This is the introduction of my dissertation “Post-Cold War Gender Performances. Cross-cultural examination of gender performances viewed through film re-enactments.”
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This practice based dissertation examines gender as “performance,” as defined by Judith Butler, and its transformations after the Cold War within the ex-socialist Europe. The examination of gender performances is made by analysis of influential films and by reenactments of scenes of these important cinematic works, represented as multichannel video projections. The films are from USSR, Russia, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia and span the period from 1920s to the end of the 2000s. My hypothesis is that new insights about the changing concepts of gender roles and gender performances in post-socialist countries and globally since 1989 may be produced, not only through theoretical and textual analysis of history, but also through creation of original films that include reenactments of scenes from influential films. My artistic claim is that these new insights about gender performances may be obtained by not only reading a text but also by having a visual and aural, bodily experience, for both those who act in the films and those who view these artworks. This experience can change cultural attitudes and historical knowledge through other means than text. This dissertation also explores gender performance cross-culturally, situating the research in a global context. For instance the actors who participate in the reenactments are from the US, which is intended to integrate issues of cultural translation into the process. The film characters are interpreted through the cultural and political prism of each of the participants. The process of creating this project relies on a critical exchange of ideas, where the re-enactment is treated as an interpretation, rather than a copy of the chosen scene. Finding commonalities, rather than cultural differences is the goal. In keeping with Michel Foucault’s view that power is a productive force in society I try to analyze how similar oppressive gender power structures can occur irrespective of the particular political and ideological context. I seek to represent also individual and collective reactions to these oppressive formations through gender performance.