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18.-25.09.2022, Semmelweis Klinik, Vienna, within the Festival Wienwoche

Curators: Amalija Stojsavljević and Anežka Jabůrková

Artists: Željka Aleksić, Katarína Csányiová, Petja Dimitrova, Lina Dokuzović, Mirjana Mustra, Milena Gajić, Hoelb/Hoeb, Impractical Women, Violeta Ivanova, Katharina Kummer (Red Edition), Claudia Lomoschitz, Claudia Sandoval Romero, Katrin and Felicitas Wölger

The exhibition results from a research project that seeks to critically examine female* reproductive labour in the context of current artistic, feminist and political events in Austria. The exhibition authors – both curators and mothers from (South) Eastern European countries, living and developing their research practices in Vienna – examine the current artistic production related to household chores and raising the future workforce for the labour market.

In the eyes of the West, Eastern and Southeastern Europe are regarded as Europe’s non-places. Everlasting antagonisms and confrontations between the East and the West are particularly visible in self-proclaimed cosmopolitan border regions to the West, such as the city of Vienna, where the influx of non-natives disrupts the established political, economic and cultural status quo. Ideas, concepts, and cultural elements originating from Eastern and Southeastern territories are generally not regarded as inspirational or potent, while their people, the so-called “Ausländer:innen”, are seen at best as a cheap workforce. Embedded prejudices reflect in the image of them being cleaners and manual workers. Less obvious, but equally entrenched, is their status in the academic and artistic sphere, where researchers, cultural workers, and artists are usually working on topics related to their homelands, as this is often the only way to penetrate the Austrian art world. In this sense, the question inevitably arises – do topics such as female* reproductive labour serve as a relevant meeting point for various cultural and artistic tendencies in Austrian art?

The fact that the first female* guest workers (Gastarbeiter:innen) began to arrive in Austria in the 1960s and have remained there ever since prompted the curators to examine to what extent and how Southeastern and Eastern European female* migrants have become integrated into the Austrian feminist discourse. The current events in Europe have led to another mass migration, forcing women* with children in particular to flee from their country. These women* will probably take up a variety of jobs to earn a living. But how will this survival-driven decision of theirs be eventually utilized in the labour market? Will they be able to continue their careers of choice ever again? If they are artists and cultural workers, how will they assert themselves in the Austrian art scene, and on what conditions?

The exhibition Doing the Dirty Work wishes not only to showcase the visual works concerned with the topic of reproductive labour of women* artists coming from Eastern and Southeastern Europe, but also to initiate a debate (on the hegemony of European feminism and the effect it has on everyday life outside the academic circles, the essentialization of jobs, where migrant women* are deemed invisible as care and maintenance workers), and offers a new and fresh critical perspective on the aforementioned issues.

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