ANIMALS – NATURE – CULTURE

It is not in giving life but in risking life that man is raised above the animal; that is why

superiority has been accorded in humanity not to the sex that brings forth but to that which kills.

Simone de Beauvoir

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In this year’s festival programme, entitled Raw Symbiosis we wish that while observing and participating, you, our faithful and new audience, think of “animals and nature” as our co-beings and not as “something” that must be changed, tamed, domesticated, and subdued. If we – superior as we are – continue to rush around headlessly as flies into a spider’s web, we might indeed enjoy our pleasant meals in a wonderful ambience, but we will be too late to realize that we are caught in a place we never wanted to end up in. And since we neither want to nor can end up in the here and now, it is best we look back toward the beginning.

To examine the biologistic categorization and the logic of corporate commodification, we have decided - for the first time in the City of Women history – to classify festival events according to discipline. By doing so we not only wish to introduce some clarity into our rich trans-disciplinary selection, but also to shed light on the interdependence and collaboration which do not need excessive communication and linkage. In Sanne van Rijn’s opening performance Morphotope, as in a biotope, dependence is perceived as the state of things in which condensed excess can lead to destruction. Although we come from different worlds, genders, backgrounds, or roots, the fact that we coexist side by side must trigger an affirmative policy in which an actor, a queer, a donkey, pig, or monkey are not threatened. The artists, theoreticians, and activists of the 14th City of Women festival propose less communication and more participation, empathy, and tolerance; less property and more modesty, grounded in the “now”. Despite all the information available to modern technologically determined human beings, we are still unable to contemplate with full responsibility a) ourselves as part of nature or technology as the new nature and b) our lives as part of the “now” in which a person needs so little that it need not make the transitory existence of self and other so difficult. In her keynote lecture, concluding the week-long free educational programme at Škuc Gallery, the Zagreb-based researcher Karmen Ratković will tell us more about the “now” and our “relationship towards nature”. In addition to an abundant educational programme on active environmental citizenship, the agroindustry, the right of resistance, death and dying, and animal enrichment, we have prepared a rich selection for the so called generation Y with a specially designed youth workshop on permaculture.

As always, the festival Sunday will be cheerful and appropriate for children, with a dog massage workshop, a puppet workshop, and Vera Neubauer’s animated shorts on top. We look forward to spending more time in Kinodvor once again, where apart from documentary screenings, we will enjoy two breathtaking films by Isild Le Besco, which are as simple as the seemingly carefree lives of children and teenagers growing up without parents.

This year’s somewhat “macrobiotic” musical programme will introduce mainly Slavic musicians of diverse musical provenance: the Croatian punk electro trio Klaus, the Belgrade-based hip-hopper Sajsi MC, the Czech dance electronic My Name Is Ann, the Russian folk-rock band Iva Nova, and Subshrubs with the Slovenian academic musician and experimentalist Maja Osojnik. If the situation on Earth keeps you awake at night, treat yourselves to our colourful DJane programme with DJanes T-Ina Darling, Irradiation, Timika and e.llem after the daytime events.

At the 14th City of Women we are also starting a multiannual European partnership project “A Space For Live Art”, with which we pledge to encourage and promote live art, in other words performance art as that direct artistic expression which creates maximal effects through minimal means. This holds

true especially for Violeta Luna, Julia Bardsley, Conservas, subRosa and A2 collectives, as well as Slovenian artists Pila Rusjan and Jana Prepeluh.

We will also introduce two public art projects: the bizarre “animalistic” work of Isabelle Krieg and Marianne Engel, and animal life enrichment mechanisms from scientist and intermedia artist Natalie Jeremijenko.

We also proudly present the premieres of three new works by Slovenian performance artists Tina Valentan, Bara Kolenc, and Leja Jurišić together with Hanna Sybille Müller, which explore the paradigms of freedom. While the protagonists of Kinda Hassan’s and Selda Asal’s documentary videos are also confronted with the reality of non-freedom and determinism. It is easy to talk of the absolute of (human) freedom, but if not sooner, it becomes clear within the discourse on animals, nature, and technology that no such thing exists. That freedom is a path, a manner, a process, or a way of becoming. In the belief that ultimately we are free, we allow ourselves to impose endless prohibitions, commands, and restrictions – mostly on others, yet also upon ourselves. If we would stop for a moment, either in an empty space or in a green meadow surrounded by bears, we would realize that we have no right to be free, unless we recognize the freedom of others as a need for self limitation. In the past, those weaker usually faced these issues: women, the poor, animals, and others who are at times still subject to repression.

What is essential, therefore, is uprooting the idea that self-limitation is inherent to ‘the weak’. On the contrary: self-limitation is (becoming) the option, or rather the responsibility, of the position of power.

Thus the raw symbiosis speaks not only of nature, but of (our) relationships and limits – the beginnings and the ends. One of our crew members today lost a person so very dear to her. Let us therefore dedicate this introduction to all of us who have, in one way or another, encountered death.

Katja Kobolt and Dunja Kukovec, Artistic directors of the 14th International Festival

of Contemporary Arts – City of Women

Ljubljana, 27th of August 2008