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Feminism Forgives

In Performances, Split on May 5, 2021 at 11:01 pm

Ines Borovac developed and performed for the first time Feminism Forgives in front of the Saint Domnius Cathedral in Split on April 7, 2021, in the frame of Misplaced Women? workshop led by Tanja Ostojić, inviting the audience to embody sexually liberated Mary Magdalene, the role of institutionally stigmatised woman and the unexplored powers she carries…

Feminism Forgives

Contribution by Ines Borovac 

During my adolescence age, I have been faithfully attending the Sunday mass as considering myself Christian. Unfortunately, my approach towards Church was superficial at a time. Looking at it now, it is clear I was motivated by the lack of religious diversity in my social and family circle. I didn’t pay much attention to what the priest was saying nor applying or understanding the ideology of the Christian community as much. Nonetheless, my physical presence was soaking up the Christian ideologies, more then I wanted and could control. The influence was undeniably present inside of my body. Entering the sexual awakening as a teenager, I was a little bit disappointed. The intensity of the sexual desire was not as expected, on the contrary, it was barely present. Whereas, when the desire would appear, it would come in bursts and would make me feel uncomfortable, dirty and guilty for feeling the pleasure I was allowed to feel.

Ines Borovac: “Feminism Forgives” Misplaced Women? workshop Split, 2021. Photo: Tanja Ostojić
Ines Borovac: “Feminism Forgives” Misplaced Women? workshop Split, 2021. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

Croatia is still a religiously homogenous country where more than 90 percent of the population is identifying as Christian, not leaving the young generations much space to explore and own their body and identity. Thus, the performative piece is inviting the audience to identify with the character of sexually liberated Mary Magdalene. With the symbolic gesture of washing the feet (just like Mary Magdalene did to Jesus when she was asking for redemption for her sins), performative act is inviting the audience to embody the role of institutionally stigmatized woman and the unexplored power she carries. Contrary to the Biblical story, the audience was not washing the feet of the forgiver’s body (Jesus) but mine, feminist body with the red letters written on my chest saying “feminism forgives”. Wearing nothing but a skirt and bra, I set exposing my feminine vulnerability radiating the motherly strength of understanding and care. Therefore, instead of begging for forgiveness, with the gesture of washing the feet of the misplaced feminist body, I took a role of the medium through which one is encouraged for the “sins”, opposite to the atonement and change.

Ines Borovac: “Feminism Forgives” Misplaced Women? workshop Split, 2021. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

The performative act took place in front of one of the oldest churches in the region, the Cathedral of Saint Domnius (Katedrala Svetog Duje) on April 7, 2021. The performance lasted 30-40 minutes, influenced by the weather conditions, cold wind, low temperatures and very cold stone ground, my wet feet were lying on. I could not help but notice that the people leaving or entering the Cathedral were ignoring the performance, acting like it wasn’t happening (avoiding the eye contact and bypassing), – which could be seen as denying such realities and rejecting liberated female bodies from the Christian community, labelling them as marginalised bodies. Parents were turning away their curious children looks or even changing the walking route not to confront the performance. Ironically, while I was taking off my clothes, the male passers stopped to observe and show interest, showing us the transparency of the patriarchal culture in Croatia. Apart from female participants of the workshop, there were other brave woman who challenged their inner Mary Magdalene and participated in activation the performance. At this point the performance expanded from the workshop circle towards the interaction with other bodies, making me endlessly happy.

Ines Borovac: “Feminism Forgives” Misplaced Women? workshop Split, 2021. Video: Andrea Resner

On this occasion, I would like to thank all the women who’ve embraced Mary Magdalene during the performance (Kristina Tešija, Lissette Nicole Josseau, Alejandra Robles Sosa, Jasmina Šarić, a group of South-American tourist girls, Tanja Ostojić, Mia Bradić, Neli Ružić…) and the ones who are still carrying and searching for her inside themselves. Thank you Tanja Ostojić for holding the workshop and all the other beautiful participants I met; Culture Hub Croatia girls for organisation and confronting the Split with such topics; Andrea Resner for commitment and creation of the digital archive.

Ines Borovac (b.1996) is a student at Design Academy Eindhoven (NL) where she is enrolled on the Masters program of Social Design. In her design work, she is often working with performance and body as the locus for social change and critique. Ines is currently working on her thesis project where she is researching the topic of patriarchy in Croatia, performativity of the patriarchal values and Croatian traditional dance. She holds a bachelor degree from the School of Design, Zagreb

Ines Borovac: “Feminism Forgives” Misplaced Women? workshop Split, 2021. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

Text written by: Ines Borovac

Edited and first published by Tanja Ostojić on the Misplaced Women? Project Blog, May 4, 2021

Translation from English to Croatian (see below): Ines Borovac

Copy editing: Cultural Hub Croatia (CHC)

This performance has been developed and performed for the first time in the frame of Misplaced Women? workshop led by Tanja Ostojić, in Split, April 6-8, 2021. 

Performed by: Ines Borovac

Performance assistance: Alejandra Robles Sosa

Photos: Tanja Ostojić and Neli Ružić

Video recording & editing: Andrea Resner

Hosted and organised by CHC in the frame of Voids2021 

Production: Misplaced Women? Project, ongoing since 2009

Instagram: @lochnesi

Ines Borovac: “Feminism Forgives” Misplaced Women? workshop Split, 2021. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

Croatian/ HR PRIJEVOD 

Lokacija: Katedrala Svetog Duje

Feminizam oprašta

Tijekom adolescentske dobi vjerno sam prisustvovala nedjeljnim misama. Smatrala sam se  kršćankom, ali, nažalost, moj pristup prema Crkvi bio je površan. Gledajući to sada, jasno je da me je motivirao nedostatak vjerske raznolikosti u mom društvenom i obiteljskom krugu. Nisam obraćala mnogo pažnje na to što svećenik govori, niti primjenjivala ili razumijevala ideologiju kršćanske zajednice. Unatoč tomu, moja fizička prisutnost upijala je kršćanske ideologije više nego što sam htjela i mogla kontrolirati. Utjecaj je nedvojbeno bio prisutan unutar moga tijela. Doživjevši seksualno buđenje kao tinejdžerica, bila sam pomalo razočarana. Intenzitet seksualne želje nije bio onakav kakav sam očekivala, već naprotiv, bio je jedva prisutan. Kada bi želje došla u valovima, osjećala bih se nelagodno, prljavo i krivo zbog osjećaja užitka koji mi je bio dozvoljen. 

Hrvatska je još uvijek vjerski homogena zemlja u kojoj se više od 90 posto stanovništva identificira pripadnicima kršćanske religije, a to mladim generacijama ne ostavlja puno prostora za istraživanje i posjedovanje vlastitih tijela i identiteta. Dakle, ovaj performans poziva publiku da se identificira s likom seksualno oslobođene Marije Magdalene. Simboličnom gestom pranja nogu (baš kao što je to učinila Marija Magdalena Isusu kad je tražila iskupljenje za svoje grijehe), performativni čin poziva publiku da utjelovi ulogu institucionalno žigosane žene i neistražene moći koju ona nosi. Suprotno biblijskoj priči, publika nije prala stopala tijela onomu koji oprašta (Isusu), već feminističkom tijelu (autorici) kojem je na grudima napisano “feminizam oprašta”. Noseći samo suknju i grudnjak, otkrila sam svoju žensku ranjivost zračeći majčinskom snagom razumijevanja i brige. Stoga, umjesto da moli za oprost, gestom pranja nogu mog “misplaced” feminističkog tijela, sam utjelovila medij kroz kojeg se potiče na “grijehe”, suprotno pokajanju i promjeni.

Performans se odvio ispred jedne od najstarijih splitskih katedrala, Katedrale svetog Duje, 7. travnja 2021. Trajao je 30-40 minuta zbog vremenskih neprilika poput hladnog vjetra, niskih temperatura i iznimno hladnog kamena na kojem su stajala moja mokra stopala. Nisam mogla ne primjetiti da su ljudi koji su ulazili ili izlazili iz katedrale ignorirali perfromans ponašajuci se kao da se ne odvija (izbjegavanje kontakta očima i zaobilaženje mog tijela) što može ukazati na njihovo nijekanje sličnih stvarnosti i odbacivanje oslobođenih ženskih tijela od strane krščanske zajednice označavajući ih kao maginalizirana tijela. Roditelji sa djecom su sklanjala znatiželjne poglede svoje djece ili čak promijenili rutu svog kretanja da izbjegnu prostor performansa. Ironično, dok sam skidala odjeću, muški prolaznici bi se zaustavilis ciljem da promatraju te su pokazali zainteresiranost ukazujući na transparentnost patrijahalne kulture u Hrvatskoj. Nakon što sam se smjestila na stolac i pozvala publiku na sudjelovanje, osim sudionica radionice u performansu su sudjelovale ostale hrabre žene i izazvale unutarnju Mariju Magdalenu. U ovom trenutku perfomans je izišao iz kruga radionice u interakciju s ostalim tijelima što me je učinilo neimjerno sretnom. 

Ines Borovac: “Feminism Forgives” Misplaced Women? workshop Split, 2021. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

Ovom prilikom želim zahvaliti svim ženama koje su prigrlile Mariju Magdalenu tijekom nastupa i onima koje je još uvijek nose i traže u sebi. Hvala Tanji Ostojić na održavanju radionice i svim ostalim lijepim sudionicima koje sam upoznala; curama iz Culture Hub Croatia za organizaciju i suočavanje Splita sa sličnim temama; Andrei Resner za angažman i stvaranje digitalne arhive.

Ines Borovac (1996) studentica je Akademije za dizajn u Eindhovenu (NL) gdje je upisana na Masters program Socijalnog Dizajna. U svom dizajnerskom radu često radi s performansom i tijelom kao mjestom društvenih promjena i kritike. Ines trenutno radi na svom diplomskom radu u kojem istražuje temu patrijarhata u Hrvatskoj te performativnosti patrijarhalnih vrijednosti unutar hrvatskog tradicionalnog plesa. Preddiplomski studij završila je na Studiju dizajna u Zagrebu, smjer Produkt dizajn.

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