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hetero q.b.

This international programme of events showcases a group of video works, made by women, which deal with themes ranging from feminism, to lesbianism and transgender. The selection spans countries and realities that are seen as ‘peripheral’ in relation to classic Euro-American feminist discourses and practices – normally regarded as more progressive defenders of the equality of women and of gender.

They are societies in which, in recent decades, historic, cultural, social, political and natural tensions surrounding gender have been played out according to different rules, challenging the very history of the feminist movement.

This season also reveals some of the most significant debates in relation to issues of feminisms or post-feminism, as well as the entire range of queer diversity, from lesbianism, bisexuality, transexuality or transgender, which has been fundamental in clarifying and constructing a new culture and mentality with respect to these realities.

One such debate has been instigated by Judith Butler, whose theorising of these issues from a historical perspective has recently led to an advocacy of a rapprochement of the feminist and transgender movements around a shared set of values, countering a latent conflict between the many factions of sexual identity, in favour of a society which reconfigures the distinctions between internal and external life, rejecting the pathologising of cross-gender identification. For Butler, the terms used to designate gender are historical categories and undergo a continual process of reshaping, leaving room for other possible ways of understanding them, since ‘sex’ and ‘anatomy’ are also subject to cultural regulations and norms. ‘Masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are constantly undergoing transformations, each one of those terms having social histories which change radically according to geopolitical borders and cultural obligations.

Another debate has opposed the hegemony of Euro-American feminist discourse in black, Indian, Chinese and Arab cultures and countries, denouncing the dichotomies inherent to ‘white’ feminist discourse as a form of perpetuating the structural power relationships of the capitalist system and asserting a Western approach of superiority over the ‘other’. This is an area in which feminist discourse is being rethought, enabling new forms of activism and theory. Specific studies and works on black feminism, or feminism within Islam have been the precursors to a new heterogeneous and decentralising approach to classic feminist discourse. This new approach has much in common with the reality of southern European countries, by encouraging a convergence of debate and practice in spheres of action that contemplate facets such as the intimate and the biographical, popular culture and customs, rather than philosophical and theoretical discussion.

The aim of this season of events is not to construct a propagandistic discourse on gender issues. It is however informed by the belief that the heterosexual framework of contemporary society plays a normalising and regulating role for patriarchal authority, and that its implementation permits the existence of significant areas of inequality. This is indeed demonstrated by the multiplicity of artistic approaches which have developed in diverse social spheres over recent decades, using various forms of expression to confront, condemn, reveal or simply explore the complexity of gender and the way it is experienced.

Gender theory has been debated and questioned in numerous scientific and intellectual spheres, however it has also entered the realm of public debate, combining the examination and condemnation of the new models of the experience of sexuality and the creation of a corresponding legal and political framework.

The theme is still a taboo whose specifics have been little examined in various societies, for various reasons. However a recent collection of articles on the subject, published in the magazine Le Magazine Littéraire posed a pertinent question, asking if we ‘should be scared of gender or, on the contrary, should take advantage of the way that it destabilises our normal ways of thinking in order to transform/better our society.’ Gender is also a doctrine under construction, whose boundaries of debate and investigation have in recent years expanded exponentially, just as it has intervened divisively in the moral, ethical and social organisation of contemporary societies, which alone justifies our attention to the theme.

The programme of events we now present aims to contribute to an understanding of the complexity of gender and the feminine, through artistic and heterogeneous thought conducive to an awareness of equality and tolerance.

Emília Tavares

Curator

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