Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: OTTILIA

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: OTTILIA

CRAC Alsace

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Oriana (still), 2023.

June 12, 2023
Beatriz Santiago Muñoz
June 15–September 17, 2023
Opening garden party: June 15, 7:30pm, with free shuttle from Art Basel
CRAC Alsace
18 rue du Château
68130 Altkirch
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 2–6pm

T +33 3 89 08 82 59
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Curated by Elfi Turpin.

Monique Wittig—who was born in 1935 in Dannemarie, a town just a few kilometers from CRAC Alsace, and passed away in 2003 in Tucson, Arizona—is part of the art center’s political and affective territory, so much so that we set out to read the entirety of her work over five years ago, to see how this experience would affect our program. In the course of collective readings, projects and residencies, the books—The Straight Mind, Lesbian Peoples: Material for a Dictionary, The Opoponax, The Lesbian Body, …, Paris-la-politique—were passed from hand to hand until Les Guérillères* reached the top of the pile in 2019, eventually becoming the bedside book of the group exhibition The Knife Without a Blade That Lacks a Handle. At the time, we were happy to find out that this book influenced a number of artists, including Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, whose reading of Les Guérillères during her early years at the University of Chicago had a lasting impact, impressed as she was by the way Wittig’s formal experimentation made it possible to touch the world by naming it differently.

Wittig starts writing the book in 1967, in the context of decolonial struggles and women’s liberation movements. She constructs a long epic poem describing a mythical and colorful march to overthrow, guerrilla-style, both the patriarchy and the language upon which it’s established. It’s a war of pronouns: They appears [in French: Elles, third person feminine, plural], a collective entity and main character engaged in a bloody struggle against the patriarchal regime. A few years ago, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz plunged back into the vast literary field initiated by Monique Wittig. She began to draw inspiration from Les Guérillères, its techniques and its power to transform the world through language, and turn it into an experiment in cinema. She transposed it into her own artistic, emotional and political territory, the island of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean. The book thus became an instruction manual for making a film, from which she borrowed words, situations and strategies that she experimented with by shooting with a close group of performers and feminist activists, crossing through caves, rivers, the tropical forest, on the edge of a landscape marked by colonial violence and military occupation. Together, they formed a plural subjectivity, a figure that, in order to free itself from the categories of gender, sex and race, is characterized only by each other’s actions and relationships. What happens when Wittig’s ideas are thrown into the tropical forest? They’re humidified, updated, extended into a different relationship with the living and the invisible. It makes the film Oriana**. And it’s powerful.

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz continued this experiment last summer at CRAC Alsace, where she worked to form a new collective subjectivity together with a group of artists, teachers, students and children close to the art center. Les Guérillères became a tool for tying together, for loosening up, for improvising in French and filming in this territory, in the bright white summer light, with a 16 mm camera: inside an old library, beside a lake, in a print shop, on the edge of a rural landscape scarred by industrialization and wars. What happens when Beatriz’s ideas are thrown into Wittig’s native Alsace? It makes the film Oenanthe. It’s sweet and tastes like Opoponax***.

This exhibition presents the two films Oriana and Oenanthe, whose sequences are re-edited and installed within the walls of the art center (the former high school of Altkirch), assembling images shot in Alsace and Puerto Rico, and summoning presences, to form the constellation OTTILIA****.

*Monique Wittig, trans. David Le Vay. Les Guérillères (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).
**Oriana: Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Pivô, São Paulo, September 5 – November 6, 2021; Argos, Brussels, February 11 – May 7, 2023.
***Wittig’s first novel, published by les Éditions de Minuit in 1964.
****Ottilia is the Latin name of Odile, healer and patron saint of Alsace, of the blind and of the visually impaired.

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CRAC Alsace
June 12, 2023

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