Agata Siniarska - City of Women. Feminist Trouble

the international festival of contemporary arts in lubljana or how to do things with feminis


feminism is obviously difficult to define on account of the many different kinds of perspectives that were developed till today. it is admittedly a vibrant tradition that has contributed to intellectual, cultural enrichment, and social transformation in all regions of the world for at least centuries. now and again feminism is defined as a network of actions designed to eliminate women's economic, political, social subordination to men and claims its domain within the dichotomy of two identity categories: category of a woman and category of a man. that perspective led feminism to become an identity category in itself. it is very important for me to underline this is not my standpoint. i find inescapable danger in formulating feminism that way. a fixed point, a label does not allow feminism to be an action, a movement. thus i would like to bring two modes that i am going to proceed in this text proposition:

first – i do not want to concentrate on feminism but on feminisms instead. i do not claim one definition of feminism. i stand for multiplicity of feminisms that can problematise and put in a state of crisis, well-established discourses, pointing out limitations, significant omissions.

second - i insist on understanding feminisms as actions, feminisms as verbs, “verbing to the thing”. i am not feminist, i make feminist practices, i am “feminisizing” ( the word that does not exist in english, as well as in polish, my native language ) the artistic practices. i am “feminisizing” what can be and cannot be “feminisized”.

i like to see feminisms as procedures. they operate differently in different contexts ( where they become different operations ) and remain substantial even when abstracted from the operations. as operations where they define how a procedure is implemented ( with what technique, what purpose, effects ) in a particular ( concrete, historical ) situation.

feminisms are everything but identity categories.

what are feminisms then if they seem to be everything and for whom i already impaired almost all philosophical apparatuses? are they only another critical discourse? what are the differences between feminisms and other -isms? feminisms can follow the same problematics that other -isms address, with this significant difference that feminisms are putting attention to the gender subject. feminisms say that we just cannot be simply naive to forget the gender issues and even if we want to detach from them, first we have to question these issues, to be aware of them. feminisms emancipate from gender through awareness of gender issues. feminisms are asking for us how can we operate within gender, what is exactly status quo and how can we change it. feminisms are not about flipping power relations ( now we - women in power ) but make the hole in the status quo, breaking the limitations of binarisms, putting into trouble every position, using gender to critically analyse power. feminisms are revealing the absurdity of the law of the father – the universal, well known truth. some of the western cultural narratives are based on the “objectivity” – the only possible subject, the finally only one equation. ”that is a deadly fantasy that feminists and others have identified in some versions of objectivity doctrines” in the service of hierarchical and orderings of what can count as “truth”. the only position from which objectivity could not possibly be practiced is the standpoint of “the master, the man, the one god, whose eyes produce, appropriates and order all differences”. following the idea of donna haraway “feminist objectivity is about limited location and situated knowledge, not about transcendence and splitting of subject and object. in this way we might become answerable for what we learn how to see” and how to act upon.

city of women

feminist choreographies.

the status of the feminism within the western art discourses has largely been defined in the domain of visual arts and performance arts yet has predominantly been one of absent in choreographic discourse. the past ten years have seen a re-emergence of the need to think about and conceptualise the arts in general and dance in particular in terms of the political but barely using the feminist tools, as well as practicing and discussing the contemporary feminism within contemporary choreography. to pose a question on feminism in choreography - in my opinion a missing point in contemporary discourse around dance and choreography – is to propose some possible ways of thinking through this question.

both the ‘feminist’ and the ‘choreography’ parts of this phrase are complex and may have different meanings. nevertheless, the phrase itself is one which best sums up my concern first and foremost with an analysis which identifies itself as feminist and which uses choreographic strategies to examine work. feminist choreography aims to draw attention and concerns. relating choreography to feminisms can take various forms. to make a simple distinction between "feminist choreography" and "the feminisms of choreography" - whereas the term "feminist choreography" came to denote dance that speak about political issues on the level of content, "the feminisms of choreography", on the other hand, deals with issues of form, methodologies, operations, procedures. "the feminisms of choreography" displays dance's self-reflexive potential to expose and talks about its own mechanisms and means of production and reception, thereby subverting traditional ways of how dance is produced and received. through this distinction, we can say that "feminist choreography" ( understood as feminist choreography, as well as the feminisms of choreography ) questions its relations to the institutions inside which it takes place with the gender awareness. it reflects upon the roles of choreographers, dancers, bodies, audiences, and producers and their traditionally hierarchical relationship towards each

other. In short, "feminist choreography" is engaged in the practice of criticality starting from the speaking subject with gender awareness. it is important to remember that the terms “feminist” and “woman” are not synonymous. it this sense feminist choreography doesn't need to talk about women in the sense of content. feminist choreography is not a woman with a broken heart dancing towards lyrical music.

if feminisms are not knowledges, but practical methodologies, to make them happen, they must be practiced. thus from the question of what are feminist choreographies i need to ask what feminist choreographies can do while practicing their procedures. instead of limiting the project about who we are as women, who we are as men i would rather put the accent on what we want to do, what we can do and how we can deal with this binarisms within the artistic process, in the production system and later in the artistic product.

feminist practices.

i connect practices to voices, and hence to the bodies that move and act. these are the ways of engaging in strict analysis and offer many models of strategically operating within the world. through practices i constantly gain the position that i can constantly redefine and problematise. practices exist collectively and singularly and are constantly with instances and ideas that i encounter. they are the moments of articulation that are still in process that without a conclusion can give the space to heterogenous approaches, opinions, positions. to share them is to talk within them than talk about them. their function is to keep the clear analysis with a conscious incompleteness, to work far from pretending to be comprehensive and to admit own partialities, in the same time refusing any claims of omnipotence or universal position. of course the inevitable exclusions in the particular feminist practices are too many to name. the choices are marked by own particular positions. but they allow for constant redefinition of this particular position that can be constantly problematise. these are the moments of articulation and these moments are still in process. i bring my practices here in the text, i bring them here as a text, keeping in mind - there is never a final text.


the artistic choreographic practices are still facing the major division between the physical practice of the body and the discursive practice of working with concepts. that is the way how the particular choreographies are defined and how the body functions within them. body for me is both the subject area and the research method, which allows to combine these areas. if we allow the body activity to prove its meaning if we give it something more than organized tank of props, then it will be able to embody a new dimension of body action. perceive the body as capable of begetting ideas, perceive it as physical writing means perceive it as does the choreographer.

dance, perhaps more wide than other actions focused on the body, develops bodies, which both initiate and respond. dance in this sense becomes a form of theorizing, which informs and is informed by the examples of the relevance of the body. may the theory to terminate the definitions of the body in isolation from the medium through which it expresses itself?

city of women


how to finish the text if the problematics are not solved...goddess forbid! there must be continuation. i am sure that i missed so many important points, how many positions did i exclude, how much did i stay on the level of binarism and how i didn't allow my thinking to find new spaces. of course there is a good reason to believe that position “from below of the powerful” ( which i could claim here for myself ) is better to see the power structures more clearer but we should not forget that “the positioning of the subjegated are not exempt from critical re-examination, decoding, interpretation”. that is my learning process – how to practice criticality for recognizing my own “semiotic technologies” for making meanings, “reflective relation to my own as well as others' practices of domination and the unequal parts of privilege and oppression that make up all positions”. that is why, through practicing my feminisms I should rewrite this text again and again, reconstructing and rethinking the technology of gender by pluralising and opening up the term man and woman, by opening other terms, not necessary the once mentioned above. “there is no way to be simultaneously in all – privileged and subjegated positions ( and i still didn't use essentialized third world woman ). thus self-identity standing alone is a bad critical system. “one cannot be either a cell or molecule, or a woman, colonized person, labourer, and so on – if one intends to see and see from these positions critically. being is much more problematic and contingent”.

coming back to the question: do we need women's art festivals ( for i believe that i did answer the question about male and female artist )? my answer is : yes, we do need them but the festivals that propose certain clear politics, certain awareness that are not addressing only women but also men. in my view, the position that men cannot be feminists is based on the same male-female dichotomy that underlies patriarchy. if we want to detach from that, we need to first understand how these both sides functions in everyday power relations and thus practice within them what can we do about them, how can we try to go beyond them. i believe that city of women is a great example for women's festival and feminist practice. i am waiting for more.

by agata agata agata*
*agata agata agata would like to thank mara and a festival city of women for invitation, joanna and georg as well as leja jurisic and teja reba from identity!move – a platform for practical research - for make the travel to lubljana easily happen.