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Katrin Kivimaa

Rethinking Our Im/Possibilities: Feminism, Art, and Estonia

In Estonia, as in several other post-socialist countries, the emergence of feminist art practices in the mid-1990s was intimately related to curatorial initiatives that were framed around the concept of feminism. The latter was, at least initially, thought of and used as an artworld concept inspired by the examples of Anglo-American and Nordic art scenes where, by that time, feminist art had already become accepted and institutionalised. The leading role of a few influential curators intially created a situation which encouraged feminist art through aiming to find, generate and support artistic practices with feminist, proto- or semi-feminist agendas and to provide them with an institutional and discursive framework.

In recent years, different kinds of feminist projects have emerged. Often they are generated outside or on the margins of the professionalised artworld and are initiated or curated by freelance artists. These independent exhibitions, events or festivals take place in non-institutionalised cultural venues. Thus, they clearly indicate a shift in strategic thinking: recent feminist/queer curatorial practices demonstrate a significant move towards social activism and engagement and away from the self-sufficiency and self-centeredness of the local artworld.

Katrin Kivimaa (PhD) is a senior researcher and professor at the Institute of Art History, Estonian Academy of Arts. Her research focuses on Estonian 20th century and contemporary art, feminist art history, nationalism and art, and visual culture. She has written extensively about women’s and feminist art in Estonia and is a co-editor of a collection of Estonian translations of key texts of feminist art history. In 2009-2010, she was part of the research team for the exhibition Gender Check: Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe (MUMOK, Vienna and Zacheta Gallery, Warsaw). In 2010, she co-curated the exhibition The Soviet Woman in Estonian Art at the Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn.