From the Citizens to Their City
(1/2)In partnership with From the Citizens to Their City

From the Citizens to Their City

Before you is the online version of the first issue of GSG magazine, a publication of Inicijativa Građani Svom Gradu (GSG), the From the Citizens to Their City Initiative. From the Citizens to Their City was established in 2016 and was named after the wall plaques installed at either end of Križanićeva Street in Rijeka, Croatia, where GSG is located. The inscription “Građani svom gradu / Rijeka 1983” [“From the Citizens to Their City / Rijeka 1983”] has been chosen as GSG’s ideological benchmark, and a major part of our activities are focused on strengthening the ties between Rijeka’s citizens and the protagonists of its artistic, cultural and educational circles. Nearby plaques with similar inscriptions are not uncommon—a railway bridge crossing Strossmayerova Street bears the inscription “Radni ljudi svome gradu” [“From the Workers to Their City”], and “Radni ljudi Rijeke svojoj omladini / 22. prosinca 1973” [“From the Workers of Rijeka to Their Youth / 22 December 1973”] is inscribed on a plaque at the Dvorana Mladosti [“Hall of Youth”] in Trsat. The way in which citizens provided funding for infrastructural projects of common interest reflects GSG’s focus of action, especially as it pertains to altered political and economic conditions. Under these new conditions, a citizen’s connection to decision-making spaces is diverted toward, for example, involvement in representative democracy or by lobbying through civil society organizations. But this important issue will be addressed in more detail in the upcoming issues of GSG magazine, whereas now it seems most important to present the first issue, its contributors, and its creation.

On International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2018, the GSG intercepted and engaged passers-by with a small gesture. The subtitle of the first issue is a sort of paraphrase that led to the establishment of the Penzioner Tihomir Simčić art group, conceptual work of Braco Dimitrijević and Goran Trbuljak who started their activities with a simple gesture of looking for a name. Following the example of the Pensioner Tihomir Simčić Group, named after a random person who opened the door of a building in Ilica Street in Zagreb on November 1, 1969, the GSG initiative recorded the names of those who walked down Križanićeva Street in Rijeka between 10:00 and 10:30 on March 8th, 2018. Gordana, Doris, Slavko, Monika, Vera, Barbara, Matej, Jadranka, Kristina, Vid, Tin, Marko, Nevenka, Tihjana, Goran, Marijan, Bruna, Drago, Ivan, Zvonimir, Tea, Paula, Maja, Vanja, Nataša, Ana, Marin, Slava, Jadran, Suzana, Petra, Sabina, Antonija, Emma, and Sara gladly lent their names to the outline of the GSG logo. Thus, today the GSG logo and cover of the first issue feature the first names of the passers-by who engaged in the conversation for a few minutes.

March 8th, 2018 was also marked by an event that was even more important than this invisible action—the Night March organized by Rijeka’s Association of Human Rights and Civic Participation, PaRiter. This year, the march was focused on emphasizing the necessity of ratifying the Istanbul Convention. In her paper, “Love and Conservatism: Reproductive Rights in Croatia,” Marinella Matejčić, one of the organizers of the Rijeka protest, writes precisely about the slow but persistent decline in the sphere of gender equality and reproductive rights. In the conclusion of this paper she touches upon “the change of focus” when “church-related organizations” shift their attention from the issue of abortion to “attempts to prevent the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the Istanbul Convention.” The Act on the Ratification of the Istanbul Convention has been finally adopted by Parliament in the time since Marinella originally wrote this paper and since the Night March occurred, but a significant number of citizens—advocates of the above-mentioned organizations—protested against its adoption and against the so-called “gender ideology,” an expression used in certain clerical circles that expresses contempt for a sociological concept that disintegrates the naturalized dichotomy of female and male gender roles. Because female feminists love the colour purple.

The basic idea of the magazine emerged in the autumn of 2017 when the GSG, in collaboration with the Lesbian Organization of Rijeka (LORI), the above-mentioned PaRiter, and the Centre for Women’s Studies of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka agreed to continue their collaboration. This collaboration had been initiated several months earlier, when the organizations were working on the first edition of a feminist and LGBTQ festival in Rijeka, Smoqua. The idea was to open a space for reflection on past experiences, discuss new topics and methods of work, and begin preparations for the next festival. The GSG contributed to the previous Smoqua by organizing a screening of the video documentation of a performance in public space by the Kosovo-based HAVEIT art collective dealing with gender (sic!) stereotypes in Kosovar society (e.g. real men have beards) whereas the Austrian-Serbian artist Ana Hoffner showed a series of works on the topic of gender (sic!) and war. Some of the working methods that Ana Hoffer has used in her works defy the critics of the so-called “gender ideology.” By using an unsupervised testosterone therapy, Ana Hoffner changed her appearance and monitored the changes, not in order to change her sex to male, but to deviate from the sex she was born into. In GSG magazine you can read the interview with Ana Hoffner conducted on the occasion of her exhibition Exhausted time: Drag in Times of War and publishing of her book Queerness of Memory.

Brigita Miloš from the Centre for Women’s Studies of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, together with her colleague Mónica Cano Abadía, prepared a kind of glossary of feminist and LGBTQ terms. One of the references under the entry on the body habits reminds us that Paul B. Preciado conducted a similar experiment described in his/her book Testo Junkie. The authors wonder why transformation through menopausal hormone therapy is socially acceptable, while Precaido’s or Hoffner’s experiments are “renegade” if both therapies aim to deviate from the “natural” condition. Through entries on support, vulnerability, body habits, feminist anger, and feminist joyon feminist joy including subsections titled Sorority, Empowerment, Vulnerability, Engagement, Struggle, Networks, Friendship, Passion, and Bodies—the text “centrifugally” brings our attention to many relevant feminist, queer and left-oriented thinkers.

Ana Opalić was invited to interpret the Queer Walk project for the first issue of GSG magazine through her photographs. For the first time during the previous Smoqua festival, LORI organized a walk around the locations significant to the past and present of the LGBTQ culture in Rijeka. Following this narrative, Ana Opalić created a series of photographs that captured places of entertainment, places to meet partners, and places important for promoting the visibility of the community and its political goals. Ana’s photographs are coded; they do not easily reveal the layers of meaning, instead leaving it to the observer to decipher them depending on their background knowledge and involvement in the portrayed scene. Close-ups and details, accompanied by Antonija Stojanović Almesberger’s text that describes the itinerary of the walk and acquaints us with the locations, open up the possibility of populating the empty landscapes and interiors with the protagonists of the queer scene and to inhabit the intriguing details, such as the locked door of the former Discordia, with “subversive ideas” on the social construction of gender and sexual liberties.

Translated from the Croatian by Zana Šaškin

Filed Under: Form, Roundtables

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Marinella Matejčić is a feminist activist from Croatia who works in an Association for human rights and active citizenship called PaRiter. Marinella writes for Libela.org, a portal on gender, sex and democracy, and hosts, together with her colleagues from PaRiter, a radio show and a podcast.

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Ana Hoffner (b. Prvulovic) was born in 1980 in Paraćin, Yugoslavia. Hoffner is engaged in an art practice that excavates moments of crisis and conflict in history and politics. Hoffner’s video and photo installations and performances seek to introduce temporalities, relations, and spaces between established perspectives, memories of iconic images, and highly performative events.

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Ana Opalić was born in 1972 in Dubrovnik. In 1997 she graduated with a degree in TV and film camera from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb. In the same year she was awarded the Croatian Photo-union prize for best young photographer.

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Antonija Stojanovic Almesberger is a LGBTI and Human Rights activist, a feminist, and a translator engaged in queer culture, based in Rijeka, Croatia. She received a degree in Albanian language and literature from the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, Serbia.

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Mónica Cano Abadía is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies – South East Europe (University of Rijeka), and an Assistant Professor at the Section of Political Philosophy of the Institute of Philosophy (University of Graz).

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