Solange #27 by Katharina Cibulka. Photo by Kevin Allen.
Austrian artist Katharina Cibulka is turning construction sites into feminist conversations in cities across France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Morocco. Now his craft has reached US shores.
This morning, she and her team installed a 7,000-square-foot mesh across the north facade of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which is undergoing renovations starting in 2021. Made of white net and embroidered with bright pink tulle. The work reads: “As long as generations change but our struggles remain the same, I will be a feminist.”
This is the second installation in NMWA’s “Lookout” project, which is repurposing the museum’s construction scaffolding as a canvas for artwork during renovations. A four-story Miss Chelove mural has been on the exterior since March.
“The [scaffolding] Despite the temporary closure of the interior galleries, Champion presented the perfect opportunity and context for the museum to continue its mission of women artists,” wrote NMWA exhibition coordinator Hannah Shamrum via email. The project is financially supported by share funds and members of NMWA.
For Cibulka, it marks the 27th installation of her four-year-old project titled “Solange” — the German word for “until,” as the delicate phrase begins in all her installations. Cibulka says she coined the phrase to concern women where they hang.
In France, her installation reads, “As long as my anatomy determines my autonomy, I will be a feminist.” In Italy: “As long as it takes balls to get to the top, I’ll be a feminist.” On Austria: “As long as she makes cash while working for change, I’ll be a feminist.”
Last spring, 70 locals submitted suggestions for the DC phrase. Many issues have been raised: closing the pay gap, providing adequate parental leave, embracing female sexuality and, of course, protecting bodily autonomy, to name a few. In the end, Cibulka settled on an all-encompassing statement: “As long as generations change but our struggle remains the same, I will be a feminist.”
Her massive installations—which take about ten days to embroider with thread-like tulle—are purposefully draped over construction sites, with several themes. For one, Cibulka enjoys the contrast of embroidery—a traditionally feminine craft—in highly visible but often male-dominated spaces. Additionally, the symbolism of being in a place that is still under construction felt too powerful to pass up.
“So as long as something goes wrong, something has to change,” Cibulka said. “The construction site is in process. And society is also under construction, so it’s a wonderful canvas.”
Of course, being in such a highly public space, reactions are sure to be mixed.
“A lot of people are really impressed and very happy to see a feminist claim,” said Cibulka “But then there are those who think we should take it down; They think women have already achieved everything, maybe more, and that we are already equal. And then many have a problem with the word ‘feminist’.
But, for Cibulka, the opposite Roe v. Wade And the recent women-led uprising in Iran says otherwise.
“Sadly, [these events] Show how relevant our work is still,” Cibulka said. “What we want is for people to discuss; We want to invite everyone to join the conversation. … When they asked me a year ago if I wanted to do this job two blocks from the White House, I thought, ‘Oh my God, now we’re really close to the heart of power.”
The installation will continue until February 26, 2023.
This story has been updated to clarify that the German word “Solange” translates to “as long as” and not “as long as.”