SOLANGE #27 by Katarina Cibulka. Photo by Kevin Allen.
Austrian artist Katarina Cibulka turns construction sites into feminist conversations in cities in France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Morocco. Now her case has reached US shores.
This morning, she and her team installed a 7,000-square-foot mesh installation on the north facade of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which is under renovation starting in 2021. Made of white mesh and embroidered with hot pink tulle, the work reads: “As the generations change , but our struggles remain the same, I will be a feminist.”
This is the second installation from NMWA’s Lookout project, which repurposes the museum’s scaffolding as a canvas for artwork while undergoing renovations. A four story MISS CHELOVE mural has been on the exterior since March.
“The [scaffolding] presented the perfect opportunity and backdrop for the museum to continue its mission to champion women artists even as the indoor galleries are temporarily closed,” Hannah Shambroom, NMWA exhibition coordinator, wrote via email. The project is financially supported by the Share Fund and members of NSMR.
For Cibulka, this is the 27th installation of her four-year project titled “Solange,” the German word for “enough,” which is how the catchphrases of all her installations begin. Cibulka says she adapts the phrases to the concerns of the women in the places where they are hanged.
In France, her installation reads: “As long as my anatomy determines my autonomy, I will be a feminist.” In Italy: “As long as it takes balls to get to the top, I will be a feminist.” In Austria: “As long as he makes money, while I work for change, I’ll be a feminist.’
Last spring, 70 locals submitted suggestions for the DC phrase. Numerous topics emerged: closing the pay gap, ensuring adequate parental leave, embracing female sexuality, and of course protecting bodily autonomy, to name a few. In the end, Cibulka settled on one catch-all statement: “As long as the generations change but our struggles remain the same, I will be a feminist.”
Her massive installations – which take around ten days to embroider with tulle as thread – are purposefully draped over construction sites where several themes are at play. On the one hand, Cibulka enjoys the contrast of embroidery – a traditionally feminine craft – in highly visible but often male-dominated spaces. Also, the symbolism of being in a space still under construction felt too powerful to pass up.
“So as long as something is wrong, something has to change,” says Cibulka. “The construction site is in progress. And society is also under construction, so it’s a nice canvas.”
Of course, being in such public spaces, reactions are bound to be mixed.
“A lot of people are really impressed and very happy to see a feminist claim,” says Cibulka. “But then there are people who think we should take it down; they think that women have already achieved everything, maybe even more than they should, and that we are already equal. And then a lot of people have a problem with the word ‘feminist.'”
But for Cibulka, the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the recent uprisings led by women in Iran suggest otherwise.
“Unfortunately, [these events] they show how current our work is”, says Cibulka. “What we want is for people to discuss; we want to invite everyone to join the conversation. … When I was asked a year ago if I wanted to do this job two blocks from the White House, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, now we’re really close to the heart of power.’
The installation will continue until February 26, 2023.