CONSTRUCTED NECESSITY, TEXT BY AMALIJA STOJSAVLJEVIC Sewing of emancipation, or can we be women without consequences
Although we live in patriarchal cultural heritage, namely to some extent modified modern patriarchy, that is now formed and structured through contracts by the civil capitalist society, the position of a woman is essentially the same as before. Due to its long duration and the fact that it is deeply rooted in the social and political reality, the patriarchy is considered natural and its existence is out of question. Effects produced by the “operation” of this concept contribute to gender dichotomy between male and female being continuously perpetuated into the patriarchy pattern, making cognition almost impossible outside of it.
Conceptualization of power in relation to the genders is still directly derived from determined naturalism and biology that put a woman, as physically weaker and mentally undeveloped, in “logically” subordinated position. Dominant male of a greater physical strength, with a unique capability of abstract thinking, at the same time the creator of the public, politics, culture and civilization, constructs all relations that exclude women as apolitical beings, put in service of men, condemned to private sphere aimed to biological reproduction and housework.
As even Simon de Beauvoir said that we were not born as women, but we become women, the role of a Balkan woman in transition and clashes between the traditional and the modern has not significantly changed, especially taking into account that the marriage is still normative alibi that has to make a woman complete and socially accomplished. This repressive traditional pattern is the most resistant to all modern concepts and practices of emancipation, because it is rooted in all social structures of the Balkan society. By signing the marital contract, a female person legitimizes its affiliation to a new male person, which is the most transparently shown in the marriage ritual where a father symbolically gives his daughter to another man. Nevertheless, this, at the first sight naive symbolism, in the sphere of legal and political, represents the foundation of the modern civil patriarchy, because it still presents women as objectified, apolitical and discriminated beings put, above all other, in function of an exchange between men. Therefore, the existence of a Balkan woman and her personal self-identification is always presented through the affiliation with a man, who indirectly gives a woman his social position status, personal characteristics or a professional engagement.
As a woman formed on Bosnian and Herzegovinian patriarchy heritage and repressive social society context, artist Nina Popovic will present her works through the exhibition Constructed necessity that implies to different issues of women as numb subjects in such society.
Taking herself as the first example and questioning different positions and roles she takes (a woman, mother, wife, artist), but not performing them in an expected way, her identity is per natura marginalized and suffered additional double marginalization. This “second” marginalization is reflected in not obeying the matrimonial vow, that is equaled to dissidence act, that puts her identity to the position of the second Other.
The artist first started exploring this problem as an intimate contemplation visually represented by the Self portrait, and continued through intense discussions (interviews) with women from her surroundings that are also the Other. Their traumatic or less traumatic personal testimonies, as well as readiness to take a position of an emancipated individual within the society without compromise and at any price, directly influence the artist that identifies with them and creates the cycle of paintings, and closes the exploration process. Interviewed women are strong, educated and dominant women that became affirmed as individuals only after they had divorced, and they are condemned by the society and considered maladjusted. The cycle of paintings itself represents homage to them and documents their characters now when they are on the “other side”, i.e. outside unreasonably causal relation where you suffer if you are smart.
The space is dominated by big heads of women, with extremely accentuated eyes that show the character as well as the experience. These eyes hypnotize us and and attract us to its infinite, parallel world by centripetal force. Canvases, namely faces on canvases, are randomly and partially torn, only to be sewn with red thread, which gives withered faces a spooky look. From the titles of works, we conclude that these are women that belong to some man, i.e. they belonged to him and they are symbolically not “whole” anymore. These women/ ghosts are not week or defeated creatures, on the contrary, they are triumphant women with scars, a scar being a consequence of a damage, i.e. natural healing process, their individual position becomes to the artist a paradigm of an emancipated woman.
The symbolic game of the red thread and sewing, typically women’s job or a hobby in our region, becomes a light motive as well as the video of the work that, in a somewhat different way, approaches the theme of women issues. The video was made completely spontaneously, without tendency to be directed or “made aesthetic”, and it is more repulsive than appealing in its unusual contents and unbearable audio aspect that predominates the space.
Obsessive-compulsive behavior of the artist where she pierces the skin on her fingers by the red thread, i.e. sewing the fingers to connect them and bringing them into some abstract correlation, is on one hand allusion to the games that young girls play, but on the other hand, by putting this game into context where a woman is performing it, new meanings are derived. As an addition to deconstruction of our perceptive abilities enabled by the video, there is a traditional (ethno) song, segments of which are used during the work and overemphasized in order to be irritating for the observer, that also awake associations to old pastoral sisterhood times and socializing. However, considering that female work is usually interpreted as passive and not of crucial value for a certain social group, sisterhood socializing is as opposed to brotherly one, reduced to “creative” and naive. At first harmless and naive playing takes a form of symbolic auto victimization and loss of identity in denial, where repetition of the performance implies to the repetition of the pattern that determines and confirms dominant and normative “truth about a woman”.
Starting in the first place from the Self portrait as the initial work, through paintings of women’s heads and video, the artist documents and ,in an intimate way, marks “banalities” from everyday life of a Balkan woman (marriage, divorce) and transpositions them into her works. On the other hand, she shows that a price of emancipation and confrontation in closed and conservative societies is reflected in stigmatization and exclusion from the “normality”, that can be traumatic and painful experience. However, the fight for independence and individuality through micro-political “disobedience” certainly affects that the reproduction of the traditional pattern is more deconstructed in order to produce the new “normality” for women.