetic, vocal experiments, experimental sound, phonetic and vocal improvisation, and her work as a visual artist with, for example, the group BOSCH+BOSCH is also notable. It was, however, her work with the voice and body that led her to performance, and subsequently to the visual arts. Katalin Ladik was the first female performer in Yugoslavia to use her own body as an autonomous medium equivalent to text and sound. Her early performances were influenced by para-rituals, shifting in the mid-1970s towards a reflection on the position of women, questioning the traditional female roles constructed by the male-dominated society. She often used her naked body in her performances to critique the constraints of patriarchy. Since the 1980s her works have been referred to as “postmodern narrative performance”. As Miško Šuvaković pointed out, “she began to recycle, copy and referentially exploit her early para-ritual and proto-conceptual performing strategies in new works, leading her from performance to cabaret and theatre.”
Besides her most emblematic performances and body art pieces in the format of photo documents, the exhibition will show a selection of music scores and collages.
Žene u crnom(Women in Black) is a group of feminist and antimilitarist activists from Serbia (active as a group since 1991). They have made “visible nonviolent resistance to militarism, war, sexism, nationalism. In short, all aspects of violence towards and discrimination against women and all those people different ethnically, religiously, culturally, sexually, ideologically.” They also founded the Women’s Peace Network/Network of Women in Black in Serbia, produced women’s alternative history and thus recorded the other to history, and organized permanent peace education.
They constantly demand accountability for the war and war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, calling for the trial of all those suspected of war crimes in The Hague, and also confronting the issues of both moral and political collective responsibility, through street actions, appeals, petitions, campaigns, attendance at commemorations, seminars, and conferences.
For more than 25 years the Women in Black have taken to the streets in Serbia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia in silent, peaceful actions encouraging society to confront its difficult past. The radicalism of their continued performances (silent performances, i.e. standings) lies not in the representation of bodies in public space, but in the attempt to struggle while “offering one’s body for some common goal.” As Dubravka Knežević wrote, “for sometimes the only action is standing in public, neither agitating nor propagandizing but bearing witness to events to which there is no obvious or immediate remedy.” To date they have organized more than 1500 peaceful actions on the street (protests, performances, campaigns). The selection of their rich archival materials (photo documentation, protest posters and similar) will be shown for the first time at the exhibition Disobedient.
Curated by Bojana Piškur, assistant Silvia Maria Carolo
The works were kindly loaned by Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Eulalia Grau, Katalin Ladik and Žene u crnom / Women in Black.
Acknowledgements: Bíborka Molnár, Bettina Simon, Emese Kürti, Teresa Grandas, Patricia Sorroche, Mar Manen, Victoria Fernández-Layos Moro, Antònia Maria Perelló, Škart.
Exhibition supported by:
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and Balassi Institut