Fotocredits: Dusko Miljanic, Bildrecht, 2021
‚PUBLIC/PRIVATE‘, Site-Specific Installation, City Museum Podgorica, MNE, 2023
The exhibition TAKE BACK THE SPACE shows current works by the ﬁve Upper Austrian artists Renate Billensteiner, Judith Gattermayr, Petra Gell, Sigrid Krenner and Miriam Roithinger. The title TAKE BACK THE SPACE is based on the name of the feminist initiative „Take back the streets“, which occurs in Austria in the form of rallies and demonstrations against patriarchal social structures. The exhibition is also dedicated to revealing and breaking down patriarchal structures.
TAKE BACK THE SPACE addresses the reconquest of space. Something is recaptured that was supposed to be freely accessible but was lost. Space has many faces. For example, space represents power, opportunity, ability to act, decision-making power, reputation and value. Those who have power also have space. The fact that women* have been pushed back into the private sphere for centuries – and are still being pushed back – is the result of an unequal distribution of power. This unequal distribution becomes clearly visible through the underrepresentation of women* in public, for example in the media and politics, in the cityscape in the form of street names and monuments, in medical studies and last but not least in art history.
The possibilities of female artists, that means which training, presentation areas and ﬁnancial security are granted to them, reﬂect the gender roles of a society. As a logical consequence, art is still a male-dominated space with a long tradition.
Female positions were deliberately chosen for TAKE BACK THE SPACE. Making and showing art is closely linked to visibility and the public. Art is an instrument to take up space, to articulate oneself, to be seen and heard. Making art means taking actions, making points of view visible and sharing them. In the context of the exhibition, the participating artists investigate the dynamics of space and gender. Large-format and in diﬀerent media, they negotiate artistic strategies of appropriating space, point out the causes of space limitation and rethink the gendering of space. Using painting, site-speciﬁc installations, objects and photography, they put identity and role models, materiality, and body spaces to the test.
With her feminist-artistic spatial practice, Petra Gell calls for equal coexistence beyond the prevailing gender classiﬁcations. Her art is directed against the capitalist meritocracy and calls for more space for thinking and acting in solidarity. With expansive installations, she refers to social and spatial inequalities. In TAKE BACK THE SPACE, she creates a site-speciﬁc work directly in the exhibition space that deals with the gender assignment of material and space. Under the title PUBLIC/PRIVATE, she installs materials with male and female connotations, such as Ytong stones and corrugated iron from the construction industry, as well as curtains and carpets from the home. In doing so, she raises the issue that private space is still read as female and public space as male. By installing the materials on an equal footing, she consciously breaks with these attributions. In addition, as an artist, she temporarily lodges herself in the exhibition space, literally occupying the architecture of the art market.