MATTER OF ALLIANCES; on film practices and land struggles
Research Grantee Academy of Fine Arts Vienna | Dissertation Completion Fellowship 2023
The thesis Matter of Alliances is structured around three specific relationships to land that put the state apparatus into question. These are three cases of communalization of land led by grassroot anti-colonial and ecological feminist movements and organizations. While charting the organizational structures of the communalization processes, that depart from seeds, an armed reappropriation and a legal battle, one notices that these three different forms of political organizing, whether anarchic or party politics or legal intervention, work in parallel and complement each other to a certain extent. Each context and geography shape its own resistance strategy. But from Iraqi Kurdistan, to Northern Syria, Lebanon, South of Tolima in Colombia and Chiapas there is a common purpose; that of de-privatization. As an artist I have had a long-term engagement with each one of the commune, movement and cooperatives I have worked with. Sometimes as a member and initiator and some other times as a mediator, translator or ally. I have also brought together all of the initiatives and movements in a convention of women farmers and ecological feminists in 2019 during the Warsaw biennial in the aim of forming a network and learning from each other.
In this thesis I use historical materialist and new materialist references to read those experiments. Matter and the infrastructure of the soil become a mirror for organizing. How can we learn from the ground and underground for our political organizing? How do we organize in proximity and conjuncture to land and matter? These questions are answered throughout the text with organizational charts that include the non-human, the dead, but also through the thinking of land’s own resistance and negativity, its own negation of property and ownership.
The camera becomes a protagonist in the process of learning. It takes us to the soil and asks questions about the production of a new form and a new image of the landscape that is not one of extraction. How does the documentary take part in this process? Film and documentary connect the different geographies and think critically about the image and the filmic apparatus as a historical tool for expansion and extraction. The films themselves are often born out of a mutual desire to communicate the work and struggles of the communities and their resistance practices. They become a pedagogical space to learn from specific localities, places and most importantly to learn from land. They are also a filmic experiment in the way they rethink collective work, alternative ways of producing films, and accordingly produce a new aesthetic.
Throughout the thesis filmic concepts are used as a point of view to look at land.
In the last chapter a more speculative attempt sets the tone for a new economic proposal. And a reflection on the position of the artists and the art economy in this journey.
Marwa Arsanios’ practice tackles structural and infrastructural questions using different devices, forms, and strategies. from architectural spaces, their transformation and adaptability throughout conflict, to artist run spaces and temporary conventions between feminist communes and cooperatives, the practice tends to make space within and parallel to existing art structures allowing experimentation with different kind of politics. Film becomes another form and a space for connecting struggles in the way images refer to each other.
In the past four years Arsanios has been attempting to think about these questions from a new materialist and a historical materialist perspective through different feminist movements that are struggling for their land. She tries to look at questions of property, law, economy, and ecology from specific plots of land. The main protagonists become these lands and the people who work them.
Her research includes many disciplines and is deployed in numerous collective methodologies and collaborative projects.