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Group exhibition: “Feminist Art at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, Part 1: One, Two … Five (Hairy) Ideas for an Éden Better Tomorrow”

12 February 2019 > 01 March 2019 You are kindly invited to the opening of the exhibition "One, Two … Five (Hairy) Ideas for an Eden Better Tomorrow" at the Alkatraz Gallery, ACC Metelkova mesto on Tuesday, 12th February at 8 p.m. Exhibiting artists: Lea Culetto, Asiana Jurca Avci, Tatiana Kocmur, Nika Lapkovski, Teodora Švet. Kindly invited also to the guided tour by the exhibiting artist on 1st March at 6 pm (part of International Feminist and Queer Festival Red Dawns).

The Academy of Fine Arts and Design University of Ljubljana and KUD Mreža are organising two joint exhibitions of feminist artworks that are being and have been created at or in parallel with the institution. The first exhibition will be held at the Alkatraz Gallery. The second exhibition will take place on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the University of Ljubljana and will open in March, the month when we celebrate the International Women’s Day, at newly-established university gallery Mala Galerija on Slovenska cesta 35. Given the number of participating artists who are currently undergraduate or postgraduate students or are about to complete their studies, it is clear that interest in feminist topics is much greater than it was fifteen years ago. It was around that time that Nadja Zgonik, PhD, added feminist art to the list of entries that students in her art history class were supposed to define, and this seemingly minor act inspired the beginning of change at the Academy and in the students’ way of thinking. Owing to her efforts and the active interest of a few students[1], our assignment later developed into the publication entitled A Thesaurus of Slovenian Art after 1945[2], and I myself later wrote about feminist art in Slovenia in my undergraduate thesis under her mentorship. Based on conversations with students, encouraging an active stance, particularly when it comes to feminist topics, is still partly a result of the teachers’ eagerness and partly a result of the wishes of interested students. Undoubtedly, increased interest in these topics can also be attributed to the employment of new teaching staff. The head of the project, Petja Grafenauer, PhD, is one of the people most responsible for making this project happen, naturally with the support of the first woman Dean of the Academy, Lucija Močnik Ramovš, MA, who is open to such ideas.


The Alkatraz Gallery presents the works of Lea Culetto, Nika Lapkovski, Asiana Jurca Avci, Teodora Švet and Tatiana Kocmur, entitled One, Two ... Five (Hairy) Ideas for an Éden Better Tomorrow, which binds these works together and indirectly describes their subject matter that is feministically humorous, hairily erotic and sexual, and at the same time serious and critically sharp towards the state of society.


In her video (Brez – Without), Lea Culetto, whose artwork exhibits a continuous feminist involvement, gives the cue to the exhibition, revealing the degrading representation of female bodies in advertisements for personal hygiene products, personal care products, makeup, etc. Watching her video, from which the parts containing advertising and the original sound have been cut out, leaving only a layered montage of half-naked female bodies, the audience is faced with some sort of soft pornography. The artist thus clearly illustrates the forced, socially desirable image of women hidden between the lines of television advertising, where women are mostly reduced to sexual objects in the role of product sellers, promising the fulfilment of unrealistic “beauty” criteria. Over the video, Culetto recorded her own narration of an excerpt from the article Foucault, Femininity and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power by Sandra Lee Bartky, which discusses the deliberate control of the female body. She chose the part where Barky lists the products that a woman is supposed to use in order to achieve the desired look. The artist reveals the abuse and exploitation of the image of the female body in the media, stresses that female nudity is owned by the society rather than the individual itself, and criticises the shallow portrayal of people assuming the role of a simple commodity.


Tatiana Kocmur is another artist who frequently covers the topic of feminism in her art, either indirectly or directly. Her two exhibited pieces criticise society’s obsession with the “perfect” female body that must be sexualised in a (cis) sexist manner in order to be accepted in the first place. She expresses her protest using her own body, which is bowed down, her breasts sagging down to the floor in Deformada 1 and spilled across the room in Deformada 2. The two colourful paintings, particularly Deformada 1, which also use kitsch as a means of expression, at first glance seem to represent a type of religious iconography, especially given the formal layout of elements. In her own way, the artist appropriates the means of the manipulation of mass media in the postproduction of advertising. The works can be read as a criticism of a society inundated with “perfect” bodies in the media space, or can be understood with a touch of humour, as they speak of what else could be, but is not accepted in society when it comes to female bodies. The reality of breasts getting more and more saggy over the years is a fact that should perhaps be celebrated, as age, in most cases, contributes to greater experience and knowledge. It seems that the artist does just that, with the extremely saggy breasts in one painting and the relatively naturally sagging breasts in the other. Her statement therefore must be read as an objection to the omnipresent ageism. As is and often has been the case with female artists, she does this using her own body, as it is most effective (as well as most acceptable) to talk about the objectification of (female) bodies and the systematic abuse of the subject (woman) by one’s own example.


What else could happen, besides worshipping saggy breasts, if we added a pinch of queer feminism to our reflection on the wider society, can be seen in the work of Nika Lapkovski, this year’s author of the visual image of the International Feminist and Queer Festival Red Dawns and passionate LGBTIQ* activist. Their artistic, inclusive, gratifying robot called Éden is an amusing response to the phenomenon of AI sex robots, whose sophisticated, programmed closing and opening of eyelids creates a shuddering intermediate space of human-robot. Lapkovski drew their inspiration from the robot Harmony[3]. This and similar artificial intelligence models primarily cater to the fantasies of the dominating, hegemonic, straight cis man as the only one with the means to afford them, which says a lot about the economic situation of the LGBTIQ* population and women. Lapkovski’s robot prototype will be exhibited together with a catalogue of possible robot versions that will cater to everyone, including patriots, astronomy enthusiasts, people afraid of the unknown, etc. The author uses these versions, focusing on the buyers’ personality, to make fun of popular personalised tactics of advertising. Éden is purposefully not anthropomorphous, not wanting to have anything to do with the embodiment of the objectification of women, the promotion of unhealthy “beauty” criteria and the fetishisation of (the size of) sex characteristics. As it does not look human and refers as little as possible to human sex organs, it will not affect the corruption of interpersonal relations, which, by contrast, cannot be said for sex robots. It also enables shared usage and is therefore polyamory-friendly. The project puts the spectator before a positive internal conflict, varying between giggling awkwardness and the desire to choose the appropriate model. It should be noted, however, that when the product is available for wider consumption, it will re-educate even the most hidden patriarchal hegemony in each of us, acting in accordance with the principles of consent and teaching its users about it, as it does not tolerate sex slavery and rape culture.


Sexuality is also at the centre of Teodora Švet’s interest, but with a slightly different twist. With her series Fuck Painting (which can be read as Fuck the Art of Painting, Fucking Painting or Fucked Painting, i.e. the object receiving sexual activity), she wanted to establish sex as something positive, wiping off the dust of sin and dirtiness. Her aim, as she says, was to portray it as beautiful in all forms, colours and relationships, as long as it is completely consensual. This time, the artists shifted the focus of desire from a human partner to a painting. The empty canvas is extremely exciting and at the same time frightening, but it invites one to touch it and leave its mark on it. She made her mark using her own naked body, which she used as a paintbrush. With gentle, lazure paintings created in the process, she wanted to capture erotic movement and energy, and show that sexuality can be beautiful, even indirectly, in her almost ethereal paintings. The spectator may experience shock upon seeing how the paintings were made in her carnal, funny, trashy video that documents the process. It shows the not very edited movements and rubs and dabs from the artist’s perspective. By shifting the focus from the obligations of (sexual) human relations, conditioned by social thinking and often forced, to the painting, she has chosen a new object of attraction that is not burdened with heteronormativity, sexism and patriarchal rules. Her statement can therefore be read as an appeal to giving autonomous sex back into our own (woman’s) hands.


With her femmage, Asiana Jurca Avci, whose work often touches on feminism, takes friendship into her own hands. In her work charmingly entitled Tendertits, a photobook which is in fact her undergraduate thesis exploring the film atmosphere in the medium of photography, she depicts friends hanging out, washing their teeth together in the morning, resting, hugging, celebrating, talking, dancing, dreading the cold water of the sea and a lot of topless sunbathing. The piece is dedicated to friends and solidarity between women and is a true story about friendship that also discusses depression, sadness and joy and leaves almost nothing out, even sanitary napkins and menstruation (logically) being an important part of everyday life. Her work is a wonderful love letter to friendship that can seem slightly erotic, although that may not have been its intention. The book contains almost every possible shade of friendship that organically passes from one type of relationship to another and yet another – first between two and then between more people, and is never static. Just like it really is.


Lea Culleto wishes she could shape her own reality in “the fifth idea for a better tomorrow", which comes from her childhood wish for leg hairs to grow as fast as the hair does. The author asks herself whether female hairs would be more socially acceptable if they were styled. The result of this thought process are several pieces from the series My Life is a Hairytale, its colourful hairy decorations embroidered in nylon stockings. Not only are all of the authors critical of the current social situation that is increasingly fond of violence and sexism, they also propose their own original and humorous “solutions” to the problem. All topics that the young artists discuss are an indication of the views supported by the institution, its atmosphere and openness. Both exhibitions feature authors with original critical assessments of a serious issue. Nevertheless, there is always room for humour. At least a few other names need to be mentioned in relation to the two exhibitions, such as the video Lost Connections by Rebecca Reja, who builds on lesbian feminist topics; other students flirting with the topic of feminism include Nurlama Vidrih, Anja Smaka, Sara Rman, Žiga Roš and others. Many interesting works are thus being created at or in parallel with the Academy, and they undoubtedly contribute to the criticism of (systemic) sexism that is very much alive in institutions of higher education.


Ana Grobler


The exhibition is part of a wider collaboration project between KUD Mreža and the Academy of Fine Arts and Design. The second part of the exhibition on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Ljubljana University will be presented on 7 March in newly-established university gallery Mala Galerija. On 8 March, there will be a broader, round-table event on the same occasion.


Head of the project: Petra Grafenauer, PhD
Project support: Sebastian Krawczyk
Curator and author of the text: Ana Grobler, MA
Proofreading and translation: Špela Bibič
Design: Ana Grobler, Emil Kozole
Public relations: Sara Bešlin Vatovec, Sebastian Krawczyk


A special thank you to: Ana Čigon, MA, Teaching Assistant Emina Djukić, MA, Eva Jus, Associate Professor Žiga Kariž, MA, Tamara Klavžar, Nika Lapkovski, Tadeja Pirih, Peter Rauch, MA, Associate Professor Sašo Sedlaček, Pia Skušek and Nurlama Vidrih


[1]          Gašper Rus, Robertina Šebjanič and Gaja Zornada.


[2]          Pojmovnik slovenske umetnosti po letu 1945. Pojmi, gibanja, skupine, težnje (A Thesaurus of Slovenian Art after 1945. Concepts, Movements, Groups, Trends), ed. Nadja Zgonik, Študentska založba and the Institute of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Ljubljana, 2009, p. 49–58. Available at: http://www.pojmovnik.si/


[3]          Presented for ABC News by Katie Couric, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cN8sJz50Ng


Tatiana Kocmur  (1992, Buenos Aires) lives and works in Slovenia. She graduated from painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana (menthorship of Žiga Kariž ) in 2015. The artist in addition to exhibiting in Slovenia as well as abroad (Zelenica - ATRog, Rampa lab - Galerija Kapelica, Galerija Škuc,  M5 - Švicarija, Pocket Teater - all in Ljubljana; Ufer Studios, Berlin) curates the series of performances TRANSLACIJA/TRASLACIÓN. In the past she also used to manage Zelenica gallery.  She actively collaborates with the dance group Meduza and professional dancer Liza Šimenc through the medium of ambiental compositions. Together they created the Kresnička (Firefly) artistic duo, created a creative apartment Prmejduš and performed many times in Slovenia and in Germany. She is currently enrolled in an additional year of postgraduate studies in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana.


Nika Lapkovski (1994, Ljubljana) is attending the 1st year of postgraduate studies in Graphic Design at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. In their thesis (mentorship of prof. Botas Kenda) they dealt with the problem of stigmatization of menstrual bleeding. As a graphic designer and photographer, they collaborate with the Ljubljana Pride, TransAction & Legebitra associations as well as the Red Dawn Collective. They participated at group exhibitions within the Lesbian Quarter project, the Pride Parade Festival and others. The Message group project was also exhibited at the International Design Festival Plan D in Zagreb (2017).


Asiana Jurca  Avci (1992, London)  graduated from visual communications at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana in the field of visual communication (2015), where she is currently attending a post-graduate study in photography. Her original series, which she presents primarily in the form of photozines and photobooks are characterized by autobiographical & confessional poetics with the feeling for the narrative, which stems from her interest in the film. They were shown as a part of numerous group exhibitions in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Croatia and Slovakia. Recently (November 2018) she presented her work together with three artists coming from the former Yugoslavia at the exhibition Her New East at the Galženica Gallery in Velika Gorica, Croatia and at the exhibition Photobook & Phtozine 2018 at Dobra Vaga Gallery in Ljubljana  (2018) and GT22 Gallery in Maribor. She works in various fields of photography and film as a student. https://asianajurcaavci.com/


Teodora Švet (1993, Ljubljana) graduated from painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana (menthorship of Žiga Kariž ) in 2017. In her thesis Erotic, Colour & Sensuality, she dealt with the theme of erotica - how it is accepted in society and the viewers' responses to it. In her artistic career she is interested in topics related to those mentioned above. Š vet’s works were exhibited in Ljubljana and elsewhere (Kult 3000, KUD-Primož Trubar). She is also active in the field of improvisational theatre. The artist is currently enrolled in the 2nd year of postgraduate studies in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana.