The annual International Festival of Contemporary Arts – City of Women takes place at the beginning of October. Inviting between forty and sixty women artists and theorists each years, it attracts several thousand visitors from all ages, professions and interests. Since its institution, the Festival has welcomed over seven hundred female and male artists, collectives, groups, curators, theorists and activists from all over the world, ranging from the emerging to the pre-eminent. In establishing liaisons with many different institutional and alternative venues in the city of Ljubljana, Slovenia and abroad, the Festival enjoys wide media exposure. Slovenia’s premier national cultural centre, Cankarjev Dom, has been its main co-producer. The annual festival team is composed mainly of freelancers in the field of culture whilst the current artistic director is Mara Vujič.
Over the years the City of Women has developed a range of specific characteristics that distinguish it from other such events in Slovenia and Europe. As a transdisciplinary festival, it has a rather experimental profile, welcoming artists who experiment with, blur, and even cross, the boundaries of genres. Every Festival’s edition is dedicated to the main topic of artistic, cultural or socio-political relevance, inviting scholars from the fields of cultural and gender studies, to address the issues. The Festival promotes dialogue, knowledge and lively debate among the participating artists, academics and the audience.
As an international festival of contemporary arts, City of Women introduces artists from all over the world, including distant countries and regions that have rarely been presented in Slovenia or the local audience isn’t very familiar with. It is a venue that initiates collaborations between the invited guests, artists as well as institutions and organisations in Slovenia and neighbouring countries. The City of Women organises tours by invited artists in Slovenia and abroad and presents a number of different events outside the Festival’s framework. It reaches out to a broad and diverse audience, and fosters their active participation. In order to achieve this goal, it offers a wide-ranging programme and accommodates festival events at venues across the city which undoubtedly contributes to a higher level of visibility, as well as mixes audiences by staging unconventional or controversial events in so-called mainstream venues and renowned artists in alternative settings. Through various free workshops and lectures, and a theoretical platform, which promotes a greater understanding of cultural identity and contemporary theory, there is also an educational element to the City of Women programme.
Based on the fact that other festivals and art events often neglect women’s art, the main criterion for selection of works and events is women’s authorship: all originators of the actual concepts and ideas being presented are women. In this context, we consider the City of Women to be a platform which draws the attention on the disproportionate representation of, and participation of, women in the arts.
Furthermore the City of Women is focusing on the social reality in which women’s art is produced and wants to reveal some of the conditions of female creativity. The festival has an integrative as well as an injunctive function. It provides the opportunity to integrate women’s art from east and west. It also integrates and situates Slovenian women’s art in a larger cultural framework. The injunctive function of the festival is to entail political awareness of the role and place of women in Slovenian society as well as internationally.
Through international discussion panels and meetings – offering a theoretical reflection on women’s role in culture and enabling a productive comparison between different paradigms – the City of Women hopes to help building that awareness.
Another way by which we attempt to improve the conditions for the production of art by women is by organizing a number of workshops (including performing arts, dance, contemporary multimedia arts, etc. ). Finally, the City of Women hopes to contribute to the idea that women’s art is not something uniform (a presumption creating fertile ground for all kinds of stereotypes) but is rather the opposite.