Isn’t She Too Old for That – On Witches, 2013


The concept of witches is still filled in our collective memory with negative connotations, reflecting the ever-present entrenched resistance of the patriarchal worldview to accepting the image of a powerful, creative and intelligent woman, who self-assuredly and independently creates and works according to her own free will and conceptions.

Thanks to the contribution of many feminist authors to the historicisation and politicisation of the phenomenon of witches and the persecution of witches, it is known that they were healers, custodians and transmitters of precious folk knowledge and skills, as well as rebels who, from positions at the very margins of society, took part in resistance to the impending capitalist system.

In the drawings of medieval artist, witches are shown as terrifying and grotesque old women. This ideology, which stands behind the persecution of witches, is responsible for the resemanticisation of old women, from symbol of wisdom to sign of menace.  Many women who were persecuted as witches were indeed members of older age groups, and above all belonged to the poorest strata of society. According to Silvia Federica, “older women were those who within the community offered the greatest resistance to the destruction of communal connections in the face of the expansion of capitalist relationship. They were a live treasury of the knowledge and memory of the community.” The long-term Witches project takes as its point of departure just this kind of conceptualisation of the witch as one who embodies the historical and symbolic force of resistance to capitalism as social system based on violence and inequality, the witch as bearer of subaltern and resistant practices, experiences and knowledge, that have to be reactivated in the context of the current struggles by those who are on the economic and social sidelines of the capitalist system.

The project consists of two parts. The first is an open (textual and visual) archive, to be supplemented depending on the place it is shown at. The second part consists of free advice centres for the public, the objective being to test out alternative models to the current political and economic system, such as: exchange, giving and recycling knowledge, ideas, skills, goods.  To be invited are experts (M and F) from various areas such as labour, law, health, education, philosophy and art.

*See: Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, Autonomedia, 2004

Sanja Iveković was born in 1949, in Zagreb, where she currently lives and works. She studied at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts from 1968 to 1971 and her early practice in the 1970s was associated with ‘Nova Umjetnička Praksa’ (New Art Practice), a generation of artists in Yugoslavia who questioned the role of art in society and strove to democratise artistic space by abandoning galleries and taking to the streets through performances and the use of cheap, accessible materials. Iveković’s point of departure has been her own life and social positioning as a woman, the influence of mass media as well as the politics of power in the contexts of socialist and post-socialist society.

Selected solo exhibitions include:
The Disobedients (Neposlušni/e), Galerija SC, Zagreb, Croatia, 2012; Visages du Langage, MAC/VAL, France, 2012; Waiting for the Revolution, Mudam Luxembourg, 2012; Sweet Violence, MoMA, New York, 2011; Urgent Matters, BAK Utrecht and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2009; General Alert, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, 2007.

Selected group exhibitions include:
A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance, Tate Modern, 2012; Promises of the Past, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2012; Gender Check: Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, 2010; After the Wall: Art in Post-Communist Europe, Ludwig Museum, Budapest, 2000; and several shows at the Generali Foundation in Vienna from 2000–2005.

Iveković has participated in the Gwangju Biennale in 2010, in dOCUMENTA (13), (12), (11) and (8), in 2012, 2007, 2002 and 1987, and the Istanbul Biennial, 2009 and 2007. Her works have repeatedly won prizes at film and video festivals, including Locarno and Montreal. She is the facilitator and founder of a large number of political initiatives including Electra – The Women’s Art Centre and the Centre for Women’s Studies in Zagreb.