• Still from a video work ’10 Ways Not To Become The Invisible Woman After 40’, Maria Kapajeva, 2020

Online discussion “Feminist and Women’s Movements in the Baltics: Between Regional and Transnational Contexts”

On Wednesday, January 19, at 5:30–7:30 pm EEST Latvian Center for Contemporary Art is organizing an online discussion on feminism and women’s movements in the Baltics. The participants are researchers and artists from the Baltic region: Maria Kapajeva (EE), Piret Karro (EE), Agne Bagdžiunaite (LT), Ieva Melgalve (LV), Madina Tlostanova (SE). Moderator: Andra Silapētere (LV). The discussion is organized in collaboration with Kumu Art Museum in Tallin and will be held in English.

Feminism and its understanding is changing rapidly around the world. Today, in a global context, we can talk about fourth-wave feminism, which focuses on empowerment of women, solidarity and a collective care from a social, economic and ecological perspective. At the heart of this debate is not only criticism of “white feminism,” which has ignored women of color, but also the role of LGBTQI+ communities, especially trans rights and the rejection of a gender binary. However, the feminist movement and its histories in various regions of the world have different developments and, when talking about feminist models, we can notice tensions between the Global North and Global South and the ways feminist narratives have been formed. With this discussion we are eager to ask, do local feminist processes in the Baltics seek to be involved in, influenced by or shape their own narratives in the transnational debate? In short, what are the stories about feminism and the women’s rights movement in our region?

Gender equality policy in the Baltic and broader postsocialist region is complicated and is challenged by various aspects that have deformed the idea of gender equality. We often come across claims that the presence of feminism in today’s social, economic and cultural space must be justified, and one has to explain that feminism and strategies of women’s movements aren’t “foreign traditions” borrowed from the West, but that they have a deep history in our region. Rejection of feminism has led to such consequences as the refusal to ratify the Istanbul Convention, acceptance of violence against women in the domestic and public sphere and the cultivation of hate against people of different races, classes and sexualities on a political level. How do these local histories and relations resonate with the trajectories of feminism and its global developments? Do transnational processes directly interact with our region and its history? How have these questions been revealed in culture and art and what are the specifics of the flow of ideas in both historical and contemporary perspectives in the Baltics?

Participants will discuss these issues based on their practice, both artistic strategies and research, tracking stages of change at different periods of time. How do we find and treat “missing” women’s histories? What is the legacy of the earlier women's and feminists movements in the Baltics? How to make the memory of these movements contemporary again in our troubled present? Are these histories still being erased and by whom? What can be called feminist in our region?


Piret Karro The Feminist Movements in Estonia in the 1990’s

The talk will look back at the newly independent post-soviet Estonia where social values quickly shifted from socialist collectivity and formal gender equality towards nationalism, rapid privatization, and a hyper-polarized gender regime. During this era, first lesbian and gay unions were established, and the feminist groups emerged in the art field. The newly re-established nation state began to write its history from a new perspective, but many women and their contributions to the development of the democratic society have been written out of the history books. How did these erasures happen and are we still erasing women from our history? Piret Karro will discuss the tactics of erasure that have been used in Estonia to forget women’s contributions and from a gender perspective will reevaluate construction of the nation’s self-image.

The presentation is part of the wider research project focusing on Estonian women’s movements aiming to draw a historical arc since the emergence of the subject „Estonian woman“in the mid-19th Century to nowadays. This is a lineage that has not been thoroughly studied before in the Estonian context. The research will be published in March 2022 in the literary journal “Vikerkaar.” 

Piret Karro is cultural critic and writer, currently based in Tallinn. She has been publishing since 2011, in Estonian literary journals, magazines and daily press, and worked as the cultural editor in the monthly Müürileht (2015–2018). She has published her poetry in Estonia and Hungary. She writes about gender and power dynamics in art, society and politics, most lately in her column „Gender and Power“ in the cultural weekly “Sirp” (2020–2021). She holds a MA degree in Critical Gender Studies from Central European University in Budapest (2020), having researched the tactics of populist and anti-feminist rhetoric, based on the discourses of “hysteria” and “witch-hunt”. She is currently a curator at Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom, and a freelance researcher, writer and playwright for various journals and collectives.

Agnė Bagdžiūnaitė Feminist manifestations in the 1990's Lithuania

The talk will concentrate on uncertainties of feminist manifestations in the 1990's Lithuania that sources from the Agnė Bagdžiūnaitė's curated project Obscene West. In Honey, named after the performance-video installation by Eglė Rakauskaitė (1996). The project aimed to analyze the issues of gender roles and sexuality in the 1990s', as well as the feminist definition in art in Lithuania and neighboring post-Soviet countries. 

In her talk Agnė Bagdžiūnaitė will take a closer look at the works of the different Lithuanian women artists and will try to actualize the contribution of those who were creating, writing, and thinking at the time to the way we perceive the development of local feminism today. The talk will raise such questions as did any of the artists who were active in the 1990s' defined their works as exclusively feminist? Why those works that seemed to conform to feminist values were not identified as such? 

Agnė Bagdžiūnaitė lives and works in Kaunas. Bagdžiūnaitė holds a MA degree in gender studies from Central European University, Budapest and in political science from Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas. Her research interests include art and politics, the theory of critical feminism, social reproduction, and social movements. Currently Bagdžiūnaitė works as curator at the Kaunas Artists' House. She is curating a residency programme DeMo (Decoding Modernity) and various other projects and video art programme Mokumentai at Kaunas Artists’ House.

She is a part of the editorial board of the left media platform Gyvenimas per brangus ( and co-organiser of social centre Emma. In 2019 Bagdžiūnaitė was a co-organizer of the international conference Gender Struggle in Eastern Europe. Legacy of the Socialist Past and Contemporary Issues together with the DEMOS platform and Rosa Luxemburg’s fund.

Maria Kapajeva Becoming a feminist artist

Kapajeva’s work often explores a diverse spectrum of cultural identity and gender issues within historical and contemporary contexts. Focusing on women’s position in contemporary society, she aims to question how identities are formed via subconscious effects of advertising, moves, and popular media through research-based work. In her presentation, she will focus on her personal experience of finding herself as a feminist and becoming a feminist artist. She will highlight how her origins and life in the UK are shaping her artistic practice.

Maria Kapajeva works between Estonia and the United Kingdom. Her book Dream Is Wonderful, Yet Unclear, published by Milda Books, got Krazsna-Krausz Photo Book Award in 2021. The first book You can call him another man, published by Kaunas Photography Gallery, was shortlisted for Aperture Photobook Award 2018. In 2019 she was awarded with A Woman’s Work grant with Creative Europe Program, in 2018 she won the Runner-Up Award at FOKUS Video Art Festival (Denmark). In 2016 she got a Gasworks & Triangle Network Fellowship to work in Iran at Kooshk Residency. In 2022 she received the KARA Award to continue her work at the residency in Iran.

She exhibits internationally and her works are in the museum collections such as Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and Tartu Art Museum. She is a Member of Estonian Artists’ Association. From 2021 Kapajeva has started a practice-based PhD at Estonian Academy of Arts.

Ieva Melgalve Challenges to women artists as reflected in the periodicals of Latvian SSR

The research centered around women artists in Latvia is focused on articles in periodicals of the Soviet period which mention 'women artist' (māksliniece). It reveals the systemic challenges women artists were facing during Soviet time and allows to assess the reasons for their discursive erasure after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite the ideologically proclaimed gender equality, there was a noticeable division of art genres, with women being discouraged from advancement in so-called 'fine arts' while positions in art education, crafts, design, and fashion were framed as more 'feminine'. The women artists' work was often downplayed during the Soviet period for its lack of ideological power. 

Furthermore, the research reveals systemic positioning of women in domestic and economic roles of a wife, mother and teacher, which are time consuming and often stalled or even stopped their artistic work. Women artists are often portrayed in periodicals as 'feminine', which entails such characteristics as shyness, humility and loss for words; features that then and now limit access to recognition. These issues have led to relative obscurity of many women artists who were active in the art and design scene during the Soviet period, as well as suggest that many potential artists' progress was stifled by the ideologically dictated and gender biased discourse. 

Ieva Melgalve is a doctoral student at Art Academy of Latvia with an interest in posthumanistic approaches, as well as queer and feminist studies. Her education covers art theory and social and cultural anthropology. Mostly, she researches artwork creation, which also involves interest in the relationships of artist and society. She is also a writer and a teacher of creative writing at Art Academy of Latvia.


Andra Silapētere is a curator and researcher at the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA). Her field of research and interest include exile and migration topics in art and aspects of identity and belonging. Together with Solvita Krese she is curating the Latvian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2022 with the artists Skuja Braden. She has been co-curator of a research and exhibition project Portable Landscapes which examined art and life of the Latvian exile and emigrant communities throughout the 20th century with exhibitions at Latvian National Art Museum, Riga (2018), District, Berlin (2019), James Gallery at CUNY, New York (2019) and an upcoming publication (K. Verlag, 2022). Other selected exhibitions include: I Remember, Therefore I Am. Not Yet Written stories: Woman Artist Archives (2020), Unexpected Encounters (2019) both at the Latvian National Museum of Art, Unexpected Encounters at Den Frie (2019), Copenhagen, Twofold. Kaspars Groševs and Jānis Borgs at the Latvian National Museum of Art (2017) and Lost in the Archive at the Riga Art Space in Riga (2016).

This is the sixth discussion of the research and exhibition project “Reflecting Post-Socialism through Post-Colonialism in the Baltics”, organized by the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art in Riga in collaboration with Kumu Art Museum in Tallin. The project analyses the imprints of post-socialism and post-colonialism in the Baltic region, here exploring them through the prism of woman’s movements history and feminism and the current social processes.

The project is supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation.

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