Instituto Susch › Erste Ausgabe: Instituto Susch (2023 +) › ANNUAL ONLINE SYMPOSIUMS › 2023 • Micro- and Macro- Stories of Women Artists of Former Yugoslavia and Balkans


 Micro- and Macro- Stories of Women Artists of Former Yugoslavia and Balkans

Online Symposium

5 December 2023, 9:30 am (CET)

This seminar is a part of the long term research, conduct by Instituto Susch, devoted to women artists in Central and Easter Europe (CEE). 




Grażyna Kulczyk

founder of Muzeum Susch

Chairwoman of the Board of Art Stations Foundation CH


Marika Kuźmicz

curator of Instituto Susch



Lecutre: Žarka Svirčev

The Zenithist Woman: Towards a Portrait of a Yugoslav Avant-garde Woman

The narratives of female authorship in Zenit magazine (1921–1926) problematizes the dominant conceptions of the avant-garde. The figure of Anuška Micić, alias Nina-Naj, is challenging and provocative, especially in Serbian/(post)Yugoslav culture, whose discourse on avant-garde is still masculinistic oriented. Her works represent a notable form of female authorship in Zenit and the regional avant-garde context. Anuška Micić was the first woman to be the secretary, manager, and translator of an international avant-garde magazine. Furthermore, she was an innovative visual artist, and one can depict in her visual (self)representation elements of the feminist ideas of the new woman. The case of Anuška Micić makes it possible to reconsider and reconceptualize various issues of avant-garde studies and to format a more integrative narrative about the Yugoslav avant-garde whose constitutive elements are the creativity of women and their political and social activism.


Lecture: Milanka Todić

Wife, Muse, Artist: Woman and Serbian Surrealism

Experiments on paper, collages, and translation work in the field of surrealism by Lula Vučo (1899–1985), Ševa Ristić (1906–1995) and Lela Matić (1907–1986) would be viewed from the perspective of a New Woman, who successfully builds female identity in the context of Belgrade’s interwar avant-garde scenes. All women, who were the wives of celebrated surrealists, Alexander Vučo, Marko Ristić, and Dušan Matić, adored assistants and models in their photograms and lyrics, but also self-conscious and self-expressing personalities. One big woman’s name must be underlined in the context of Serbian surrealist art, even though she spent her artistic life in Italy, France, England, and America. The name is Milena Pavlović Barili (1909–1940). Her life and work in New York from 1939 to 1945, contrasted commercial fashion design and illustrations for Vogue Magazine, metaphysically composed pictures of wealthy individuals, and mystical religious works. To promote her painting, Milena Pavlović Barili had first „American“show at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in March 1940. But the most important event in the New York-Period was Exhibition 31 Women which opened at the gallery Peggy Guggenheim Art of This Century in New York in 1943.


Lecture: Suzana Milevska

Microhistories vs. Macrohistories in Contemporary Art of Women Artists in North Macedonia

Feminism - as the patriarchy itself - is not one unified project. In her talk, Suzana Milevska will offer an analysis of the intertwining of different historical experiences of oppression and exploitation and the potential for solidarity and mutuality in the feminist struggle. The presentation will focus on the intersection between nationalist discourses, gender difference, femonationalism (Farris, 2012), and socialist women's movements by looking at various case studies and unknown repositories of archival imageries including artworks by women artists. During her presentation, Milevska will look at several feminist research projects by women artists to challenge the assumption of the universality of feminist methodology and research methods and any eventual unified theory of knowledge production in feminist art. Milevska will present several case studies of archive-based research projects to deconstruct the biased division between microhistory and macrohistory in North Macedonia. The artists often create unique archives that are informed by the overlooked images of gender difference and agency from the past and reinterpret them. The main point of such archives is “neither to subsume the other woman under one's own experience nor to uphold a separate truth for them” (Lazreg, 1988: 99; acc. to Mohanty, 2003: 257). Milevska will argue that it is urgent to look at the feminist methodology and epistemology specific to historic and archive-based research art practices of women artists in order to undo the stereotypical understanding of the patriarchy as a unified entity.


coffee break


Lecture: Sandra Križić Roban 

And what did we save in the end? About women's (photographic) practices after WWII 

For some years, my interest was focused on conceptual photography, even I was aware that not many women in Croatia/Yugoslavia participated in it. This fact intrigued me for a long time, therefore I decided to concentrate on the period between the 1950s and 1980s, which coincides with the modernist development that influenced the general art scene in various ways.

When it comes to photography, there isn’t many avant-garde examples that we can talk about in Croatia. Therefore, my multi-year research is based on accepting terminological fluidity that stems from the concept of “seeing differently,” as the American feminist theorist Claire Raymond refers to the women’s gaze. I started by examining photographic practices from the 1950s onwards, which, in the local context, predominantly took place in photography clubs. It involved a specific aesthetic that I had certain reservations about. However, as the research progressed, I realised that it was necessary to change my own way of observing the works created in these conditions, because “attempting to understand” and contextualise the environment in which women worked does not automatically mean bypassing what, for some reason, appears “secondary” to us.

In the history of Croatian/Yugoslav photography, the women’s photographic gaze at that time was generally not considered challenging, and there was a prevailing belief that women often operated within a safe comfort zone. The common perception that they mostly photographed portraits, landscapes, and children, as well as the idea that they were alone and unprotected while shooting, led some critics to interpret their works in an extremely traditional, even paternalistic manner.

The aim of my presentation is to contribute to changing the paradigm of the so-called “women’s” themes in an innovative and intriguing way, making – for many of them – their images visible for the first time. By examining their individual positions, we learn to what extent they participated in changing the general photographic and cultural discourse. In doing so, women cease to be “marginal participants” and move away from traditional value hierarchies, which is why their history is no longer viewed with ignorance, as irrelevant and ahistorical.


Lecture: Ana Kršinić-Lozica

 "Reality has more than one dimension": Establishing an artist's archive.

The paper will deal with the legacy of Vera Dajht-Kralj, the sculptress (1928 – 2014) who spent her professional life in Zagreb but who also extensively exhibited her works and made monument proposals through socialist Yugoslavia and Europe (on several occasions also in Africa and South America). Her authentic approach to the artistic metier and the human, predominantly female, figure set her apart from dominant tendencies in art during the mid and second half of the 20th century. The unique position of her work that didn't belong to traditional figurative expression, nor to the neo-avantgarde circles of her male colleagues that were prominent in the Croatian art scene between the 1950s and 1970s, made her absent from contemporary art history discourse. She worked with different materials, such as clay, wood, various metals, stones, and glass, experimenting, among others, with the technique of galvanoplastic that she reinvented to fit her own needs. Her work is spread across multiple areas – from monuments and chamber sculpture to artistic jewellery, souvenirs, drawings and even poems. Today, her atelier is preserved, and her oeuvre is kept in the private collection governed by the NGO Living atelier DK, primarily aiming to introduce the artist's legacy to the broader public. The paper will elaborate on the long-term process of establishing a non-institutional archive, with all the challenges related to the preservation and restoration of various materials, adequate storage of artworks, setting up a digital database and revalorising and increasing visibility of the artist's oeuvre.


Lecture: Adela Demetja

Lumturi Blloshmi. From Scratch

The presentation will focus on introducing the life and work of albanian artist Lumturi Blloshmi (1944-2020). In today's perspective, Blloshmi emerges as one of the most significant Albanian artists but due to limitations (deaf from the age of five, oppressed by the communist regime for political reasons, a woman in a male dominated field) Blloshmi did not receive the recognition she deserved during her lifetime. Two major recent presentations of Blloshmi’s work at the Albanian Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022 and her first major retrospective at the National Gallery of Kosovo in 2023, shed light on her oeuvre and life. Yet, these endeavors merely scratch the surface, and her work remains in need of thorough research, comprehensive display, and contextualization.

Like many artists of her generation, Lumturi Blloshmi adhered to the constraints of socialist realism until the late 1980s. However, in the 1990s, she distinguished herself as one of the few who successfully repositioned and transformed her work until her passing. Her works in painting, photography, installation, and performance are marked by an ironic reflection and overcoming of the reality in which she lived. Her dynamic and self-aware personality, nourished by philosophy, poetry, sensibility, and spirituality, shaped a distinctive body of work. It bears witness to the remarkable journey of a creative spirit who endured and created despite physical, political, and social limitations imposed by life and the particular context of Communist Albania after World War II.

Unfortunately, Blloshmi passed away on November 27, 2020, succumbing to a Covid-19 infection. Nonetheless, curator Demetja, who commenced collaboration with her in 2016, has persisted in the research and exhibition of Blloshmi’s work and archive.


lunch break



Lecture: Stevan Vuković

Emancipating the emancipators - New artistic practices and Yugoslav feminism 

"Emancipation" was one of the key terms in Socialist Yugoslav political discourse, but both the official discourse of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, and of the only Marxist humanist philosophical circle opposing the state (The Praxis School), have considered gender issues only as obscuring class divisions. So, in order to introduce feminism, it was necessary to first "emancipate the emancipators", as Bojana Pejić stated in the catalogue text of the exhibition titled "Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe", she curated for MUMOK in Vienna in 2010. Time for action came in the aftermath of political unrest of 1968, and Bojana Pejić took part in infrastructural activism, which has after a full decade resulted both in "Comrade Woman: Women’s Question – A New Approach?" and "The New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1966–1978". "Comrade Woman” was a large international conference, with film and video screenings, and exhibitions, taking place in the Student cultural Center in Belgrade in 1978. Just weeks before it, the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb hosted an exhibition titled "The New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1966–1978", which has displayed works mainly challenging the "status of the fixed and permanent art object". The title was introduced by Belgrade based art historian and critic Ješa Denegri, in order to name the regional art practices that had a wider scope than "conceptual art" as defined by Catherine Millet, and it included works related also to Arte Povera and Antiform art, "using physical, organic and natural materials", and those which were to "arose the questions of how to treat the modern media, such as video tape, film and photography". Female artists presented at the exhibition in Zagreb, such as Sanja Iveković, Marina Abramović, Bogdanka Poznanović, and Katalin Ladik, will later be recognized as the pioneers of video art in the region, but had almost mutually conflicting views on the relation between gender and art. This paper is to analyse and contextualize them, adding to them also the views and video works of Jasmina Tešanović, shown at the "Comrade Woman" conference, as well as the works of Judita Salgo, presented mainly on Television Novi Sad, in order to pose more general questions on the emancipation from traditional gender role models and from different traditional means of artistic expression.


Lecture: Jasmina Tumbas

 ”I am Jugoslovenka!": Feminist performance politics during and after Yugoslav Socialism

Dr. Tumbas will be speaking about her book, "I am Jugoslovenka," in which she argues that queer-feminist artistic and political resistance were paradoxically enabled by socialist Yugoslavia's unique history of patriarchy and women's emancipation. Spanning performance and conceptual art, video works, film and pop music, lesbian activism and press photos of female snipers in the Yugoslav wars, the book analyses feminist resistance in a range of performative actions that manifest the radical embodiment of Yugoslavia's anti-fascist, transnational and feminist legacies. It covers celebrated and lesser-known artists from the 1970s to today, including Marina Abramović, Sanja Iveković, Vlasta Delimar, Tanja Ostojić, Selma Selman and Helena Janečić, along with music legends Lepa Brena and Esma Redžepova. "I am Jugoslovenka" tells a unique story of women's resistance through the intersection of feminism, socialism and nationalism in East European visual culture.


Closing discussion

↘ Adela Demetja

↘ Sandra Križić Roban

↘ Ana Kršinić–Lozica

↘ Suzana Milevska

↘ Žarka Svirčev

↘ Jasmina Tumbas

↘ Milanka Todić

↘ Stevan Vuković