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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.


Article inside journal

Issue No. 261 - City of Women / Concealed Histories II
Časopis za kritiko znanosti
2015 , volume volume 43 , issue issue 261
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