Ivan Cankar Cultural Center
October 8 – 13, 2001
Barbara Borcic, Director of Ljubljana Center for Contemporary Arts, WBB Coordinator
Koen Van Daele, Program Coordinator
Nada Beros, WBB Contact and Coordinator
The WBB exhibition in Slovenia was presented at the Seventh International Festival of Contemporary Arts – City of Women, as a permanent virtual exhibition at the Ivan Cankar Cultural Center.
A VIVID NETWORK
Barbara Borcic – SLOVENIA
WBB demonstrates an incredible richness and diversity, rarely seen in today’s art-scene.
Remember Mail Art? Lorraine Serena and Elena Siff – two committed artists from Santa Barbara, USA – decided to give the seventies’ term a completely different (female?) dimension. They mailed identical, miniature wooden boxes to curators and artists in over thirty countries. They asked each one of them to forward the boxes to up to twelve renowned or emerging women artists. And they invited each artist to interpret, manipulate, recreate the box, and then return it to sender. The result is Women Beyond Borders (aka WBB), an unprecedented cross-cultural exhibition, involving 600 artists, curators, and critics from around the globe. The boxes were transformed in a variety of ways via painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, photography, or mixed media. They were expanded, smashed, buried or deconstructed. Some artists kept the intimate character of the box keeping secrets or treasures, while others emphasized the claustrophobic notion. Every box contains its “message”, be it conceptual or figurative, dark or colorful, refined and sophisticated or rudimentary, provocative or pleasing, hidden or overt, enigmatic or manifest. Each box tells a different story. Each story is told from a different perspective.
In a time when it’s business as usual that one curator or one institution conceives, selects, and curates an exhibition, the founders of Women Beyond Borders challenge this common model by experimenting with, and re-introducing a collective approach. The surplus value is obvious: WBB demonstrates an incredible richness and diversity, rarely seen in today’s art-scene. And, more than just an exhibit, WBB is also a vivid network, connecting participating artists from around the world, fostering unique collaborations and spin-off activities. The transport from Austria to St. Petersburg in 1996 for instance was organized as a traveling sculpture, presenting 178 boxes in a train, accompanied by artists and journalists. Two years later 26 boxes travelled and were exhibited throughout Nepal in the context of a women’s activists trek.
“Building community is my art form” says artistic director and founder Lorraine Serena. Beside the artistic value of the individual pieces the collective dimension of the project is perhaps its most powerful characteristic. WBB is much more than the sum-total of its parts. In other words: these are boxes to treasure. Since 1992 Women Beyond Borders has toured through over thirty galleries and museums worldwide. From November on it will be on display at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History in Los Angeles. City of Women presents a permanent slide installation with a selection of exhibits from Argentina, Australia, Bosnia, Croatia, Cuba, Ecuador, Fiji, Guatemala, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines, Tibet, Uganda, USA, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Zambia, and Slovenia. The participating artists from Slovenia are: Marija Mojca Pungercar, Ema Kugler, Janja Vrabec.
THREE SLOVENE ARTISTS
February 25, 1998
For the international project Women Beyond Borders, I have chosen three Slovene woman artists: Marija M. Pungercar, Ema Kugler, Janja Vrabec.
In their art practice all three artists have been occupied by the question of woman and the position of woman artist in the society. In some specific aspects their artwork has been related to fashion. Two of them, Marija M. Pungercar and Ema Kugler, have been known as fashion, set, and costume designers. Their creations, however, have never been meant to be simply worn. They have always been used in the context of performance, exploring the symbolic, semantic, and visual possibilities of dress-as-object within the framework of a contemporary ritual. These experiences can be traced in their recent art practice.
Ema Kugler’s field of interest covers different media: performance, installation, and video. Her inter-media performances combine word, body-sculpture, movement, acting, video picture, and music. The performances form a basis for her video works of advanced technology questioning the relation between nature and culture, mythology and everyday rituals.
Marija M. Pungercar’s installations and performances are characterized by play and humor and are, at the same time, reflections upon the repeated everyday rituals, bond to place and time. We could say that the artist has become a contemporary nomad willing to share her experiences with others.
Janja Vrabec explores the relation between a painting (its margins and the decentered surface), real objects (clothes, a shoe, a handbag, flowers), ready-made images (shadow pictures), and the specific gallery space. The artist arranges the material into still lives, and finally freezes a chosen incident into a frame. Her recent objects derives from the artist’s own imagery. They are fragile personal memories, subtly transformed and combined into works of art.