Paradoxically, this marginalization due to antifeminism, somehow diffusive in the local phalocentric (neo-)orthodoxism,
does not consider substance, the central ideological axis of artist`s works (after 1993), which is antifeminism itself. More
exactly, the remarkable originality consists in the fact that, within the whole spectre of nowadays Romanian art, Victoria Zidaru is
the unique manifest antifeminist artist who follows a strict neoconservative program criticizing canonic imported feminism. The fundamental problem of her works is neither religiosity, the neo- or ultraorthodox symbolism, nor prophesy, as it seems at first sight. Installations as The Laundress, Saints` Cover, The Stones of the New Foundation, Cleaning Vessel, The Tree of Life, Reception Ritual Carpet etc. represent the most exemplary and pregnant, even oppressive, crystallizations of the "reactionary" antifeminist spirit: they are genuine manifestoes of feminism challenge from the feminine positions specific to
autochthonous patriarchal (horribile dictu!) civilization. To the (sociologic and aesthetic) role play of feminist emancipation, Victoria Zidaru opposes oppressively the role play of submission and dependence, of surrender and humility, with all its psychotic and extatic, even mystic, connotations. Each act or object, each mark of womanhood has a sacrificial character: it is a renunciation, an offering. The brutalizing/brutified hands washing ceaselessly in a wooden trough full of lye water, rubbing the clothes with a heavy cake of house-made soap (The Laundress, a videoinstallation), the rosary tissues on which hundreds of incantatory verses are mechanically written with thread and needle, stretching, like a never-flowing river, on paths and fences, if not descending from high cupolas (The Prayer - Hymn for the Dead), but also the tremendous heavy tails, resembling preasant women`s plaits of yore, braided out of paper printed with The New Jerusalem prophesies, a mystic monstrous whig ritually wrapped up round three high, sharp and peeled splinters (The Tree of Life); similarly, the tens of canvas bits fastened in the loops of a trawl knitted of rough hemp thread, embroidered with the short incantations of The New Jerusalem Community maidens appealing a Bridegroom who, for them, is but a spirit (Reception Ritual Carpet), together with the threatening craftsman`s automata, gigantic shuttles and spindle-swords, quilts, pillows and mattresses stuffed with good-smelling hay, but bordered with world seclusion imperatives and pierced by knitting needles, distaffs, wires and stakes - all this woman`s labour, interwoven with the haughtiness broken out of the broken up haughtiness itself, finally closes an ideologic fold wherefrom there is no way out, where purification is conjured - it even occurs brutally, either as trauma or as revelation. Paradoxically, the inner cohesion of the antifeminist model and its militant proliferation impel Victoria Zidaru`s works onto the position of the most coagulated feminist political art on the entire Romanian stage.
Inflexible as it is, this art stands out from Marian Zidaru`s oeuvre, which, much more shaded, remains essentially versatile,
characterized by androginy, aestheticism and a comprehensive but flexible mysticism, liable to mediation, yielding and adaptation
from its very start. Moreover, given this mysticism, Victoria Zidaru owns an extra representativeness vs The New Jerusalem phenomenon, whose original and prevalent feminine component is wellknown. A work as Reception Ritual Carpet is eventually a patchwork in which monastic community`s massive intervention (to which, in fact, Victoria proves much more permeable than Marian) becomes essential. While The New Jerusalem resembles, to a large extent, to a complex or a federation of beguinages (the way they survived in Western Middle Ages), Victoria Zidaru is the loudspeaker of these modern béguines who have chosen to stubbornly perpetuate a feminine, though revolute model having a great power of symbolic seduction due to its promise to transfigurate the daily sacrificial ritual. Certainly, in this retardatory human ecology is enscribed, just like in mediaeval béguines` movement, a trenchant political positioning capitalizing precisely the woman, feminity, feminine, and, more recently, feminism. Due to the committed addiction to the past and the persuasive force moderating it, Victoria Zidaru`s antifeminist art should not be (as it seems) a problem for the present neotraditionalism, but rather for the local neo-avantgarde, as, in fact, antifeminism is an inner problem of feminism, and feminism, a trend in nowadays art, is intimately related to the new radical avantgarde. Our meagre feminist artistic movement is dominated by servility towards the outline of the Western model, internalized in the works of Marilena Preda-Sânc, Lia Perjovschi and Roxana Trestioreanu, who turn thematic the repertoire and the subjects prescribing identity, discrimination, violence, the organic, deterioration, non-communication, etc. In recent Romania, a kind of new conformism practised by a type of reverse "feminine macho" fanaticizing the old sensiblerie has appeared. The actual vital component of feminism, i.e. the political demand, does not stand out the perimetre of autochthonous feminist art.
Genuine feminism is a political art, but in our country it stands for a common business - when not concluded cynically, in cold blood, to get a more favourable curiculum vitae. This somehow self-seeking feminism has "difference" as its ideologic pivot; but it is a cohesive, homogenizing, "progressive", non-differentiated, globalized difference, which does not accept that the other can be not only another and diverse, but radically different, and this, not only by obeying politically correct parametres, but also in terms of aesthetic or ideologic endurance.
Victoria Zidaru`s antifeminism propagates a radical different feminism and assumes an extreme alterity: it is a political, militant neo-conservative and progressive art. The critical indolence towards her works is obvious due to the naive conviction that art must be separated from politics (illustrated by the representatives of the local canonic feminism) and that, if it approaches politics, art must climb over it from the ginger-bread slope of progress, common sense and good taste. The strength of political art is not in the least due to its progressive character (which, of course, could be circumscribed to commendable intentions), but by the capacity of persuation, by the poignancy of demand and of the model per se. Victoria Zidaru`s antifeminism is a critical feminist art; it is significant not because it is progressive or of "good quality", but because it is decisive, outspoken and preachy, because, first of all, in a real community, it is both binding element and ideology. Ultimately, what essentialist (yet uncheckable) conviction can guarantee that (canonic) feminism is moral, and antifeminism, not? Why should feminist terrorism be better than obedience and antifeminist maniacal labour? Like any ideology, feminism and antifeminism, progressism and conservatism are historical phenomena, therefore they are liable to change. For political art, more significant than ethic sophisms is the social efficiency of an act or of an artistic action, the capacity to design a counterculture, to disseminate a mentality and to agglutinate a group, a committee or, on the contrary, to confine within an intellectualizing mood whose witness is a momentary coterier a sterile, dead "documentation". (In fact, for some years now, personal documentation has become the aberrant purpose of several artists` lives: they gather promptly samples, records, photos, films, so that, finally, give the impression that something "has happened". But what endures? What comes next?)
Victoria Zidaru`s art challenges the limits of feminism when it conceives and promotes the image of an unchangeable, eternal feminine nature enclosed within parametres familiar to our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Submission, dependence, even humility represent the feminine positions the self-seeking feminism cannot accept, none the less profess. In fact, to accept difference (in the non-political keynote of local feminism) should only affirm tolerance towards those who do not resemble you, who not only reject the meliorist and progressive model you kindly propose, but counterpropose a radically opposite model, an ideological position you would be ready to state as retrograde, illegitimate and which, moreover, delegitimates you. The limit of tolerance does not consist in being tolerant with what is different from you, but with what opposes you explicitly. And feminism, like any ready-made truth, can conduct to that triumphal and negligent, arrogant and, in fact, intolerant "tolerance" which just diminishes world`s differential substance and contents - that mixed-up and fertile matter, though sometimes magmatic and horrifying.
Erwin Kessler (2009)
Victoriei Zidaru`s Antifeminism, text published in the Catalogie of the exhibition Umbria: Terra d`incontri - Mitologie Soggettive, Rocca Paulina Perugia, 2009, pp. 68 - 71