CITY OF PARADOXES

In 1995, the Governmental Office for Women’s Policy took the initiative of organising an International Festival of Contemporary Arts. The aim was to draw attention to the currently disproportionate participation and presentation of women in the arts. Today, the Association for the Promotion of Women in Culture presents the fifth City of Women festival, its raison d’etre remaining unchanged.

What has the City of Women achieved in those five years? Although it would be too optimistic to assume that

the festival has had a serious impact on the cultural scene or the ‘society in transition’, it has left some traces, and will continue to do so.

We have seen how aggressive negative reactions towards the idea of organising an event exclusively for women contributors (voiced by a loud minority of opinion-makers) have turned into a (somewhat uneasy) silence. We have noticed how other festivals and venues started to pay more attention to women’s participation in their programs. We have read reviews criticising the male-chauvinist attitude in mere ‘art-performances’. We have noticed how ‘gender-related arts’, or ‘women in the arts’ has lost some of their negative connotations on the scene. Although we should not take credit for these positive evolutions, it is no exaggeration to say that the festival has contributed to them.

In this changed climate, it is also understandable that, after years of spectacular and dramatic cuts in the public funding for the City of Women, the Ministry of Culture and the City of Ljubljana joined in turning the tide by slightly increasing their funding of the festival.

Nonetheless, there is little reason for cheering. Although there are many women artists at work in Slovenia, they remain largely under-represented as authors of projects with serious budgets. We are still waiting to see

the first Slovene feature film directed by a woman on the Ljubljana screen. And, just like five years ago, misogynist views continue to attract all the media attention they claim. So, if the media is a mirror of the society in which we live, we should not hesitate to say that there is still plenty of work to do.

City of Women remains an annual reminder that talent and quality do not guarantee exposure, recognition or success. The proof of this you will find in the festival programme. And, no exception: the exception confirms the rule. Just think of Marilyn Crispell (who will open this year’s festival), who is beyond doubt one of the leading pianists, improvisers and composers on the contemporary jazz scene, and you will soon realise how “lonely at the top” of the jazz world she is. Another ‘star’ on this year’s programme is the post-modernist philosopher Rosi Braidotti, but do you remember her work being published or reviewed in our science pages of our press? City of Women is about offering perspectives that are all too rarely heard, about presenting alternative views. It is a platform for artists and thinkers who have created their own language, their particular

vocabulary. City of Women is a place where tradition meets experiment, where the present is put in historical perspective, where theory meets the practice of art, where seriousness goes hand in hand with fun.

Be curious & enjoy it.

Koen Van Daele