Notions of guilt and shame are inextricably linked to the experience of identifying as feminine or queer. The feelings one has and the choices one makes are accompanied by innate feelings of guilt associated with daily experience. We decided to try and imagine what a world without these feelings would look like. The exercise seemed simple, but the attempt was futile. None of these feelings are innate but generated through a series of socio-cultural processes. Feminine or queer guilt feelings coincide with those of oppression and persecution of non-normative subjects or “the other”, typically justified through many discourses about their inherent potential to undermine a given heteronormative and patriarchal social order.
We are currently witnessing a new surge of interpersonal and institutional violence. Bodies, sexuality and identities are being largely oppressed by the constellations of tightly networked positions of power, while at the same time we are witnessing a resurgence of ritual practices through modern “spellcasters” on social media platforms. Digital subcultures made up of self-identified Witches from diverse backgrounds are growing in size and seem to appeal especially to younger generations who feel they do not belong in a system that is far too binary and oppressive. These communities are blurring the lines between astrology, Tarot, Wicca, Scandinavian Asatru, Latinx Brujeria and New Age spirituality, allowing them to overlap and shift with ease, producing new hybrid forms of witchcraft. It seems that regardless of the individual approaches of their practices, contemporary queer and/or women and femme-identified witches share a desire to break the established order by connecting with each other, yearning for empowerment and having the freedom to explore their identities. This is reminiscent of the political subject of the “witch”.
The project I’ve seen the future baby, it’s sexy is therefore an invitation to embark on a journey of healing and to break through existing boundaries and oppressive structures. It is an invitation to liberate from certain codes of conduct. Assuming the identity of a “witch” helps to explore positions of resistance and stands for the deconstruction of narratives and the dismantling of these oppressive structures. Questions about the methodology of alternative knowledge and its relevance adhere to a power structure of hegemonic scientific and often heteronormative-Western-able-bodied knowledge reproduced through academic channels. Disruptions to this come from those that do not meet the standards of the empirical scientific process or even those who come from the knowledge of marginalised groups who are often sidelined. Not to be confused with ableist movements that link “health and wellness” to preventing access to life-saving vaccines and endanger or disregard the lives and health of others, this project focuses on an alternative way of understanding the production of knowledge that may potentially favour process over product. Furthermore, it aims to understand the importance of diversifying and disrupting the homogeneous cannons that then form the fabric, the structures that make up our lives. For instance, Ehrenreich and English, who wrote volumes on medical history and women healers in the 1970s and 1980s, describe “the witch” as an intuitionist and empiricist.(1) She is not infatuated with doctrines, rules, beliefs or idolatry, but relies on inner reason and experimentation. By accepting other ways of processing feelings, working with them rather than against them, adhering to non-normative standards of communication and work, and engaging with “hidden knowledge”, we can find a sense of empowerment that helps us to self-reflect or even unlearn the established scripts and structures that punish our minds and bodies.
With this in mind, we invite the viewer on a journey of unlearning and (collective) healing. Touching upon our relationship with pleasure, COVEN BERLIN breaks with heteronormative notions of sexual pleasure, bringing pleasure with all its idiosyncrasies back from the margins to the centre of the table, where it no longer needs to be neglected, rejected or hidden. Following in the footsteps of Virginia Lupu, we find out how marginalisation and subversion can form a new alloy of empowerment. Alternately, we stay within the popular, in the zone of the familiar and ordinary, turning it upside down, finding another way around it and uncovering hidden meanings, as in the works of Karin Ferrari. Mixing fact and fiction directs us to the whole world of possible meanings and connections that lie hidden and are disseminated through Western pop culture. Ones that might even make up “a history”. Selin Davasse points to the necessity and power of retelling stories through radical reimagining, where realities sing in many voices and familiar structures begin to melt away until they finally break open and transform. A similar urge to dismantle and rearrange comes from the work of Gvantsa Jishkariani. Standing on, acknowledging and building upon the remnants of the past, Jishkariani challenges the official narratives by sewing, embroidering, ripping, stitching and their rearrangement. An engagement with the temporal is central to Ozge Sahin‘s work, in which she explores the potential of our memory and its non-linearity. The process of actively erasing and rewriting, experimenting and understanding, shifting and unravelling meanings layer by layer like reading the Tarot, is a process of self-reflection, as Lealudvik indicates through a series of intimate poses. They shift and turn positions of power, transgress normative dynamics embedded in their past, present and future, and build an archive of corporeal representation. Corporeality is also addressed by Slavica Obradović, who reminds us that the idea of “ideality” is extremely vague and unstable, as well as meaningless, because the greatest strength usually comes from the softest and the most fluid within us.
It is all the more vital to voice the need for empowerment in view of a series of attacks in recent years trying to increase control over our bodies. At the time of writing, 24 June 2022, Roe v. Wade was overturned by the US Supreme Court.(2) A structure implemented to ensure a future of protection, yet it serves as a structure of oppression where the body and therefore the future of “the other” is not free and protected but controlled and manipulated. The attacks on our bodies will only stop if we secure power for ourselves, when we empower those around us, share knowledge and experience, and together start building a possible future based on values that enable cohabitation and equality for all.
Tia Čiček and Teodora Jeremić
(1) Ehrenreich, Barbara. English, Deirdre. 2010 2 . Witches, Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers. New York: The Feminist Press at CUNY.
(2) The struggle for access to safe abortion is a global issue, with the law in the US being the latest example of the general framework of persecution of people who can bear children. While some countries are being propelled forward by the unstoppable “green wave” [TN: the colour symbolising the movement for access to safe abortion] and are moving closer to decriminalisation, others are abandoning their existing laws and restricting access (e.g. Poland, USA).