Red Dawn above the City of Women

Since 2000, Red Dawns festival has been working inside, alongside, and against the society, which disfavours women and sexual minorities – especially those that emphasize their markedness in order to point out the sexual hierarchies otherwise taken for granted. Because the promise of equality – nurtured by the image of red-haired heroine Zora, and the red morning sky – in capitalist barbarism is moving further away, it has not been easy to continue to organize the festival. Why this is so and where is the neoliberal re-patriarhalization of the society taking us will be explained by two theorists, Lilijana Burcar and Jasmina Husanović. Their lectures are going to wrap up the extensive festival program, dedicated to the Grand Domestic Revolution and the expansion of critical literacy.

As far as this year's festival image is concerned, our long-term designer Anna Ehrlemark decided to make use of the barbed flower symbol so as to pay homage to our co-operation with the Uprising Social Workers (Vstajniške socialne delavke). In March this year we launched a so-called Wall of Shame – a blog collecting misogynist, sexist, and homophobic statements of famous Slovene personalities. The fact that intellectuals and politicians can afford to say anything without consequences, without punishment, is ‘žabotno’, or sad indeed. ‘Žabotno’ is a neologism, created out of the surname of a Slovene writer, whom we ‘awarded’ with a barbed flower for the sexist statement of the decade. The word found its place in the free dictionary of spoken Slovene language, Unleashed Tongue (Razvezani jezik). Hopefully, both the Barbed Flower Award and Unleashed Tongue represent a big enough threat to the Žabot-likes, that, next time, they are going to bite their tongues before saying something sexist again. The scissors on the posters are, however, not for them; rather, they represent our desire to cut the world out in our shape.

The festival begins at Metelkova mesto with Kerry Howarth’s yarn bombing of public space. She will also conduct a workshop on the basics of knitting and crocheting. Although knitting is stereotypically linked to women, today's guerrilla knitting has little to do with the safety of the household. On the Square with No Historical Memory, just a few steps away from the institutions defining the artistic canon, Ana Čigon is going to leave a permanent mark. Her performance, Dear Ladies, Thank You, will become a unique monument to feminist, lesbian, and queer artists, excluded from the androcentric and heteronormative historicization of art.

The conception of the Red Dawns festival is linked both to our need for collective and public fight against inequalities, and to the need to nurture our own public and safe space for socializing and the retreat from pressure. Accordingly, it would have been sinful if we did not dedicate some of our attention to pleasure. This is the reason why we invited Bibliothèque Érotique to Ljubljana. They are a self-organizing library and a group of performers from Amsterdam, who are going to read erotic stories focusing on the fleshy needs of women and queers. There is also going to be a sound performance by two female musicians from Vienna – chra and Cherry Sunkist – which will sharpen our hearing capabilities by performing in pure darkness. Their mixture of pop, dub, ambient, and minimal techno is going to sound differently in the darkness than it would with the lights on.

Feminist public spaces are important also because we want to reach out and make the society understand the importance of feminist issues. This includes the demand for the inclusion of identity politics into the strivings for the re-distribution of national and global wealth, or the recognition that the emancipation of economically most vulnerable women should be a criterion for the emancipation as such. Until then, we will be working to bring the oppression of women into the general consciousness.

We address anyone who is willing to listen, as much as that is possible by organising a spectacular one-month event. We know that the art market, which we are a part of due to our financial support from the European Commission, has long been appropriating political art. Besides, feminist art often plays the role of a social corrective: firstly, by mitigating the effects of social hierarchies, it is taking on the role that should be played by the social state; secondly, by favouring self-organized, participatory-based, and collective practices that offer suggestions for better living, feminist art merges with socially beneficial forms of activism. Due to this instrumental inclination, there is less space for the ‘impossible’, that is, for the experimentation and expressivity, which have been historically connected to women, even though we could all use these qualities, especially today when the political is being reduced to official politics. This is the reason why the slogan ‘bringing chaos to structure’, which is going to be enacted on the stage of Menza pri koritu by Damenkapelle, shall be more than welcome. We are, however, not sure whether the fact that 'the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained’ in Damenkapelle’s relaxing rage, should make us happy or sad.

What furthers the depolitization of our festival is the fact that we, as organizers, despite European support, remain overworked and underpaid project workers. Because of that support, the Red Dawns team and the artists are going to be paid decently for the second time in our fourteen-year-long history. Yet, the question is what price we are going to pay for this. Are we going to be able to attend Inga Cholomogorova's butoh performance on the consequences of striving for artistic success on her own life? Will we have the time to go to the workshop on burn-out prevention? The workshop will follow the meeting of fifteen women's, feminist, LGBTI, and queer initiatives from former Yugoslavia, where we are going to discuss the possibility of exchanging program items and of applying for financial support together. All these groups fight for the public recognition of contemporary women artists, theorists, activists, and cultural workers in order to increase their – and our own – social security. This is why our precarious work can nevertheless be seen as a bitter, yet historically important moment in the long struggle for better working conditions and the re-distribution of wealth.

The resistance to structural causes of gender asymmetry remains the reason for our existence and the reason for our continual search for political allies. This year, we have allied with the City of Women festival. Our joint festival Red Dawn above the City of Women continues our locally situated feminist and queer politics. We look across national borders, because we believe that patriarchy is transnational. We are convinced that borders between genders as well as between nations and classes can be crossed, moved, and demolished with art, activism, and theory; that these forms of expression intertwine in our struggle for the ‘impossible’ – for that which is yet to come. For example, for a world without sexual violence, which, in the street performance of ACT Women, seems far, far away. This performance portrays the hard process that sexually abused women have to undergo, from the experience of violence up until the moment they decide to report the abuse to the police and dare say: ‘Rape is never a woman's fault. The perpetrator is the one who should be ashamed.’

We hope that our festival reaches you. And we hope that the critical insights and pleasurable experiences we offer in our program are going to help you live – not only survive, but live in hope that one day, the sun is going to really rise above the City of Women. Tea Hvala