09 November 2022 – 03 December, 2022
Opening reception: 09 November at 20h
Gallery Nova, Zagreb
09 November, 2022 at 19h – artist talk and guided tour
15 November, 2022 at 19h – Engaged Reinterpretations of Tradition:
public talk with Damir Imamović and Iva Nenić, moderated by Mojca Piškor
Curator: Ana Dević/WHW
The work of Lala Raščić represents one of the most intriguing oeuvres of a regional mid-career artist also enjoying international acclaim.
The Laugh of the Medusa is Raščić’s major solo exhibition of newly produced works in the form of a performative audio-visual installation. Utilizing carefully crafted artistic objects, images, collages, and audio-visual elements, the exhibition consists of a complex installation that transforms the gallery space into a kind of laboratory/wunderkabinett where two of Raščić’s works meet: GORGO (2019 – 2021) and the new project entitled Počimalja (2022).
While GORGO is centered around the mythological figure of the Gorgon – an ancient chthonic deity who was beheaded by Perseus, Počimalja is based on the artist’s interdisciplinary research of the outsider, folk women’s musical practice of tepsijanje (“panning”). This type of singing while turning a copper pan, which is practiced predominantly by women even to this day, comes from extremely patriarchal communities where women were generally discouraged from playing instruments. It is for this reason that women often resorted to using household objects as accompaniment to songs performed in the home. Raščić interprets this practice as an authentic expression of suppressed feminine subjectivity and a proto-feminist gesture. Through her continuous artistic research, which she dubs The Exoneration of Tradition, Raščić studies traditional forms and critically examines the ideas of folklore and folklorization as a means of repatriarchalization and neo-traditionalization of society, and reflects on the evolution of traditional forms, freeing them from the normative cultural context. While tepsijanje persists to this day due to its visual appeal in folk choreographies and its simplicity of performance, the artist focuses on the acoustic specificities of this practice, as well as on the conclusions, previous research, and field work of various ethnomusicologists and folklorists. She adopts and experiences her own practice of tepsijanje through collaboration with Azra Pondro, a storyteller, tepsija-player, and a počimalja, the chorister – the one who starts the song.
As part of the exhibition, there will be a public talk with Damir Imamović, a renowned author and performer of sevdah, and anthropologist Iva Nenić, moderated by musicologist and anthropologist Mojca Piškor.
The exhibition title The Laugh of the Medusa is a homage to the eponymous essay by the French feminist and philosopher Hélène Cixous, in which she advocates women’s writing (écriture feminine). Cixous interprets the beheading of the mythical Gorgon/Medusa as a violent act of patriarchy, calling for the empowerment of feminine subjectivities. Claiming that women should be able to write their own history – from which they had been violently severed, like Medusa – Cixous concludes that women must put themselves “into the text – as into the world, and into history – by their own movement.” In the context of Lala Rašić’s work, this call is realized precisely through body movements, copper pans, and the female voice. The Laugh of the Medusa celebrates the magnitude and multiplicity of women’s voices, and the act of making the fractured Medusa whole again is performed by the artist symbolically in the GORGO video, in which she assumes the role of the Gorgon by donning copper armor. The exhibition will also showcase armor fabricated by using the traditional technique of planishing copper, which is also used for making kitchenware such as pans. The armor was made by Nermina Beba Alić, one of the rare women in the predominantly patrilinear field of metal processing (kazandžije).
The Laugh of the Medusa affirms the interstices of women’s emancipation that are based on the experiences of everyday life, collaboration, knowledge exchange, mutual learning, or simply being together, giving women’s experiences a clear voice. In this time of amplified patriarchy, this exhibition reflects on genuinely useful knowledge and tools. Tepsijanje is a class- and gender-inclusive practice that provided women who did not have access to education and leisure with a space for creativity and subversion of censorship. Through tepsijanje, women’s voices and perspectives on life and the world break away from the margins and silence, thus shaping history but also the present moment.