Sanja Iveković

Since its beginnings, Sanja Iveković’s artistic endeavor has moved in the field of diverse “politics of performance” that the theoretician Peggy Phelan identifies as strategies for a critique of the ideologies of the visible: “Performance, insofar as it can be defined as representation without reproduction,” she writes, “can be seen as a model for another representational economy, one in which the reproduction of the Other as the Same is not assured.”1 Using performative practices, Iveković has investigated the relationship between the seemingly valid image of the real and an undefinable, unrepresentable real (Phelan names it the “Unmarkable”). This holds true for both her conceptual photo and text work as well as for her videos and video installations and logically also for her actions. It is decisive that the artist brings herself into play as the protagonist, especially in her early work. However, in the work of the last two decades she has, in the sense of a stronger political activism, increasingly retreated into the background, appearing less in her work in performance or in depiction.2 It lies in the logic of this artistic approach that the symbolic, political and social field that Iveković presents to us defines itself in a gender context and that the relationship between “the man” and “the woman” proves to be asymmetrical.

Iveković works with double strategies (like those described above for Personal Cuts). She uses the performative potential of the mass media, of magazines and newspapers, of advertising, of “public” and – very decisively – also of “private” photography in order to bring her own person into play in the broad field of representation as a structural reference figure. Iveković follows “the woman” in the wide field of media representation, using her method of “personal cuts” to reveal empty spaces that the signifier “woman” continually highlights as it traverses this field under a host of various circumstances. She is just as likely to appropriate the images of cosmetics advertising (e.g. Double Life, Eight Tears, Diary) or of the glamour industry (Tragedy of a Venus, Sweet Life) as she is to make use of newspaper crime reports (Bitter Life) or notices regarding missing young women (The Black File).





1 Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), 3.

2 Since the early eighties, Sanja Iveković has been the initiator and founder of political initiatives involving feminist issues. They include: “Podroom”, the first artist space in Zagreb, the center for women’s research “B.a.B.e”, the women’s center “Attack – The Autonomous Cultural Factory” and the Zagreb female artists’ center “ELECTRA” – (ELECTRA - Zenski umjetnicki centar / Women’s Art Center ELECTRA). In autumn of 2000, ELECTRA organized the project “co-operation: International Forum for Feminist Art and Theory” in Dubrovnik, with more than forty participating lecturers and artists from Europe, the USA and Asia. Additionally, Iveković works with the Center for Female War Victims, and one of her artistic projects deals with violence against women. Within the context of this work in progress she has worked with women in shelters in Zagreb, Bangkok and Luxembourg. See “Translocation,”Springerin. Hefte für Gegenwartskunst, volume V, no. 1 (1999): 24-25. See also Silvia Eiblmayr, ed., Sanja Iveković: Personal Cuts (Vienna: triton, 2001)



1949, Zagreb / HR, at that time Jugoslavija

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Still of the Video "Inter Nos", 1977
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  • Photo: Adam Sakovy