PSR Ecstatic Bodies: Archive of Performative Queer Bodies in Macedonia
The activities related to the group exhibition „Ecstatic Bodies: Archive of Performative Queer Bodies in Macedonia“ were part of the program of the 10th edition of the festival for queer arts, culture and theory Skopje Pride Weekend 2022, and this program was realized in collaboration between the SPW and Lokomotiva.
The exhibition „Ecstatic Bodies: Archive of Performative Queer Bodies in Macedonia“ was developed as a result of ongoing research project by the exhibition curators, Slavcho Dimitrov and Biljana Tanurovska -Kjulavkovski, that also was part of the intensive development of the regional Archive of dance as part of Lokomotiva and Nomad Dance Academy initiatives.
During the research, the curators started communication and initiated meetings with the artists and cultural producers/workers to be included in the exhibition, which was followed by collection of archive materials and re-production of the art works and practices included in the exhibition. The final phase included an intense week long work of setting the exhibition in the two exhibition rooms at the Museum of Contemporary Arts-Skopje.
The research and exhibition focused on various performing, dancing and curatorial practices, i.e. performative aspects in the field of art and beyond, in North Macedonia. These practices stage what we call the "other body", whose otherness is set in relation to institutionalized artistic frameworks, normative and hegemonic (bio) political apparatuses (Foucault) and the "distribution of the sensible" (Ranciere), and, in particular, the sexual and gender regimes of body politics. This archive of contemporary queer / feminist performances in Macedonia covered the period from the last 4 decades, more precisely from the 70s of the 20th century until today. It explored and incorporated: a variety of art performance practices, which we approached as feminist performances and practices within the visual and performing arts, queer performances, everyday queer and club choreographies in the 1990s and today, the beginnings of gender studies and theory, political performance, the festival for queer arts, culture and theory Skopje Weekend of Pride, as well as other festivals and practices that we researched and read in the field of the set problem and topic. Focusing on the performative practices that critically activate the contingency and instability of the performance of identities and bodily boundaries, in this exhibition our interest was the performances that we archived as a queer because: they demystify social norms, normalcy, and the bourgeois morality of the Western masculine rational subject as historical effects of compulsory performances and exclusionary practices; they approach gender as a problem instead of as an assumption and a metaphysical substance; they see in sexuality the possibility of antagonistic re-performance of biopolitical scenarios and redefinition of identity categories, and not a universal natural category on the basis of which social bodies and lives are hierarchized; and they approach the body as an open, dynamic, ecstatic and relational materiality, whose boundaries, surface and layers are subject to constant negotiation and rearticulation, and not a closed transhistorical system and destiny. The exhibition presented the performative queer body and the performative as a political performance and collective public staging of bodies that resist, revolt, and show solidarity, while mobilizing their vulnerability, defiantly and persistently appropriating and redefining their social's abjection, and create spaces, relations and communities of support, ie horizons and world-building projects of non-normative life-forms.
The final list of artists, organizations and practices that were included in the research and the exhibition included: Wolfgang Tillmans, Nora Stojanovic, Milosh Kodzoman and Dragoljub Bezan, Hristina Ivanoska, Velimir Zernovski, Yane Chalovski, Sands Murray Wassink, Kocho Andonovski, Natasha Geleva, STEAM ROOM, Aleksandar Georgiev, Dario Barreto Damas, Viktorija Ilioska, Laura Fer, Mirko Popov, Zoran Ristevski-Bajbe, Ivana Dragsic, Sonja Ismail, TEMPLUM, Euro-Balkan Institute, Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities Skopje, Museum of Contemporary Arts, FRIK Festival, First Born Girl, and Skopje Pride Weekend. The material presented included art works (photography, videos, video documentation of performances), archival materials (newspaper articles, published books and magazines, photographs, exhibition posters and catalogues), installations of archive materials as well as one sound installation of music DJ sets and compilations representing the queer clubbing history in Skopje, and two newly produced performance and choreographic works by Hristina Ivanoska, and Aleksandar Georgiev and Dario Barreto Damas, that were performed on the night of the exhibition and festival opening in the Museum of Contemporary Arts.
The exhibition was opened on June 2, at 20:30h at the Museum, and the opening was attended by app. 350 people. Apart from the exhibited material, on the opening night Hristina Ivanoska presented her new performance “„Document Missing: Performance no. 6 (Daughter)“, and Aleksandar Georgiev performed his new landscape choreographic work “Echoes of S”, together with Dario Barreto Damas. The exhibition was open for the audience for a period of one month and was further visited and seen in the course of this month by app. 600 Museum visitors.
Once the festival organizers published the photos from the exhibition opening on the festival’s social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, they faced homophobic backlash motived by the nudity in the choreographic work of Aleksandar Georgiev. The homophobic hate speech was spread, and restricted to, mostly by individual users and anti-gender movement groups on social media, and as such did not receive or spread through traditional media.
The programme of the Skopje Pride Weekend continued the following days, and was further presented during September with a several more performances. On June 3 at MoCA, the audience had the opportunity to see the performance by Julie Tolentino and Stosh Fila (USA) – “bury.me.fiercly.”. Julie Tolentino is a cult American artist of Filipino and Salvadorian descent, who explores the interspace of race, gender, relativity, and archiving in her performances/installations. On June 4, also at MoCA, a cabaret performance was held by the legendary David Hoyle (UK), known in the 1990s as Divine David. As part of the June program, the festival also included a public lecture by Jasmina Tumbas (USA), on June 7 at the MoCA, who presented her latest book published by Manchester University Press - "I am a Yugoslovenka!: Feminist performance politics during and after Yugoslav socialism “; performance presentations by Jasmine Hearn, zave martaarjo, Jay Boy and Sarah A.O. Rosner (USA) in Mala Stanica Gallery, in cooperation with Lokomotiva. The June edition of the festival was closed with an evening of queer storytelling SHAME ON YOU! lead by PeachPreach, and in partnership with TiiiiT!Inc. During the September edition of the festival, the festival programme included a dance performance by French choreographer Matthieu Hocquemiller, called “Ethics”, performed by Patrice Desmons and Pierre Emö, a performance “Not for Oscar” by Julischka Stengele from Austria, and an evening of Voguing and Drag Party, as official closing of the festival, with dance and drag performances by Hoedy Saad and Celine (Beirut), and Tokyo de Ville and Divon Jane (MCD), followed by DJ sets by Ivana Dragsic (MKD) and Markiza de Sada (SRB).
All of the events organized in the frames of this year’s SPW had great attendance and wide echo in the public. Apart from the exhibition, each of the performances was visited by app. 150-200 people, while the SHAME ON YOU! event that took place the Theatre Comedy was visited by 300 people. The closing party that took place at the nightclub Stanica26 was attended by 500 people.
Not only the live attendance, what is even more important is that there were many positive reactions and enormous reach (organic reach) on social networks. As a result of the continuous communication with media and journalists, this year’s SPW was covered by the media to a great extent. In total, app. More than 50 media articles were published on the SPW, including printed media, electronic and new media. All of the events of the festival were video recorded, and we have prepared a final video presenting the atmospheres and the events that took place as part of the festival, to be published after the submission of this report. Media articles and press clipping is available on the drive link sent in the e-mail with the report. All videos and hard copies of media articles are available upon request.
This year's focus on Skopje Pride Weekend 2022 according to the concept and programme developed by the festival curator was set on ECSTATIC BODIES and the festival included diverse cultural venues and institutions. Exhibition was at the in Museum of Contemporary Arts.