Waiting for Superman
Wives in Dough
7 October 2022
Slovenians are a nation without myths, and yet, this nation has been trying, at an accelerated pace since 1850s, to compensate for the absence of myths with folk music and folk tales. Given that women, considered carriers of tradition, preserved the constitutive element of the nation, their function in the creation of the Slovenian nation is at least as important as that of men. The latter is derived from the scholarly justification of Slovenians being different from their neighbours, as can be demonstrated, for example, in the activities of reading societies. Women have ensured, while performing their everyday tasks (such as doing the laundry, corn husking, weaving, sewing and knitting), that the political entity called the Republic of Slovenia exists today. And it is not surprising therefore that the very sphere of folk music and musical genres that claim to be its successor and the continuation of its traditions are heavily politicised. So, the crucial question is: can we identify with folk music and folk tradition outside any framework of partisan definitions? How do we do that without being nationalistic? Is every gesture, every work of art that deals directly with folk heritage automatically nationalist because it eschews neoliberal internationalisation?
The Wives in Dough project is based on a decision that we do not want to forget tradition, but we want to bring it closer, to build a bridge between the past and the present, and perhaps to present our vision of the future. Slovenian folk ballads that we will perform were written in a different time; a time that ran a different course. Thus, we have also made a different course of human time which observes the course of nature, birth, growth, fertility and death, the setting for the performance. The cyclical time of nature and the four seasons, represented by the four actresses, is merged with the cyclical time of human beings and society, sharing their customs, songs, dances and tales. Morning time, birth and springtime are located in the same spot. Let morning equal birth and spring. Life is a year is a day. This is the only way to flatten out these cyclical times, only in this way can we turn them into linear time, into a track machine where we are running today, a track machine that is running faster and faster.
It is precisely the passage of time that can be the reason why we must simply not forget the tradition and not write it off (yet). Folk songs, incantations and customs have an aura of the mythical, the natural, the archaic, as if they conveyed a primordial force. These are also the qualities that women are supposed to represent in traditional societies, their added value and central virtue, as opposed to the rational, development-oriented nature of men. But the apparently natural quality of these laws should not be taken for granted. The aims and objectives of folk traditions, or rather the way they were preserved, were fairly concrete, and this is why they that have become a key to understanding today’s semi-real past and forget other ways of remembering traditions that already exist, but are not so loud.
But perhaps tradition should not be read as a finished story and should be developed further – if it is not to be used exclusively as a tool for manipulation and dissemination of exclusionary nationalism message. What follows a song to the dead child, a song by a girl forced into marriage? Does only the content change over time, or the resonance itself? Does the core of a folk song today remain the euphonically sounding third? Is this what folk songs ever were like at all?
Živa Bizovičar, Iva Š. Slosar, Nik Žnidaršič