Croatian anti-nazi women, art and fashion

This video says about itself:

Excerpt from the Artist Talk with Sanja Iveković, 16.03.2012

Sanja Iveković (*1949 in Zagreb, Croatia, former Yugoslavia) studied from 1968 to 1971 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. Her photo montages, videos, performances and installations emerging since the early 1970s have been characterized by a critical questioning of the mass media and their identity-forging potential.

By personally entering into public discourse ‒ whether in the form of photographic representations in the media, or as the actual protagonist of performances ‒ Iveković brings out into the open the collective social codes of behavior based on gender-specific standardized patterns in mass media.

As one of the first explicitly feminist artists in Croatia, she has also been the facilitator and founder of a large number of political initiatives including the Women Artists’ Center Elektra and the Center for Women’s Studies in Zagreb. Iveković participated in numerous international exhibitions including documenta 11, and 12 and Manifesta 2. In November 2011, her retrospective Lady Rosa of Luxembourg took place at the MoMA New York.

By Michal Boncza in England:

Sanja Ivekovic: Unknown Heroine

South London Gallery and Calvert 22, London SE5

Friday 04 January 2013

Six large black and white photos of eye-catching female fashion models dominate this exhibition, their names prominently spelled out across the bottom of each image.

Initially their meaning is elusive but at close quarters their poignant significance becomes apparent.

A line of text below each name gives the background of each woman’s life and death as anti-fascist fighters in 1942 Croatia.

At the time the country was an obliging ally of nazi Germany and carried out its own genocide of Serbs, Gypsies, Muslims and Jews.

Yet these are not the true images of Dragica Koncar, Nada Dimic, Ljubica Gerovac, the Balkovic sisters, Anka Butorac and Nera Safaric.

The latter was the artist’s mother who survived Auschwitz.

All, in their mid-twenties and early thirties, are contemporary Yugoslav fashion models.

Sanja Ivekovic has used this subversive juxtaposition of adverts in the popular Arkzin magazine to draw the attention of the younger generation in particular to the selfless heroism of these brave young women, now all but forgotten.

Her creative impetus in reinstating women to their rightful historical position came to prominence with her 2001 Pregnant Memory project to replace the neoclassical figure of Nike (victory) on the Golden Lady obelisk in Luxembourg, a symbol of allied victory in WWI.

Its place was to be taken by the figure of Rosa Luxemburg – murdered in 1919 for her communist beliefs – who is visibly pregnant.

The original plaque commemorating male heroism was replaced with the words “Resistance, justice, liberty, independence,” “Kitsch, culture, capital, art” and “Whore, bitch, madonna, virgin” in four languages.

Predictably sections of the media were outraged and the ensuing fierce discussion spilled over to the internet, where the most violent opposition was not to the pregnant figure but the plaque.

The displacement of ideals of male bravery by abusive terms regularly used to describe women had touched the raw nerve of social convention.

Ivekovic’s exploration of, and disdain for, the media’s role in the subjugation and manipulation of women manifests itself with particular force in Figure And Ground (2005-6) and Women’s House (Sunglasses – 2002-9).

In the latter she superimposes testimonies from women victims of domestic violence over advertisements for designer sunglasses worn by abused women to hide their bruises.

The models of the adverts stand in for battered women, laying bare what Ivekovic eloquently describes as the “complex entanglement between consumerism and exploitation.”

The Mihaela caption tells us that she’s a Serb married to a Muslim and that she finally fled domestic abuse when her nationality became “a new reason” for abuse.

“He brought home his war companions and forced me to kiss their boots while they called me a Serbian whore. After spending 12 days in the hospital I decided to take my children and leave.”

In the highly topical The Black File (1976) the stories about missing daughters cut out of newspapers are paired with porn images of young girls with “sexy” names, uncomfortably reminiscent of the sexual grooming or Savile-like abuse of the underage and vulnerable.

A further and sinister contemporary connotation is of young women lost to sex trafficking.

Although an ardent and lucid feminist Ivekovic’s work is consistently marked by a thoughtfulness and restraint that makes her work all the more authentic and engaging.

She describes her artistic practice as one that directly intervenes into a surrounding world “in which the aesthetic operates in tandem with the political.”

While she distinguishes between the roles of the artist and the activist, there is a connection between the two.

“We can see them as circles of human activity that overlap in a relatively small area and that is the area in which I try to do most of my work,” she says.

As Unknown Heroine demonstrates, she inhabits that space admirably.

Runs until February 24. Free. Opening times:

See also here.

6 thoughts on “Croatian anti-nazi women, art and fashion

  1. Fascists handed jail terms for website

    Friday 11 January 2013

    A court convicted a notorious neonazi and two accomplices of glorifying nazism on Thursday.

    Gottfried Kuessel was given nine years in prison for founding the Alpen-Donau website.

    He was imprisoned in the 1990s for trying to form a successor to the Nazi Party.

    Felix Binder and Wilhelm Anderle were sentenced to seven and four and a half years respectively.

    The website was hosted on a US server, causing years of grief for Austrian authorities trying to shut it down.


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