The Medea Insurrection Celebrates Women’s Artistic Resistance Behind the Iron Curtain

November 27, 2019

Thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall came down. But it didn’t happen on its own. In reality, the Wall was “brought down by courageous people,” including many artists. The Medea Insurrection: Radical women Artists Behind the Iron Curtain, a special exhibition at the Wende Museum in Culver City, California, seeks to highlight the work and experiences of women artists, a group too often overlooked in historical discussions of life in East Germany.

The exhibition debuted in California in mid-November with an opening celebration that included a guided exhibition tour, reception, and panel discussion with artists featured in the exhibition.

The exhibit is named for one of the several female figures in Greek mythology that became potent metaphors for Eastern European writers and painters seeking to express their discontent with authoritarian rule without tipping off government censors. Using this symbolism, women artists provoked, protested, and experimented while refusing socialist and bourgeois stereotypes.

Despite their cultural relevance, women artists were often ignored during this time, as the art they created was considered “handiwork” rather than “fine art” by the East German establishment. As a result, art by East German women is often also missing from modern conversations about the time period.

Speaking at the opening event, German artist Gabriele Stötzer spoke about the importance of exhibitions like this one embracing the work of women in the East. “At the time in Eastern Germany,” she remembers, “Everybody said ‘She’s so feminist’ and ‘She is crazy. Why does she do so many things with women? Women are not important.’ But now, we are important.”

The exhibition was originally conceived and shown in Dresden, Germany, which was the epicenter of the East German resistance during the peaceful revolution. It was adapted especially for the Wende Museum, pairing countercultural women artists from Cold War-era Eastern Europe with contemporary subversive women and non-binary artists from Southern California.

The exhibition will be on view at the Wende Museum until April 5, 2020. Find out more information here.



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