Maja Bekan, Throw Like a Girl, 2022, TENT Rotterdam, foto Aad Hogendoorn
Maja Bekan – Throw like a Girl. Gossip like a Girl!
Maja Bekan’s richly layered research-based projects involve different levels of collaboration that focus on bringing together women of various backgrounds, generations, perspectives, and experiences. Kaylie Kist met up with Bekan to talk about her major retrospective exhibition P for Performance. Nothing is Accidental currently on show at TENT. More specifically they talk about the new and continuing project Throw Like a Girl in which Bekan works together with women from the military.
To find out more about her new and ongoing project, Throw Like a Girl, I met with Maja Bekan in the large windowed front room at TENT. Bekan (1975, Former Yugoslavia) is a Performance and Visual Artist, based in The Netherlands. Her richly layered research-based projects involve different levels of collaboration that focus on bringing together women of various backgrounds, generations, perspectives, and experiences. Bekan uses her magnetic charm and ability to lean into the art of conversation as the central tool to give form to her performances, specifically created environments, video/audio/text-based installations and public conversations. In 2008 she initiated the long-term research project P for Performance, as a means of learning, which Bekan feels opens the possibility for change in a wider social-political context.
Performance is pivotal to Bekan’s feminist practice, she also employs it as an artistic tool to cultivate friendships, share time, reflect on the work and roles of women, and more critically as a way of rehearsing togetherness. The show at TENT, in its entirety, demands your time and attention. Several video works ask you to commit in a way, to stay with them, as one might in real-time relationships. It’s only as the conversations unfold, we begin to understand that the measure of time relates more to the preservation of these gatherings, whilst there is no doubt, that what we see on each screen in terms of performances, are friendships that stretch far beyond this institutional setting.
Centrally located in the Throw Like a Girl is a public rehearsal space which theatrically sets the stage for a series of improvised happenings. It shouts out, demanding attention. The work follows a group of women from two different worlds; the arts and the military, who have been meeting to gossip in various locations since April, whilst using TENT as a hybrid space for both intimate and public exchanges, readings and choreographed movements.
Bekan stands against the curved backdrop of gold lurex curtains. The space is partly occupied by seven wooden reading pedestals which stand in waiting, each with its own towering presence, laden with copies of texts that have informed each gathering. Every pedestal has a shelf, on which folded, beige and gold detailed boiler suits loiter. From beneath the curtain, a pink vinyl covering pokes out, licking across the floor space and up against the far side of the wall. It hints towards an unconscious material gesture that might encourage the flow of words or silences yet to be broken, I feel a sense of anticipation as I long for the gossips to gather!
How do we talk about our own personal body clocks and what times are we in when we meet?
It still amazes me how much time it takes to change, and I question what is necessary for change. How sensitive infrastructures are for this?
In the text Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment Motility and Spatiality Iris Marion Young writes about the female body and its difference, it made us question what is the space that the female body occupies and how much space we are allowed to take up? I think the whole work somehow evolves around this question. If you look around, these reading tables are 1 sq. meter, the size of the room, the size of the boiler suits, there are so many echoes and I think it was this text that moved us towards us focusing on the form of our rehearsal environment and how we perform in and occupy the space.’
For me dancing is a metaphor for community
We walk through the rest of the gallery, an impressive coven of video installations acts as an echo chamber of communities that Bekan has fostered, in which mothers, students, retirees, nuns, activists, and artists find ways not to be silent, throughout friendship seems to form a common thread.
Before leaving the exhibition, I pause to read an enlarged text, another important anchor for Bekan’s research, an extract from Lisa Baraitser’s Enduring Time. The piece focuses on the temporal tropes of staying, maintaining, repeating, waiting, delaying preserving, enduring and recalling. I begin to think of friendship as a practice, a tool to liberate art from social isolation and that our ability to maintain connection is possibly the strongest thing we have in these enduring times.
Throw Like a Girl, and retrospective exhibition: P for Performance. Nothing is Accidental. Showing at TENT, Rotterdam until 28.08.2022.
The remaining Public Rehearsals for Throw Like a Girl are free admission and will take place at TENT, Rotterdam between 19:00-21:30 on Friday 19 August & Friday 26 Augustus (final rehearsal).
Throw Like a Girl collaboration includes Gabriela Dávalos Aray (artist and educator); Darly Benneker (artist, educator and project coordinator); Zosia Nowakowska (designer); Claudia Redout (Lieutenant Colonel at the Royal Netherlands Army, veteran); Amy Son (Royal Navy Operational Service communications Sailor 1, veteran); Rinke Wagenaar (Captain in the Royal Netherlands Army); Aletta van der Eijk (TENT marketing & communication coordinator) and various members of team Tent
The project and exhibition are supported by Anke Bangma, Darly Benneker, Vesna Bijeljić, Gunndís Yr Finnbogadóttir and P for Performance reading group. In cooperation with The Mondriaan Fund, Stroom, The Hague and TENT.
Kaylie Kistis an artist and writer