Austrian performance and media artist Katharina Cibulka has stitched the sentence “as long as the art market is a boys’ club, I will be a feminist” onto the scaffolding of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. This site-intervention is one of many created by the artist, who often takes over construction areas to stamp feminist slogans and demands onto its frames.
By using embroidery, a traditionally female practice, and through the occupation of a male-associated space, Katharina highlights the gender division of labour. Her art explores the reconciliation of work with family life, sexual harassment, the gender pay gap and problems with discrimination. Inspiration for the project, Solange, was taken from a magazine interview with Tracey Emin, who commented: “As long as any woman gets burned because she smiles at a man, as long as a teacher’s hand gets chopped off because she educates girls how to read, I will be a feminist”.
The politically inspired message stands loud and clear on the front of the academy, instantly viewable to the summer tourists. It will be there to spark conversation and generate debate till the main building is renovated in 2020. The Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna is the first and only university in Austria to be headed by females; however, as the rector, Eva Blimlinger comments, “the road to the top is still long because men still dominate the art market”. There are still hurdles to overcome, with men’s work often being valued higher than women’s and them receiving more in auction sales. However, change can only be implemented if these sentiments are voiced, and Katharina’s work does precisely that.