Red Zenith Equality Zine

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Red Zenith


The Red Zenith Collective Zula Rabikowska & Marta Grabowska 2021

To give a definition of Eastern Europe is a difficult or almost impossible task because it’s about a social and cultural construct. Sanja Ivekovic Croatian photographer, sculptor and artist

BodyCollage, Alicja Kamaj


CONTENTS Foreword by Marta Grabowska and Zula Rabikowska...............................................................................................7 Testosterone by Kateryna Bortsova...................................................8-11 Flags and Freeroaming by Ivana Filip........................................... 14-17 BodyCollage by Alicja Kamaj..............................................................18-21 Freedom, Equality and Abortion on demand by Ewa Mielczarek........................................................................................22-23 Becoming Herstory by Zula Rabikowska........................................24-27 Red Zenith Community on Equality.................................................28-29 Structural Construction, Shapes, Textures by Kristina Aleksandrovska........................................................................30-31 Polonia_2020 by Malgorzata Drohomirecka.................................32-35 Slow Art and Equality by Marta Grabowska.................................36-37 Papusha by Marina Oprea...................................................................38-41 Charms by Julia Michiewicz.................................................................42-45 Black Art Matter by Julia Stachura...................................................46-47 About the Red Zenith Collective..............................................................49



FOREWORD The past year has led to a series of upheavals from various communities around the globe, exasperated by the current status quo: from the Black Lives Matter movement, protests against the abortion ban in Poland, strikes in Belarus and Russia against the tyrannical political regimes, to the advent of Hydro- and Eco-feminist thought that urges us to rethink the treatment of our non-human counterparts and the planet that we inhabit. We wanted to hear from you, the community of CEE female and non-binary creatives and learn about your perspectives on Equality. Our first Open Call received more than 100 entries, from 43 different countries, across 4 continents. We have selected 7 artists and 2 writers who in various ways explore the meaning of Equality. In this zine, you will find a visual commentary on the animalistic side of human nature entitled “Testosterone” by Kateryna Bortsova, and a “no-ist” project by Ivana Filip, which explores equality of humans and non-humans. There is a series of collages by Alicja Kamaj, aiming to reclaim the female body from under the mazle-gaze, a text by Ewa Mielczarek, which reflects on the recent strikes against the abortion ban in Poland, and other thought provoking projects. As we share this first Red Zenith Zine with you, on our first birthday, we hope that this publication will provoke you to think, unlearn and create a better tomorrow. Never give up! Marta & Zula (Red Zenith co-founders)




KATERYNA BORTSOVA Testosterone With her project Kateryna Bortsova exposes the “animalistc” side of humanity. Bortsova sees that, no matter how we conceal it behind etiquette, moral principles and societal rules of conduct, an animal living inside us is always on the verge of bursting out. The main message of Bortsova’s project is that, despite the cultural, social and other revolutions, we still retained “hormonal” dependence on our “animal” beginnings; testosterone rules the world. Despite the fact that in today’s society there is more gender equality, we continue to be ruled by hormones. In “Testosterone,” Bortsova appeals to the basic instincts of humanity. With the help of objects and allegory, she reveals the hidden essence of events taking place in society.

Kateryna Bortsova is a Ukrainian (Kharkov) painter and graphic artist with BFA and MFA in graphic art and is currently based between Kharkov and Barcelona. In her work, Bortsova focuses on the themes of the female body, modern consumption and reflects on the meaning post-truth and contemporary reality. Bortsova explores the blurred lines between fiction and reality, and hints at the multiplicity of truth. @katerynabortsova



Any knowledge that doesn’t lead to new questions quickly dies out; it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life. Wislawa Szymborska Polish poet and Nobel Prize Laureate




IVANA FILIP Flags and Freeroaming In her artistic practice, based in the human-nonhuman relationships, Filip is influenced by eco-feminist theory, ecological art and actor-network theory. She creates situations which question human relationships toward nonhumans and raises awareness of the importance of empathy, trust, consciousness, equality, otherness and Others. Through the principle of detecting irritation and by responding to it, inequality presented in media and everyday life generates a space where activism and art can interact. Filip used dog hair to create her 2018 “Flags” piece. In these two projects, “Flags” and “Freeroaming” Filip combines nonmaterial recourses and non-invasive ecological methods, and she says that “the principle of empathy is the method of being compassionate with others, human and nonhuman, where we go beyond judging, criticising and cynicism, into elaborating new perspectives.”

Ivana Filip is an artist working across performance, video, photography and mixed media ans is currently based in Croatia. In her work, she explores human and nonhuman relationships, by using techniques from different areas such as ethology, anthropology, animal studies, sociology, spirituality, activism and personal experience. Filip has an MA in Economics, a BA in Audio-Visual, and an MA in Performing Public Space from the Fontys School in Tilburg, Netherlands. @ivanafilipstudio


Manifesto of CATOPIA The principles of the manifesto of CATOPIA represent the wishes and dreams of those who dream cats, as cats and with cats. We are catpeople. CATOPIA is the imaginary reality we wish for all. It is based on the principles of equality of all species, freedom of existence, on nonhuman and human rights, for the benefit of us all. We are motivated by human instability and deviation into the places where they hurt others, themselves, and us in the most horrible ways. We come in peace but we shall not surrender. We shall sing our song for all who want to listen and those who do not hear, shall be given the second chance. And the third. CATOPIA is a Noah’s ark of the future. It is the ideal society imagined from the perspective of Catpeople not because we are superior but because we are more independent than dogs, though closer to humans than other species. We love you but we can live without you. CATOPIA is what some would call a contemporary feminism but we identify with no –isms. We believe we are all sentient beings with bodies and voices, and missing any of those, limits none of one’s rights! We stand for our rights and we ROOOOOOOOOOOAR! We raise voices for those who are silenced by humans. We are fair and we dare! Down with anthropocentrism! Down with speciesism!


We Catpeople of CATOPIA praise 1. We are all daring beings and if you forget it, look around; there are many to learn from, modest and honest. 2. Nature is resourceful. Each one should have and use just enough, not less nor more. 3. Being self-sustainable is our priority. We give and we receive. 4. Nobody shall eat other’s leftovers unless otherwise they choose too. 5. Specie has its own specialities. Cats will always be in warmth. Fish will live in clean water. Birds will fly through clean air. Earth is clean for those who bath in it. 6 .Ism is not our religion. Our ethics are our faith. Our religion is our awareness that ‘I’ is not isolated. ‘I’ is ‘&’. 7. We can live alone, in families, in communities and we are all actors in this network of life. 8. Every being can be in a house or a room, a basement or a pond, a lake or a sea, a wind or a stream, a leaf or a tree. 9. It has been eons since we, nonhuman, supported your blasphemy. Not slaves any more but kins! Our bodies are made of water and stardust! 10. Mi casa es su casa. You should learn this too.

This is is an excerpt from Ivana Filip’ Manifesto of CATOPIA





ALICJA KAMAJ BodyCollage In these series of collages Alicja Kamaj explores how society and culture force the female body to hide its natural features. By cutting and combining photographs and pictures of other artists, Kamaj reveals frequently concealed elements, such as body hair, menstrual blood or nipples. In “BodyCollage,”Kamaj focuses on the physicality and physiology of the body, which brings to light deeply entrenched stereotypes. In her work, Kamaj encourages the viewer to confront their own subconscious and conscious prejudices and become aware of the stigma and shame attached to the natural form of the female body. In this manner, Kamaj pays homage to Alina Szapocznikow’s art practice and the artist`s great artworks are included in her collages. In “BodyCollage” Kamaj combines antique sculpture aesthetic with colours traditionally associated with the feminine, and photos of human hair and bodily fluids creating a new visual language. Kamaj states that “the aim of this series is to reclaim the female body from the arms of the patriarchy.”

Alicja Kamaj is a Polish artist from the Subcarpathian region, in SouthEast Poland. Kamaj specialised in fashion design during her time at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Besides using fashion, she experiments with illustration where she focuses on the female body and feminist issues. Kamaj also incorporates illustration, video and photographic elements in her art practice. @alicjakamaj


EWA MIELCZAREK Freedom, Equality and Abortion on Demand 100 days have passed since the first protest against the ruling of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, which in October 2020 ruled that abortion performed due to severe and irreversible foetal impairments or an incurable life-threatening disease is unconstitutional. According to the latest ruling published in the Journal of Laws in January 2021, abortion in Poland has been prohibited, except in two cases – when the mother’s life is at risk or if the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act, such as rape. For one hundred days, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Poland to show their discontent. These recent protests have brought together people across Poland and are deemed to be the largest mass protests since the fall of communism in 1989. Tens of thousands of marches, pickets and blockades were organised across different cities, towns and villages all across the country. Despite the pandemic and the ongoing intimidation of citizens by the police and state media, young people continued to protest, shoulder to shoulder with older generations. The questions which arise are “What really remains hidden behind the slogans and banners featuring the word ‘equality’? What have these 100 days changed in us? What else can we learn?” Economic Equality In the 1993 Family Planning Act in Poland, the Polish government passed a law to enable every citizen to make an informed, voluntary decision about having children. Hypothetically, everyone should have access to knowledge, governmental aid, contraception, and prenatal testing. Nevertheless, the current ruling party is far from fulfilling this obligation.


Equality Before the Law Reproductive rights are fundamental human rights. By targeting women the authorities question the very pillars of those rights. Violence against women, and the desire to impose a subordinate position on them forces them into “traditional” social roles are tools of oppression that are designed to prevent women from being equal before the law. By fighting for our reproductive rights, we are taking a step in the right direction to bring about greater gender equality, among other markers such as employment, fair wages and equal access to healthcare. Equality in language By its very nature the Polish language is grammatically framed within the gender binary. The strikes have launched a discussion on the topic of using inclusive language, one which would be gender neutral and devoid of sexism, and therefore more equalitarian. Although we are only at the beginning of a very long road, the very fact that we have started this debate brings us closer to reaching our goal. In one hundred days, we have taken many small steps forward. We are still at the beginning of a long journey to equality. Nevertheless, every radical action, empathetic gesture and act of help has mobilised change. This approach continues to bring us closer to our common goal – equality. Ewa Mielczarek has graduated from Cultural Studies at the University of Warsaw, and History of Art at the Polish Academy of Sciences. She has previously worked at the Propaganda Gallery in Warsaw and coordinated the Warsaw Gallery Weekend. She currently works at Zacheta, the National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, and produces exhibitions at the Polish Pavilion. She also runs The Hidden Photo Project, Rozmowwa platform, and is a curator and producer at RATS Agency. @evva.mielczarek





ZULA RABIKOWSKA Becoming Herstory “Becoming Herstory” a photographic meditation on the idea of belonging, origin and family, and has been inspired by Rabikowska’s family albums and her experience of migration. Rabikowska moved to the UK 20 years ago as a child and her identity has been significantly shaped by my departure from Poland. Using self-portraiture, Rabikowska wears her ancestors’ clothes and connects with family heritage to bring to light the war-torn complexity of Eastern Europe. Rabikowska includes elements that relate to the historical narrative, such as handmade dresses, scarves, tablecloths, curtains, and a family heirloom tapestry, some of which were smuggled across various borders during the Communist regime in Poland by different family members. Through this photographic process, Rabikowska “wears” and “performs” her family history, and challenges the idea of a single origin.

Zula Rabikowska is a Polish-British photographer based between London and Kraków. Zula was born in Poland, grew up in the UK and worked in France, China, South Africa, India, Palestine and the Caribbean. Her practice is influenced by her own experience of immigration and in her work she explores the themes of national identity, displacement and belonging. Zula has obtained an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from London College of Communication. Zula also works as a freelance photographer. @zula.ra


Equality is an notion that should be equal in all parts of the world. Before that, equity - a much needed nuance of equality, yet it continues to be overlooked. It seems that in Eastern Europe both, equality and equity are still a constant struggle. And words that come to mind when thinking about eastern equality are: hard, arduous, far-fetched, and long-shot. When will this change? How can we help? How many of us long for equity and equality? Will we ever get there? Kvet Nguyen Slovak/Vietnamese visual artist @kvetnguye Collective Rewilding believes that to demand environmental justice is also to demand social justice across the board – not just in terms of ecology but also race, gender and sexuality. We are therefore addressing questions of Equality within the framework of rewilding: Repositioning humans as a part of nature and the wild – instead of a conqueror that dominates its surroundings. This approach allows us to question art institutional practices. This helps deconstruct the foundation of ‘culture’ as a superior human-made model, and acknowledge the importance of holistic natural systems as an alternative form of structuring. Collective Rewilding: Sara Garzón, Ameli Klein, and Sabina Oroshi International curatorial group @collectiverewilding Can we differentiate equality in Eastern Europe from other parts of the world? Equality should be universal. Equality means being kind, regardless of their gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, or any other labels. Equality is looking at differences as something hat should inspire us to learn about each other and broaden our understanding of the world, instead of perceiving otherness as a threat. Equality is accepting differences and making space for them in society. Vera Hadzhiyska Bulgarian artist and curator based in England @verahadzhiyska


It’s difficult to think about equality in the CEE without considering inequality, or rather, injustice. As someone who is half Polish, my mind turns to the protest movement there, demonstrating for the right to abortion, and the right to choose. Thousands of people are taking to the streets. The movement is not necessarily about equality, it’s about solidarity. And, the strength of many different people coming together Izabela Radwanska Zhang Polish Chinese journalist & editorial director of BJP @izaradz Equality is a world without barriers. It’s freedom to be, learn and become better. The world has never been equal, but it is from the inequalities that others faced that people like me can continue the work towards freedom. We will be equal when everyone has a seat at the table, when everyone’s voice will be heard. To an equal future. Ogi Ugonoh Polish Nigerian designer and activist @ogiugonoh Equality is when individuals from all backgrounds have the same opportunities. Equality will bring us together to fight against things that destroy us and build things that sustain us. Boyana Aleksova Bulgarian artist @boyana.aleksova I look forward to when we no longer have to explain equality, a time when it will no longer be ‘trendy’ to create artworks about equality, because it will be something as normal and universal as it is to breath; when we will no longer be afraid to express ourselves, a time when we will not (be right to) be angry with the world anymore Vanessa Giorgo Greek Albanian Curator @sookie__


KRISTINA ALEKSANDROVSKA Structural Construction, Shapes, Textures This series is an experimental project, where Aleksandrovska combines organic materials and patters, to invent unusual structures. Aleksandrovska explores the tension and relationship between photography and drawing, and her project explores the connec-tion between these two mediums. Aleksandrovska searches for quality and disturbances within visual representation and plays with light, shadows, and textures. Through these designs, she questions the role of art in culture and history in Eastern and Western Europe.

Kristina Aleksandrovska is a visual contemporary artist, Born in Skopje, North Macedonia. Aleksandrovska graduated from the University of Fine arts in Skopje, North Macedonia and currently lives and works in Paris, France. In her practice she combines elements of drawing, painting, photography and video. @kristinaaleksandrovska






MALGORZATA DROHOMIRECKA Polonia_2020 In the 19th century, Poland was often depicted in paintings as a female figure called “Polonia”. “Polonia_2020” alludes to those depictions, from a 21st century point of view, Engaging with motives from popular films, music videos and stock images, Polonia_2020 seeks to shed a light on issues caused by the patriarchal culture and also transforms the national ritual of martyrdom into a sadomasochistic subversion. In the 19th century, creating an allegorical formulation of “Polonia” as a symbol of national martyrdom had a great influence in shaping the collective imagination in Poland. While men were portrayed as players who shape the public discourse, women were depicted as subservient creatures. This vision of woman as a human sacrifice is deeply rooted in patriarchal culture. By exaggerating the masochistic characters of “Polonia” in this cycle of paintings, a space for overcoming this defensive position opens up.

Małgorzata Drohomirecka is a Polish visual artist. After completing her master’s degree at Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk, (Poland), she moved to London where she lives and works since. In recent years she started to use the symbolic potential of her figurative paintings to address the issues driven by the patriarchal society. @malgorzata_drohomirecka


MARTA GRABOWSKA Looking at Slow Art and Equality In his seminal book, What do pictures want? The Lives and Loves of Images, W.J.T. Mitchell concludes that any artwork wants to be simply looked at. The study conducted by Lisa F. Smith and Jeffrey K. Smith titled Spending Time on Art , however, determines that the average time we spend viewing an artwork in a museum is less than 30 seconds. Even during the global pandemic lockdown, when art venues temporarily closed, audiences, and artists alike, have continued to live through a constant state of FOMO. There has been an overall trend of everyone connecting and engaging more online. Whenever lockdown restrictions get temporarily relaxed, many feel an instant urge to see as many art exhibitions as possible in an attempt to see it all and make up for lost time. As a result, we suffer from an url-fatigue, are overstimulated, and lose the ability to focus on a single piece of art. Slow Art is the answer. Like many other ‘slow’ movements, Slow Art sprouted as a remedy to fast-paced attitudes. It is not any type of art or artistic movement and goes beyond names and styles. All it requires from the viewer to slow down and look at the artwork with curiosity and fresh eyes. Slow Art encourages disregarding all knowledge, prior agreements, and cultural importance of art. In this sense, all art becomes equal in the eyes of the audience. It doesn’t matter if we are looking at ‘Mona Lisa’ by da Vinci or a sculpture made by an art student. Neither of them is more important than the other.


Moreover, Slow Art is for everybody and similarly viewers also become equal before the artwork. Despite differences in the socio-economic status, demographic standing, technological skills or level of education. Slow looking is an accessible practice that can be exercised either at the gallery or at home. Simply, focus on one artwork and look slowly. Contemplate, ask questions, get informed, and breathe.

Marta Grabowska is an art historian, independent curator and slow art activist with an interest in intersectional feminism. Originally trained in creative photography, Grabowska studied curating at Central Saint Martins, UAL, and NODE Centre for Curatorial Studies. She received her BA in History of Art and Curating from Birkbeck, University of London, where she researched Slow Art. Grabowska is a former founder and curator at ONE Project and co-creator at artBLAB London. She curated exhibitions, residencies and events in the UK, the Netherlands, Poland, China and online. She is passionate about audience engagement and accessibility, and wrote a series of Guides to Slow Looking that can be downloaded from her website. @martuga.grabowska


MARINA OPREA Papusha Papusha means “baby doll” in Romanian, which is the typically used word used in local catcalling. In this series, Oprea combines photography with a sound installation. Her images include cut-outs of her body, and the sound is composed of catcalls Oprea heard throughout the years on her street in Romania. Oprea says that “the catcalls are read in the first person, as if I am describing myself using the things men have yelled at me on the street. The concept is to create a kind of personal description using these misogynistic phrases which, coupled with the print cut-out, signify that these catcalls can essentially be applied to any women.” To hear the “Papusha” soundscape please visit:

Marina Oprea is a Romanian artist living and working in Bucharest. Opera graduated from The National University of Fine Arts in Bucharest, with a background in photography and video art and is currently studying for her master’s degree. Her work investigates identity and choice, working with very specific objects and tools. By creating situations and breaking the passivity of the spectator, Opera encourages the viewer to immerse themselves in the piece along with the artist. Using photography, performance, video, and ready-made objects, she documents and questions personal and social issues. @unlovely






JULIA MICHIEWICZ Charms In this series, Julia Michiewicz combines self-portraiture, photography and acrylic painting. Michiewicz recreates rituals and customs connected to Polish culture and traditions. Michiewicz uses an simplistic illustrative style in an attempt to comprehend, yet simultaneously question her culture. Michiewicz says that “making Charms was a way for me to analyse my conflicted feelings regarding Poland and belonging in Polish society.” My striking realisation after making these artworks is that they are particularly gendered. The portrayed actions are traditionally thought of as feminine. This specificity is surprising, as I have always thought of myself as unrestricted by gender norms. The sweet, nostalgic style of this series was inspired by my childhood memories, but it also function to highlight its very superficiality and oppression. I am asking myself: Has patriarchal society corrupted my perception and memories? Is there equality in my thinking process?”

Julia Michiewicz was born in Warsaw, Poland and obtained a BA in Fine Art from the University of Oxford (2019) and she currently lives in Yorkshire. Michiewicz has developed her art practice from documentary photography to painting as a way of expressing her complicated relationship with identity. The informational style is inspired by photographs documenting social and political events in Poland and reconstructive photos of actions and rituals connected with Polish culture. @michie_wicz




BLACK ART MATTER A guide by Julia Stachura This guide is both a result of Julia Stachura’s academic interest and her ongoing Instagram series entitled “Black Art Matter”. This series was made shortly after the tragic events of George Floyd’s death and worldwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality against people of colour. Below you will find a selection of visual artists from Eastern-Central Europe, please follow the links for interviews, artist’s sites, and Instagram accounts. Ivana Pavlícková Ivana Pavlícková is an Afro-Czech artist, born in Hranice, living and working in Dresden and Koln. Pavlícková identifies themselves as gender non-conforming person of colour. Pavlícková uses ceramics, sculpture, and rendered visuals. Their body of work focuses on fluidity, morphism, and shapeshifting. Pavlícková derives inspiration from traditional art and meme-culture. In their 2020 show “Drip”, Pavlícková presented sculptures and ceramics, linking heavy chains with shapes of plants and weeds. Their newest project, “Blackfemmehyperqueen”,explores identity, processuality, nomadism, and collecting data. @ivy_grams

Huntrezz Janos Huntrezz Janos is an Afro-Hungarian virtual artist, writer, performer, and teacher, living and working in Los Angeles. Janos identifies herself as Womxn, trans-fem alien. Her newest project, “Infilteriterations”, confronts violence and police brutality against Black Americans in 2020. Janos, after participating in multiple protests on the streets of Los Angeles, created the virtual reality where she claims equality, justice, and agency once again. The young voice from Janos is full of hope for a better future. @huntrezz 46

Liz Johnson-Artur Liz Johnson Artur is a Ghanaian-Russian photographer working and living in London. Johnson Artur was born in Bulgaria and grew up in Eastern-Central Europe. From early in her career, she photographed Afro-Russians (or Russians of Colour) and following the theme of diaspora. In 1991 she began the ongoing project Black Balloon Archive [BBA], named after the song from a soul singer, Syl Johnson. The BBA is a gigantic assemblage and conceptualised archive of thousands of pictures, representing the complexity of black communities around the world. From 2010 to 2019 Johnson Artur documented stories of Russians of African and Caribbean descent and completed it in the monograph “AfroRussia”. In her newest exhibition, called “Dusha” [soul in Russian], she featured photographs from the BBA collection, videos, and sketches. @lizjohnsonartur

Julia Stachura is a Polish art historian and choreographer. She is currently working on her MA in Art History at the University of Adam Mickiewicz. Her academic interests include photography, philosophy, postcolonial and decolonial perspectives. @neonli



ABOUT THE RED ZENITH COLLECTIVE There is a lot of hate and competition between women everywhere, particularly in the art world, and our aim is to support and champion one another, promote mental health awareness and channel creativity and collaboration. We are a dedicated platform for empowering and supporting womxn, female-identifying and non-binary creatives from Eastern and Central Europe, with events to encourage collaborative learning. Our aim is to diversify the arts scene in the UK and internationally, and provide under-represented people access and an alternative platform to engage with the industry. Our motivation is to improve access to creative opportunities for other womxn from different backgrounds. We are both active members of the CEE community and have devised an exciting dedicated programme, with planned events like talks, exhibitions, competitions and workshops. Red Zenith Collective was founded by Zula Rabikowska, Polish-British photographer, and Marta Grabowska, a Polish independent curator and art historian.


We are always looking for creative individuals and organisations to feature and promote, and our (digital) doors are always open so drop us a line with any ideas, suggestions or recommendations. Thank you again for your help and support and hopefully see you at one of our next events. Marta & Zula



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