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Artmix: The advantage of a diversity of feminisms. Iza Kowalczyk, the editor of the net-magazine Artmix, in conversation with Rosa Reitsamer.

Gender studies
Grassroots media in Europe
Women's Liberation Movement
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Please can you shortly introduce yourself?
I am Izabela Kowalczyk and I am working as a art historian, a art critique and a curator. I studied Art History at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland (1990-1995), Gender Studies at CEU in Budapest, Hungary (1998) and attended the Summer Institute in Art History and Visual Studies of the University of Rochester, USA in 1999. In 2001, I defended my doctoral dissertation entitled “Body and Power in Contemporary Polish Art” at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Currently I am teaching at the High School of Humanities and Journalism in Poznań. I am the founder and co-editor of the net magazine on feminism and visual culture “Artmix” (since 2006 in cooperation with “Obieg”,, and I write the blog My publications include “The Dangerous Liaisons of Art and Body” (2002), and “Body and Power in Polish Critical Art” (2002), as well as numerous essays and art reviews. I co-edited the books “Women, Feminism and Media” (2005), “The Looking for the Little Girl” (2003) and “Women in Popular Culture” (2002), together with Edyta Zierkiewicz. Now I am publishing a book on feminism and art in Poland (2010) and I am preparing a book on reinterpretations of history and memory in Polish critical art.

How did you come to feminism?
I started to be a feminist art historian during my study, when I examined feminist art in Poland, first of all art created in the 1970s (works by Ewa Partum, Natalia LL, Maria Pinińska-Bereś) and then the critical art in the 1990s (works by Katarzyna Kozyra, Alicja Zebrowska, Zofia Kulik, Zbigniew Libera and so on). Then I started to go to feminist conferences, I started to be an activist and established the feminist association “Konsola” in Poznan. We organized a feminist conferences yearly. Then I established with my colleague, also an art critic, Magda Ujma, the feminist art magazine “Artmix” in 2001. It‘s a net magazine.

How did you become involved in writing and publishing / media production?
I am an art critique and a theoretician. I started to write reviews and texts during my study. I co-operated with different cultural magazines such as “Czas Kultury”, “Odra” and “Obieg”. I also co-operated as an author with “Zadra” magazine, which is a feminist journal ( When we established “Artmix” magazine, we used a free platform for cultural production. It is called “”.

Do you read feminist media (including internet, TV, radio, print)?
I was very happy when I discovered “n.paradoxa” (, published by Kathy Deepwell. It is a feminist art journal exploring feminist theory and women’s art practices. It was fantastic for me, because it is exactly on feminism and art, what is the most interesting for me. I also read Polish feminist media such as the journal “Zadra” ( ), which was first feminist magazine in Poland.

Are there any examples of feminist media that inspired you in your work?
Yes, I was inspired by “n.paradoxa” and I felt a lack of such magazine in Poland. Magda and I felt that art criticism in Poland was really male dominated. In the 90s feminism was a completely exotic thing in the best case. Many people were even in fury because of this word. Feminism was really unpopular and we wanted to change it in the field of contemporary art. And I think we did. That‘s a big success for “Artmix”. It is rather theoretical magazine because I still feel a lack of long analytic texts on feminism and art.

You are also doing the blog STRASZNASZTUNKA2 Are ARTMIX and you blog STRASZNASZTUNKA2 two different projects?
They are two different projects but they are connected and linked. The “Artmix” magazine is much more professional, my blog is only my personal project and for me it is also kind of notebook. I write about my favourite works, my travels, and about events. But of course some topics and problems are the same.

Can you describe the process of making ARTMIX?
The team of “Artmix” is in flux. I established the magazine, as I said, with Magda Ujma in 2001. However, because of our different temperaments, she left. Now she does a fantastic blog: Then I cooperated with Bogna Burska, one of the most important artists in Poland at the moment. She founded the Gallery at “Artmix” ( However she wanted to make her own career and she left. But we are still in touch and I organised her exhibition in Poznan in 2008. Then in 2005 I forced my very close friend Edyta Zierkiewicz to co-operate and this was a fantastic idea. In 2009 our publishing team was joined by Dorota Lagodzka, who was one of my best students. We have also a wider team of authors because we just ask people to write and we also make call for papers.
At the beginning our magazine was connected with the feminist association “Konsola” ( ). However, I wanted to move “Artmix” away from a feminist context only to a broader field, and bring feminism into the mainstream. In 2006 we started cooperating with “Obieg” magazine . It is a contemporary art net-magazine published by the Centre of Contemporary Art in Warsaw. And we also cooperate with the fantastic artist Ola Polisiewicz who works for “Obieg”.

Do you co-operate with other feminist media?
Yes, Edyta and me occasionally write for “Zadra” magazine. I wrote also some articles for “n.paradoxa”, and we also cooperate with Feminoteka ( ), which is relatively new. It‘s a fantastic feminist net platform in Poland. They always have news about our new issues. There are also some new and very interesting feminist e-zines, as “Sabatnik” ( ), that I cooperate with. I am also part of the independent group for freedom of artistic expression:,index.php

How do you position ARTMIX in relation to wider feminist and political movements in Poland?
Well, it’s really difficult question. Some time ago I was a really an engaged activist. I was part of the feminist association „Konsola“ and a board member of one of the main feminist foundation in Poland. I was also a political activist and created the Polish Green party. Furthermore, I co-operated with the LGBT movement. I was one of the organizers of “famous” forbidden „Equality March“ in Poznan in 2006. However I felt tired with all these activities and it was not satisfying. I didn’t have any private time. So I decided to cut it off. I prefer to act on my professional field, work with students and provoke people to critical thinking. Of course, I am still a feminist art critic and a curator. In 2009, I organized an exhibition of contemporary Polish artists on power, pleasure and the gaze. I have lectures on gender and art. But in the same time I don’t feel as a „pure“ feminist, I feel rather as a post-feminist. And recently I’m very engaged in problems of representations of history in contemporary art.
But you asked about a position of “Artmix” to feminist movement in Poland. It is important and has a rather strong position, but not directly within the feminist movement, but rather in the Gender Studies field. Unfortunately, the art is still treated marginally, even by feminists. However there is one interesting paradox about the past of feminism in Poland.
In the 1970s feminism as a movement and as a critical attitude was absent. Despite that fact, artists who would take up feminist questions in their work appeared. Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Natalia LL, Ewa Partum, focused the public's attention on the issue of objectifying a woman, depicting her as a consumption object, fetishization of the woman's body. The artists attacked the perspective of the “male viewer" transforming a woman's body into an object of visual pleasure. However the questions taken up by the artists were frequently not reflected in realities in Poland in those days and finally the artists distanced themselves from feminism. I name their practice „feminist interventions“ in Polish art. The situation started changing after the collapse of communism in 1989, when feminism started developing a more fully self-conscious program of artistic actions. Defining one‘s own identity, questions of body and sexuality, and analysing ways of disciplining the body are the main questions within Polish art in the 1990s. There are, among others, some feminist artists, like Zofia Kulik, Katarzyna Kozyra or Alicja Zebrowska, who deal with the body as the place of social and cultural critique. We had also a battle for right for abortion. Unfortunately we lost it in 1993. That was also topic of interest for artists as Alicja Zebrowska and Monika Zielinska. (more on this: ).
So I think that art is really important for our feminist thinking. However sometimes there are two different fields of discussions unfortunately. I was very happy that the exhibition “Gender Check” took place in Poland, because I thought that it would be a great occasion to talk about feminism and art in other Eastern and Southern countries, because we, in Poland almost don't know about these situations and also feminist art there. We still compare our feminist art with the Western one. However I’m not sure if Polish feminists have undertaken this problem. Are they ready for it? So I try to force such topics. The next issue of “Artmix” is exactly on Gender and East Europe.

What would you describe as the main content of ARTMIX?
Feminism, art and visual culture, but each issue of “Artmix” has a main topic. We discuss what is the most interesting and urgent. Then we send out our Call for Papers and ask some authors for texts.

How do you promote and disseminate ARTMIX?
It’s also easy, because “Artmix” is rather well-known. We have a rather big group of readers, what is confirmed by statistics leading by “Obieg”. There is always a newsletter on each new issue. There are information about at “Artmix” at “Feminoteka” and other places. I also introduce new issue of “Artmix” on my blog.

What is the feminist self understanding of ARTMIX?
There are different feminisms in “Artmix”. First of all our feminism is theoretical. In fact our magazine is now more related to Gender Studies than to a feminist movement, however it is often related to the social field and some important events in this movement. But we are interested not in the feminist movement only, but also in the LGBT movement and others pro-liberation movements.
Thinking about feminism in “Artmix”, we can also talk about cultural feminism, post-feminism, queer feminism, pop-feminism and Eastern-European feminism. There was one issues on anti-speciesism that is really close to feminism, but in the same time is something different, more focused on pro-animals liberation. Dorota Łagodzka is very engaged in this movement.
Some issues don’t relate to feminism directly like ‘Art and Democracy”, ‘Reinterpretations of History’ and ‘Problems with anti-Semitism’. Some other issues were ‘Culture of therapy’, ‘Breast Cancer’ relate to movement of women with breast cancer (so called ‘Amazons’) and to visual culture undertaken this topic. My friend Edyta Zierkiewicz co-operates with this movement. There was also the issue ‘Street’ related to ‘Equality Marches’, especially this one that I was one of organisers. (You can find my text in English on this topic here: ). As you can see, we try to make theory, but it is emerged from the social practice or concrete social-political issues. The diversity is an advantage :-)

Can you make your living from working as an editor and from writing?
It’s a kind of hobby, unfortunately. There wasn’t money from it or sometimes there is kind of “pocket money”. However, the satisfaction is much more important. I will tell you something, I met a strange person during the opening of the “Ars Homo Erotica” in Warsaw last weekend. He told me, that he is keen on one of my books and my blog and asked me to continue writing (I had a short break). It was really nice. So, I know that people want to read what I write. I do “Artmix” and my blog for them, also for my students, but also for my enemies :-)

Thank you for the interview!

Izabela Kowalczyk
Rosa Reitsamer
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