Johanna Dohnal — the name represents disputatious, feminist politics. It represents the women’s policy move into a new era in the 1970s: not only did the chairwoman of the SPO-women, the Social Democratic Party of Austria, and later Austrian Federal Minister Dohnal consistently launch feminist subjects. She also anchored gender equality in law. Even today, conservative forces are striving to reverse these laws and developments. In view of this, Johanna Dohnal carried on raising feminist public awareness to the last. In public space as space of negotiation in which diverse meanings, interests and groups meet, awarenessraising and increasing the percentage of women are also important themes. Isabella Kresse’s project FÜR JOHANNA (For Johanna) takes this up.
Public space, above all urban parks, is not only dominated by men as regards their names. Also their management and administrative posts are still mostly held by men. Even more so, it is important to enforce the symbolic visibility of women, for example through artistic interventions.
A major theme for example is fear in the public space. So town planners and politicians tend to make the urban space more “compatible” with women and “safer,” with lighting installations and surveillance technologies. By contrast, with her project Isabella Kresse suggests that as a woman in a park there is no need to be afraid. Rather the opposite: if one wants to see Kresse’s work as a whole, it will mean visiting a total of 23 parks. In each municipal district of Vienna the artist has planted a birch tree for Johanna Dohnal.
Isabella Kresse’s project is best visited in the course of a personal on-site inspection, however: a round tour takes the visitor from Hermann-Gmeiner-Park in Vienna’s 1st district via the Hubert-Marischka-Park in the 6th district further to the Josef-Schoiswohl-Park in the 23rd district. Everywhere now a birch tree dedicated to the feminist pioneer will grow. The lettering FUR JOHANNA DOHNAL with which the artist infiltrates the patriarchal identity of the city that is still influenced by the city fathers, is cast in concrete. With this fragility and distribution, the project undermines the idea of the classical monument: only someone moving from the city center to the outer districts will gain a complete understanding of it.
Apart from its contribution to the emancipation of the urban identity, the project FÜR JOHANNA represents in addition the general confirmation and carrying further of a feminist politics, which still needs combative representatives.
Text by Christa Benzer
23 Parks Vienna
Partners and Sponsors
MA 42 – Municipial Department 42 for Parks and Gardens
MA 57 – Municipal Department 57 for Women’s Issues
Federal Ministry for Women and Public Service
Vienna’s municipal districts