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La Flâneuse and the Modern City - Conference

Thursday 9 Dec, 8 p.m. (local time), online Zoom

Thursday, December 9th, 20:00
Registration for the online event here:

The figure of the flâneur (wanderer) was used by 19th century thinkers to describe the modern urban experience. In this conference this figure is borrowed and serves to discuss the female wanderer, La Flâneuse, and to examine the relations between the modern city and the women who conceived, planned, designed, initiated and often also financed its development. La Flâneuse represents a change in the status of women that began in the 20th century, after long periods in which they did not have equal rights concerning action and visibility in the urban space, which was largely defined as masculine. In the conference we will move between periods, cities and continents to examine the challenges these cities presented and the hopes they raised among women who led active lives in them. Three international scholars were invited to address this topic.

The conference, which is dedicated to the relations between the female wanderer and the modern city is part of the discourse on the exhibition La Flâneuse by the artist Nelly Agassi and the animator Maya Raviv curated by Sabrina Cegla currently on show at the Liebling Haus project room. In the exhibition, La Flâneuse seeks to decipher the changing city as if it were a fabric: assuming and abstracting its buildings as if they were dresses, wishing to reappropriate it through means considered feminine. Agassi and Raviv offer a new relationship between La Flâneuse and the city by evoking forgotten visions, activities and the female presence in Tel Aviv’s urban space.
For more information about the exhibition:

Conference Program:

8 p.m. Greetings and introduction – Sabrina Cegla, exhibition curator

8.10 p.m. The Flâneuse and the Architektin: Contradictory Models of Female Modernity? – Prof. Despina Stratigakos
The flâneuse is typically associated with pleasure and ephemerality, the Architektin (or female builder) with refuge and permanence. How does each relate to shifting notions of female modernity in the early twentieth century and to the way women experienced urban life at the time? This talk focuses on women’s efforts in Imperial Berlin to create architectural spaces for themselves and explores competing notions of women’s urban empowerment through the figures of the flâneuse and the Architektin.

Despina Stratigakos is a writer, historian, and professor. Her research explores how power and ideology function in architecture, whether in the creation of domestic spaces or of world empires. She is the author of four books, including A Women’s Berlin: Building the Modern City, which traces the history of a forgotten female metropolis. She currently serves as the University at Buffalo’s Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence.

8.30 p.m. Women Architects and Women’s organizations in Mandatory Palestine – Dr. Sigal Davidi
Women architects have left a distinctive mark on the local architecture, fostering and promoting the ideas of modernist architecture. They planned housing as well as large-scale public buildings, many of them neglected and forgotten today. This lecture will highlight the notable part Lotte Cohn, Elsa Gidoni Mandelstamm and Genia Averbuch played in laying the foundations of the new Jewish society in Mandatory Palestine by planning urban social institutions initiated by the women’s organizations WIZO, Women Workers’ Council (Moetzet Hapoalot) and the Women’s League for Israel (WLI).

Sigal Davidi is an architect and architectural historian. Her research focuses on the relations between nationality, immigration, gender and old age, and the modern architecture of Mandatory Palestine and Israel. Her book Building a New Land: Women Architects and Women’s Organizations in Mandatory Palestine, appeared in Hebrew in 2020

8.50 p.m. The Flâneuse at Mid-century: Simone de Beauvoir’s City – Prof. emerita Mary Pepchinski
Simone de Beauvoir is known as a philosopher, feminist, and novelist. Less known is her avid interest in architecture and modern urbanism, which she saw as having great potential for liberating people, especially women. This talk focuses on a trip de Beauvoir took in the late 1940s to visit the cities of the United States and considers her experiences as a single, middle-aged, foreign, bisexual woman. Based on de Beauvoir’s accounts of this trip, Mary Pepchinski reflects on the potential—and limitations—of the modern city as a liberating force for women.

Mary Pepchinski is an architectural historian, curator and writer based in Berlin. Her research focuses on Gender in Architecture and Urbanism as well as Biographies of Women Architects. She was a Professor at the TU Dresden until 2021. In 2017 she was the scientific advisor to the Frau Architekt exhibition at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt, Germany.

9.10 p.m. Discussion and Q&A with the conference participants, the artists, and the audience

9.30 p.m. Closing words

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