All Different, All Equal!

This year's 19th edition of the City of Women festival entitled Let's create a place for ourselves is all about public space. Why public space as a starting point and why an appeal to reclaim a place for ourselves?

Current social and political events that have significantly marked the last two years have in the spirit of occupying public spaces inhabited the streets, parks and squares at different parts of the world. Public space has been re-established as an important venue of protest, public debates and aspirations for changes as well as preservation of values such as equality of rights, solidarity and justice, which are all disappearing. It has become a venue for fighting against autocratic political regimes, political elites and exploitative capitalism, fighting to preserve human rights, the right to work, social and economic security, rights to equality, freedom of political expression, the dignity of every human being, the right to be different… The concern about the fact that our society is extremely stratified and that the differences are only increasing triggered the mobilisation of people and their political activity. The awareness of the significance of community and solidarity has risen, as well as that of the necessity to actively participate in social and political processes in order to change the system that pushed us into such a deep crisis. The effects of said processes and efforts are difficult to assess because they are not over yet. But they definitely affected art production because they mark a number of works from the festival programme, such as, for example, the series of performances No Time For Art by Egyptian artist Laila Soliman, Enough of Art and planet LUVOS by the Austrian Editta Braun Company and Rare Parity by the Canadian artist Tanya Mars.

Special attention in the programme – because we find it necessary and because, after all, it is the mission of the City of Women association – was dedicated to works that address the issues of equality, equality of gender and unprivileged social groups. Indeed, the crisis is global and it affects our society as a whole, but we also need to draw attention to inequality among this 99% of the population and reflect on the meaning of public space, the situation of women in the public sphere, a new wave of sexism, racism, nationalism, dictates of heteronormativity, and economic, political and class violence. We have recently witnessed the increase of cruel sexual violence against women in public spaces that in most cases didn’t have any court epilogue. It was impossible to ignore the most brutal attacks on the LGBT community in Russia, which is, unfortunately, rather the rule than an exception. How to explain the flood of violence and the brutal attempts to expel women from the public space and consequently push them into the sphere of the private? How to explain the constant unacceptable attacks against the identity of those who think differently, against minorities and other discriminated communities? Public space is not only a space to fight for the common good but also a space of discrimination against those who are different. If we want to make the public space a space for all, the fundamental principle of equality and equal rights must become a basic universal value. Hence we will – at least for a while – create a space for ourselves and locate a good portion of the programme in public areas. In the streets, squares, parks and elsewhere you will hear the words of historical and contemporary figures, women who dared to speak up, in a performance by Neda R. Bric entitled Freedom Is Always Freedom for the One Who Thinks Differently. In the collective performance Trees by the Brazilian artist Clarice Lima, with the participation of local artists, you will see a forest of female bodies defying in an impossible position the urban landscape and testing the limits of persistence. You may participate in the collective exercise entitled Yugo Yoga, a project by Lara Ritosa Roberts that explores the boundaries between ideology and body and the concept of a collective body. You might meet a woman who will behave in an unusual way: the artist Tania El Khoury will put her will and her body in a public place and subject them to the manipulation of the spectators. Whilst reflecting on the urban public space – i.e. the city of Ljubljana – we searched in vain for the traces of historically important women. Rather exceptions than the rule, we came across a few streets named after significant women; there are practically no monuments, and other types of memorials are rare. The question whether there are any women spaces and points in the city at all led to the latest performance, based on the book Pozabljena polovica [The Forgotten Half], by Teja Reba, Leja Jurišić and Barbara Kapelj Osredkar. It is a project in the form of a guided tour of the city entitled I'm Walking Behind You and Watching You, a unique female map of the city that traces the missing and ignored stories of women who lived in the city and created it.

The music programme was also inhabited by way too often overlooked women’s stories and voices that inspired the engaged album Migrant Birds by Katarina Juvančič and Dejan Lapanja, and engaged gestures such as the album Occupy by the brilliant mistress of dark rhythms Hanna Hukkelberg dedicated to the famous movement.

The spaces of some public and a number of independent institutions will also be populated by participatory projects. At the workshop and performance A Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful Disaster by the Zagreb-based Institute for Disaster and Chaos, a City of Women – a City of Solidarity – will be built through testimonies and exchange of personal disasters, the experiences of bare survival and the revolt against endless belt-tightening. The audience and interested individuals are invited to attend the workshop or visit the performance of the famous group La Pocha Nostra in the experimental ritual of live art Corpo Insurrecto 3.0.: The Robo-Proletariat, which addresses the current global culture of far-right isolationism, xenophobia, and a broken economy and their impact on the human body.

In the public sphere, we constantly face deeply rooted prejudices and stereotypes that affect the general level of social tolerance. At the individual level, they are confronted by Maja Delak in her latest solo performance What If?, while at a broader level they are addressed by a humorous performance by Heather Lang and Eleanor Bauer. An extensive programme curated by Lois Keidan and Aaron Wright (Live Art Development Agency) entitled Just Like A Woman, composed of lectures, performances, readings, installations, screenings, workshops and debates on performance of identity, is fully dedicated to the impact of performance on feminist histories and the contribution of artists to discourses around contemporary gender politics. A broader perspective and context of “performing” a body in performative practices will be given by Amelia Jones in her lecture Yearning for Presence: The Live Body in History.

Another topic that is also a nerve point of the global crisis and general dissatisfaction is the field of work that, according to all statistics, mostly and to the largest extent affects more vulnerable social groups, which undoubtedly include women. The symptoms of the repatriarchalisation of society are based on pushing women as an underpaid labour force to the privacy of their homes, where they become dependent on their partners. Hence it made sense to form a parallel programme line that deals with the issues of the value system of precarious, invisible, unpaid, underpaid work as well as undeclared and migrant work. Listed above is the principal subject of an extensive international exhibition and side-bar events gathered under Grand Domestic Revolution GOES ON, curated by Binna Choi ad Maiko Tanako (CasCo), and the research project Looking for Work by visual artist Milijana Babić focused on the unbearable precarious work conditions of many contemporary artists and cultural workers.

But the programme doesn't end here. On the contrary, this is the beginning of the Red Dawn programme, which, in addition to being content-wise intertwined with the City of Women programme, also upgrades it. To get together and realise such a rich, heterogeneous – and hopefully also interesting – transdisciplinary and artistically activist programme was made possible by European funding. Thus October will be marked by a Red Dawn above the City of Women. And don't forget: the silent trend toward oblivion of all that feminism brought us must be opposed. Our bodies and voices must again be called upon in defence of every millimetre of what was won and we must make public appearances in the name of equality!