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Sanja Iveković

Croatian Sculptor, Performance, Collage, Video, and Conceptual Artist

Sanja Iveković Photo

Born: January 6, 1949 - Zagreb, Croatia

"The position of an artist differs from that of an activist, but rather than separating the two activities, we can see them as circles of human activity that overlap in a relatively small area, and that is the area in which I try to do most of my work."

Sanja Ivekovic

Summary of Sanja Iveković

Sanja Iveković bravely tackled women's rights and issues of gender identity whilst living under the rule of a repressive and dangerous communist dictatorship. Coming of age during the radical decades of the 1960s and 70s, like her American counterparts, Iveković has worked extensively as a Performance and Body artist. Always seeking ways to disseminate her message more widely however, she additionally uses basic photomontage and poster techniques, as well as creating and re-envisioning different forms of the traditional monument. Within all of these different media, the artist's main focus is to recover the 'real' woman hidden beneath a glossy and idealized version. Once the façade has been stripped away, beautiful women are imbued with complexity, presented also as abused, pregnant, and politically active, and as such as multi-faceted and strong human beings.

Aside from prolific art making, Iveković is the founding member of a number of women's organizations, including Elektra - a Women's Art Centre, B.a.B.e - the Women's Human Rights group, ATTACK! - an Autonomous Cultural Center, the Center for Women War Victims, and the Association of Feminists, all in the country that is now Croatia. She is devoted to the protection and aggrandizement of women in all aspects.

Key Ideas

Iveković makes art that is explicit, radical, and political. She intends her work to exhibit absolute challenge to authority and prescribed ideas. No boundaries or restraint are adhered to; for example in a famous work she simulates masturbation. Like the more daring of the American feminists, including Valie Export and Hannah Wilke, Iveković asserts that women have active sexual libidos and are by no means passive objects designed to satisfy male gratification. Iveković thus completely disbands and deconstructs centuries of patriarchal hierarchy and dominance over the female body.
She is part of a historical wave of intensely corporeal artists including Marina Abramović and ORLAN who pushed notions of what was, and what was not, a socially constructed view of the female body. Iveković, however, is set apart from her international contemporaries in that she remained in her country of origin, and as such was the first artist in Yugoslavia to actively engage in gender debates in this way. She sought to establish an open dialogue in a closed environment of censorship.
Iveković was one of only a few women to be part of the New Art Practice (NAP), an art movement established in former Yugoslavia. Like fellow members, Iveković sought to break away from institutional infrastructures and to make her work more public. As an act of resistance to earlier and elitist art forms, this group used newly available technologies including photography, Polaroids, photocopies, film, video, and graphic design. In 1978 Iveković co-founded the Podroom Gallery with fellow artist Dalibor Martinis and this became the hub for Croatian artists until 1980.
Sanja Iveković Photo

Sanja Iveković was born in 1949 in what is now the Croatian capital, Zagreb. Her mother, Nera Šafarič, was a survivor of Auschwitz; she had been a fighter in the People's Liberation War, arrested and sent to the prison camp in 1942; she was released in 1945. In 1949, when Iveković was born, Croatia was part of the former Yugoslavia and was ruled under the dictatorship of Marshal Josip Broz Tito. Tito's authoritarian rule routinely suppressed basic human rights, including gender equality and freedom of speech. Croatia did not achieve independence until 1991 and thus a large part of Iveković's life was spent resisting repression. There remains much to be done in the research of Iveković work and life, but interestingly, one of her artworks, Reconstructions (1952-76), pieces together scenes from her childhood through the use of moving image. She was brought up in an intellectual household and remembers being interested in drawing from a very early age, saying in an interview that art always came out very easily.

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