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Mara Traumane

Women’s Art, Collectivity and the Undisturbed National Canon: Issues of Feminism and Exhibitions in Latvia 1977–2010

My presentation will focus on selected exhibitions and projects by women artists in Latvia, from 1977 to 2010. I will review how those projects were reflected by art critics and the media, and how they are related to ideas of feminism. I will take the 1977 international photographic exhibition Woman with a Camera, and the statement that ‘women have already proved that they are and are able to be gifted photographers’, as my point of departure. I will then wander through the ‘strange world’ of women’s artistic creativity and the ‘feminised, postmodern’ characteristics of painting at the end of the 1980s. At the end of the 1990s, the women artists’ group LN Women’s League declared their opposition to the ‘aggressive and sexist tradition of feminism’; I will examine reactions to this and address the lasting hostility towards feminist discourse among women artists’ initiatives and institutions. I will review the re-emergence during recent years of the feminist agenda, which has begun to inquire into the position and ‘framing’ of feminist and women’s art projects: for example, renderings of women’s artistic practices as ‘group’ phenomena and the attribution of feminist perspectives exclusively to contemporary art practices without rooting them in art-historical context. I will also question current approaches towards issues of gender by major institutions such as the Latvian National Museum of Art.

Mara Traumane is a researcher, art critic and curator working in Berlin and Riga. She focuses on comparative research of art in the Eastern Europe after WWII. She is currently writing her PhD on Interdisciplinary art collectives in Riga and Moscow in the 1970s and 1980s at Humboldt University, Berlin and is editing an anthology of the Latvian artists group Workshop for the Restoration of Unfelt Feelings (NSRD). In 2010 she curated the performance section of the exhibition And Others. Movements, Explorations and Artists in Latvia 1960–1984 devoted to the unofficial art phenomena during the Soviet time. In 20082010 she conducted Latvian research for the exhibition Gender Check: Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe and co-organised related symposiums Reading Gender: Art, Power and Politics of Representation in Eastern Europe (2009) and Gender Check: Narratives and Exhibition practices (2010).