Gender Slipslope. Lesbian Quarter Festival Exhibition
17. 9. 2020 - 27. 9. 2020


Curators: Tia Čiček, Urška Lipovž with the assistance of Laura Gillard

Artists: Cassils, Lea Culetto, Andreja Gomišček, Tatiana Kocmur, Naja Maria Lundstrøm, Liliana Piskorska, Zvonka T. Simčič

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18. 9. at 6 pm: round table Intertwining and divergence of gender and sexual identity

19. 9. at 3 pm: LGBTQI+ tour with Suzana Tratnik (meeting point the Fountain of Hercules at Stari trg)

20. 9. at 11 am: vegan lesbian brunch and viewing of the exhibition with exhibition curators Tia Čiček and Urška Lipovž

20. 9. at 2 pm: film workshop with Simona Jerala (ABC’s of Short Film)

20. 9. at 8 pm: screening of documentary Game On! Queer Disruptions in Sport (Mária Takács, 2019)

20. 9. at 9.30 pm: LGBTQI+ in sports talk (Mária Takács, Suzana Tratnik)

21. 9. at 7 pm: reading texts from the literary competition and new Lesbozine presentation

24. 9. at 6 pm: viewing of the exhibition with exhibition curators Tia Čiček and Urška Lipovž

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The exhibition Gender Slipslope is part of the 6th Lesbian Quarter Festival and highlights the importance of questioning the fluidity of sexuality and gender identity through the artworks of various Slovenian as well as international artists. The post-structuralist conception of gender as a spectral rather than a binary phenomenon has opened up the way for a multitude of queer disidentifications that reveal and break down the fragile and static concepts of gender and sexuality. Through this paradigm, it is often understood that, for example, lesbians have a normative gender identity and that questions about gender and sexuality do not overlap.

The lesbian activist and theoretician Monique Wittig shocked when she elaborated the preposition that lesbians are not women. She explains in her essay The Straight Mind that a lesbian cannot be a woman because the latter is only an object within the realm of heterosexuality.[1] Disregarding the question of whether or not lesbians are women, the lesbian identity has a long and transgressive history of (not) being named and consolidated, which was key for making lesbian identity – and lives! – visible.

The word ‘homosexuality’ was coined in 1869 Germany and it has, as most general terms have (including the term ‘gay people’), obscured the existence of women in same-sex relationships. At the time, lesbians were also described as the third sex and sexual inverts, most of the terms having been invented in the sexology of the fin de siècle. As gender identity and sexual orientation had not yet been separated, the description of gay people as the third sex made perfect sense. If we continue this abbreviated stroll through history, we see that lesbian identity has hardly ever been fixed. In the culture of the lesbian bars of London, Berlin and Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, the identity of a gay woman was two-fold or even compiled of two (sub)genders: ‘butch’ and ‘femme’. These concepts only changed within the feminist and contemporary gay movement, starting with the Stonewall riots in 1969, even though they did not entirely disappear. The word ‘lesbian’ has come to be used in lesbian feminist movements around the world since then and still remains a lighthouse, which spreads visibility around itself. The later consolidation of the term was an important political achievement, which also attempted to define its boundaries in order to not become ‘confused’ with other identities such as bisexual women or trans women. But since Butler’s deconstruction of gender as performative,[2] and the rise of LGBTQI+ movements and identities, it has become difficult and unfruitful to hold on to old boundaries. Although the consolidation of lesbian identity is still the case and it remains important for the younger generations, it is crucial to know that lesbian identity is not assigned to cisgendered[3] women only and that lesbian identities of the so-called past still live and persist up to today.

Allowing for an open discussion amongst queer and feminist theoreticians, the Lesbian Quarter Festival, as well as the exhibition Gender Slipslope. Lesbian Quarter Festival Exhibition, reflects on the fixation and fluidity of non-normative sexual and gender identities in a reciprocal relationship with each other, much like it elaborates on the importance of feminist movements for the formation of the lesbian movement and vice versa. The exhibition builds on the relation between various movements not as a teleological continuum, but as several coexisting concepts that derive from and refine each other.

The participating artists have all individually dealt with and reflected upon their own identities and the very constructs of identities that surround and affect them. Some have used poetic video works to reference the crucial moments of various lesbian and queer movements of the second half of the 20th century (Liliana Piskorska), whereas others have used day-to-day assaults as a trigger to act subversively towards the heteronormative standards of our society (Naja Maria Lundstrøm). Others still have made reference to objects that adorn our bodies – clothing being one of the more crucial builders of our identities – pinpointing to the ways in which this has limited us to a binary understanding of gender (Lea Culetto). Concepts of femininity and desirability as a need to uphold certain standards which quickly become a caricature through exaggeration have also been explored (Tatiana Kocmur). Sculpting one’s body to assume a decidedly beefcake transmasculine form – maxing out in the pursuit of a bodily image that is ultimately unsustainable (Cassils),[4] emphasising the legitimacy of lesbian (or any) desire (Zvonka T. Simčič) and fragmenting the political lesbian identity (Andreja Gomišček), further speak of a much-needed discussion about gender identity and sexual fluidity.

The exhibition Gender Slipslope celebrates diversity and critical thought by breaking the sexual and gender stereotypes that affect our day-to-day lives as well as our very integration within society. Through the diverse presentations of personal, societal and universal clashes, the debate regarding the constructs that form our identities and the subsequent desire to create our own, can move forward.

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Cassils (1975, CA) is a visual artist working in live performance, film, sound, sculpture and photography. Cassils has achieved international recognition through a rigorous engagement with the body as a form of social sculpture.

Andreja Gomišček (1976, SI) graduated in Sociology of Culture and Croatian, Serbian and Macedonian Language at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. She has participated in several Slovenian and international feminist and LGBTQI+ festivals. Her work is concerned with the research of social issues through the prism of lesbian/gay identity.

Tatiana Kocmur (1992, SI) is a visual artist and performer, who has recently been creating and sustaining alternative artist-run spaces. In 2020 completed her postgraduate studies in Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana.

Lea Culetto (1995, SI) is a feminist artist, who finished her postgraduate studies on the Painting programme of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana in 2019 with the thesis “Too Much, Too Little, Never Exactly Right” and Other Tales About the Female Body.

Naja Maria Lundstrøm (1981, DK) works in various media. She graduated from the Funen Art Academy and has been studying at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts for three years. Her artwork takes a critical stance towards social, political and cultural issues. She currently lives and works in Copenhagen.

Liliana Piskorska (1988, PO) graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Toruń and completed her PhD in 2017. Her artwork is concerned with the analysis of social issues from the perspective of radical sensitivity, rooted in the feminist-queer and feminist-posthumanist practice and theory.

Zvonka T. Simčič (1963, SI) is a visual artist whose work questions the social perception of sexual freedoms and controls over the sexual body. Her artworks generally speak of the battle for human rights and are strongly linked to her own experience in the specific social context of a post-socialist society.

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Acknowledgments: Ronald Feldman Gallery, Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Institute CCC, Evan Grm (Transfeminist Initiative TransAkcija Insitute).

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Photos from the opening: Simao Bessa

Exhibition view: Klemen Ilovar

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[1] Monique Wittig, ‘The Straight Mind’ (1980), in The Straight Mind and Other Essays, Boston 1992, pp. 21–32.

[2] Through Simone de Beauvoir’s claims, Butler distinguishes ‘between sex as a biological facticity, and gender, as the cultural interpretation or signification of that facticity’; in Judith Butler, ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory’ (1988), in Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4, 1988, pp. 519–531.

[3] Cisgender: a person whose sex assigned at birth and gender identity align. A simple way to think about it is if a person is not transgender, they are cisgender. “Cis” is a latin prefix that means “on the same side [as]” or “on this side [of]”; in: Sam Killerman, Glossary, A Guide to Gender, 20172, p. 260.

[4] Julia Steinmetz, Notes on Cuts. Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture, New York, 2013.