Sonja Lau

Guilty, guilty, guilty! Towards a Feminist Criminology

8 March 2024, 6pm


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In this talk, curator and writer Sonja Lau revisits her recent exhibition „Guilty, guilty, guilty! Towards a Feminist Criminology“ (Kunstraum Kreuzberg, Berlin, 2022-2023), that looked at court files, trials, and juridical cases with a specific focus on gender, female delinquency, and the reception of women in the dock. In the course of the presentation, Sonja Lau will elucidate how these “Women on Trial” – a rather infamous and under-recognized group, to whom this exhibition is dedicated – have entered the project from the fringes of history with a specific urgency, and how they have informed the choice of curatorial methods and its parameters, therein the understanding of the trial, its files and the respective sentences, as a feminist archive in its own right. By navigating through the exhibition, we will look at different “figures” of the women criminal and female divergence as well as the way these cases have been judged upon (through the legal apparatus, but also, through representation, image politics, public judgement). However, unlike lingering in those scenarios of (in)justice, the goal of this talk (and the exhibition that preceded it) is to sharpen the eye for a yet different narrative, or, movement, that leaks from hermetics of the courtroom into the exhibition space: A movement of female disobedience, that is not just “criminal”, but also political, imaginative, and more.

Sonja Lau is a freelance curator, writer and lecturer with a focus on the relationship between art, power and history; the mechanisms of art history production and curating as a performative and artistic practice. In the recent past, she has majorly researched and worked on the evaluation of the female gender in contemporary jurisprudence, (see amongst re: von der poesie im recht, 2021, Studio Bethanien, with Nika Dubrovsky, Dominique Hurth, Silvia Federici, et al., as well as the writer’s project Die Pflicht zum weiblichen Ungehorsam, taz, 2020). In January 2024, she has joined the Goethe-Institute as director of the Goethe-Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, where she is currently based.

Past exhibitions and projects include Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (Zusammenhang Gesamtkunstwerk, 2015), Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden (Der Zaudernde Körper, 2013), National Theatre Tirana (Fiend. The 21 Seconds piece, with Armando Lulaj and John Tilbury); Opera Village Africa (Von der Kunst, die Waffen gegen sich selbst zu wenden, with Friedrich von Borries, Clémentine Deliss, and Ariane Müller, 2020); in addition to interventions and actions such as Try… Again… Better. Cornelius Cardew in Tirana, 2012, Tirana Historical Museum; Repaintings, together with André Siegers, 2008, National Gallery Tirana. Her reviews and essays have been published in, among others, Texte zu Kunst, Cabinet Magazine, Arts of the Working Class, and various artists’ monographs.

Sonja Lau is part of the collective Manifesto (DebatikCenter of Contemporary Art, Tirana), that runs annual artistic interventions in the Albanian capital as a statement against the annexation of art history in the post-socialist context. She holds an MA in Critical Writing and Curatorial Practice (Chelsea College of Art and Design, London, 2007), was Fellow of the Alfred Toepfer Fondation and the Robert Bosch Foundation (Tirana, Albania, 2008-10; 2011-13), and Curatorial Fellow at the Jan Van Eyck Academy, Maastricht (2013-2014). Since 2013, she is a collaborator of ICI – Independent Curators International, New York. From April to July 2022, she was a resident in cultural theory at the Tarabya Cultural Academy, Istanbul, where the exhibition “Guilty!” took root.