Tanja Ostojić’s performance workshop “Misplaced Women?” was held from 6th to 8th April 2021 in Split, organized by platform Culture Hub Croatia (CHC), as part of the year-round program of the project Voids2021. A total of five participants, selected on the basis of an open call, attended the workshop: Mia Bradić, Ines Borovac, Katarina Duplančić, Lissette Nicole Josseau and Alejandra Robles Sosa, and for the performance the workshop leader and organizers from CHC also joined. A public presentation showcasing the results of the workshop was held on April 8th in the Amphitheater of the Youth Center (Dom Mladih), with participants sharing reflections after their performances.
“Misplaced Women?” is an art project by Tanja Ostojić consisting of performances, series of performances, workshops and delegated performances, which has been running since 2009, so we were extremely glad to be part of this distinguished project, especially because we managed to gather participants from different profiles and generations, who told their stories, touched upon numerous topics and opened some important questions with their performances.
“Misplaced Women?” workshop was held as part of the program of the project Voids2021, which, among other things, deals with the issue of space, so our work in the public space was above all a natural development of the program. Although so far within the project we have operated mainly in private spaces, or those on the border of public and private (with occasional “trips” to the completely public – as, for example, during last year’s performance of Mia Kevo’s “Common Sense”), in this year’s edition we chose to enrich activities in the public space. Public space, which by definition suggests something accessible to all, nevertheless includes restrictions (for example, determined by pandemic measures or city regulations), which indicate a certain power over the space of those who set these restrictions. At the same time responding to these constraints and challenging them, performance is in this sense a dialogue with the city, with the meanings of its places and public space that is in itself already strongly performative.
As an organization that has been operating without a physical space for work (hub) since its foundation, we are used to carrying out activities nomadically – in the premises of other organizations, cafes, souvenir shops, restaurants. Going out and acting in a public space in our work is a perfectly logical option. However, public space in a pandemic takes on an additional role or, more specifically, in our example, gains in importance – given the existing epidemiological measures and limited capacity of closed / private spaces, we are forced to use public space in our work if we want to carry out certain activities. We met the first challenge of not having our own space on the first day, when the introductory conversation was held and the participants were introduced, both to each other and to the work methodology. Due to the rain, staying outdoors was difficult, so we spent this introductory day on the stairs of the porch of the Fine Arts Gallery, where we learned more about the project “Misplaced Women?”, about different ways to participate and agreed on guidelines for the work on the following day. Participants were given instructions to think about their performance until the next meeting and to choose the personal items they want to use.
On the second day of the workshop, we met in the temporary office of “Voids” – Diocletiano souvenir shop in Bosanska 4. Some of the participants already had a clear picture of what they wanted to do, while the rest of the details formed in the later stage – even literally – being related to locations, as well as specific elements of individual performances. It was interesting to follow the process of developing the very idea of performance that was then taking place.
One of the main principles of the “Misplaced Women?” Platform, community building and building of the safe space for the realization of performances, was reflected in the fact that workshop participants, leaders, organizers, as well as friends of the organisation and gallery formed a dozen women and girls who moved around the city and supported each other especially in the process of the actual performances, collaborating on a creative and organizational level and participating in the works of other participants when it made sense, as well as giving feedback during discussions after each of the performances. By participating in this project, we have all become part of a large international community and were invited to join future international activities and meetings such as Misplaced Community performance weekends, exhibitions and gatherings.
Finally, places of particular social and historical significance were selected, each corresponding to a particular performance. First, Peristil – as a place of power, in Tanja Ostojić’s performance “On Attempts at Rape” collaborating with Mia Bradić and Alejandra Robles Sosa, served as a place from which a woman is speaking from a “position of power” literally, while opening the public space to expression of trauma while facing with it within that space.
A different connotation of the Peristil came from the performance by Ines Borovac – with her back turned to the bell tower of Saint Doimus, which in its masculine form towered over the fragile female body, naked and exposed to the storm and the cold.
Riva as a place of display of our own personality, like a catwalk, a place of validation (of women) was used in performance by Nicole Lissete Josseau, inviting us to symbolically leave everything that belongs to us as a decor and constructs our external identity. An interesting link here can be made with a commercial gallery or fair, but with the catwalk, where, in this case humanoid exhibits are on display, observed and evaluated as objects.
Two places – the bus station and the ferry port, as places of transition, crossing, movement, are symbols of nomadic life. They have become places of expression for those who are forced to travel (Mia Bradić) and those who are looking for ways to stay (Alejandra Robles Sosa).
The only performance moved from the city center, the performance of Katarina Duplančić, held on the plateau in front of the Youth Center (Dom Mladih), dealt with the topic of the precarity of cultural workers and the inability to separate private and professional spheres.
Finally, our performance, “Misplaced Organization?” is an act of struggle for the space of action. It was the only performance within the workshop with the score to perform no. 2: holding inscriptions, while the performances of Nicole, Alejandra and Mia took place according to the score for the performance no. 1: unpacking the personal bag. The scores served as an orientation and a frame, and the final form of the performance could be developed inside or outside of them.
Tourists were mostly those participating as public, which did not surprise us. From our experience, local people are mostly either surprised, or hesitant, or completely ignorant (what usually occurs after the initial surprise). This was particularly evident in Nicole’s performance. Thus, she became just another exhibit, almost instantly the subject of observation with somewhat hesitant interest, but without actually joining the performance act or questioning what exactly it was about. Finding new methods to encourage participation is proving to be necessary; however, we consider these individual contributions a significant step and progress.
A wide range of possibilities of reading and interpretation affects our understanding of public space but also our relationship to it. We must constantly remind ourselves that this can be a space of expression and a space of freedom, but that it remains a space in which power relations are very much visible. Therefore, any displacement from it should be questioned evermore.
In the post-production phase, a video of each performance was created, and every participant prepared a text about their work, the process and motivation. Video performances are posted on Misplaced Women? Vimeo channel, and bilingual texts on “Misplaced Women?” blog.
List of performances in the frame of “Misplaced Women?” workshop in Split:
Misplaced Latina by Alejandra Robles Sosa
#WeAreNotJustDecoration by Lissette Nicole Josseau
Routine by Mia Bradić
Feminism Forgives by Ines Borovac
Self-exploitation by Katarina Duplančić
O pokušajima silovanja by Tanja Ostojić
Misplaced Organization? by Culture Hub Croatia