Born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1970.
She lives and works in Stockholm.
Artist and filmmaker Petra Bauer examines the past to better resonate with our present and to anticipate the future, whether she focuses on the history of collective filmmakers; the work of critics and theoreticians involved in the London scene of the 1970s (Notes on Political Cinema) (2011); collaborates with the minority feminist organization Southall Black Sisters in making the eponymous film Sisters! (2011); or her installation What Women Want (2014), about Swedish women’s activism and desire for emancipation in the early twentieth century. Bauer usually undertakes these explorations in collaboration with others, using conceptual and documentarian research tools to explore the political stage, whether that of the city, public display, or public media. In her effort to redefine the role of the artist in society, Bauer is fascinated by struggles of individual identity and collective minorities. She uses film and institutions as a social and political negotiation space.
In What Women Want, the artist looks into the journey of the socialist women activists and campaigners who traveled around Sweden between 1907 and 1920 to organize and mobilize women for the Socialist Women’s Movement. Bauer’s first iteration, presented in Malmo in 2014, focused on the potential for change conveyed by posters calling for women to come together to discuss present and future conditions. At the Biennale di Venezia, her installation A Morning Breeze includes a selection of these public calls as well as excerpts from Morgonbris, the magazine of the early Socialist Women’s Movement and a collection of more than fifty black-and-white group portraits representing different socialist women’s clubs in Sweden. The portraits, commissioned by the clubs themselves, speak to women’s thirst for self-representation as political beings before they were legally regarded as such. Women did not receive the right to vote in Sweden until 1919, one year after women’s suffrage became law in the United States.
Bauer confronts our newsfeed with the persistence of messages belonging a priori to the past by using magazine archives and reprints of posters in Malmo’s public space. What happens when some of the questions asked in the 1970s are posed again today? What are the crucial feminist ideas of our time?