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Dur­ing my vis­it at the Berlin Bien­ni­al, I met up with Mar­wa Arsan­ios dur­ing a warm-heart­ed meal shared on a Berlin ter­race. Between fits of laugh­ter and mask­less exchanges – in the lit­er­al sense of the word – I deeply enjoyed this beau­ti­ful meet­ing dur­ing my final evening in Ger­many.

I had pre­vi­ous­ly come across Mar­wa’s work since it was locat­ed on the same floor as Zehra Doğan’s “Xezên Dizi” series of draw­ings (the title mean­ing ‘Hid­den draw­ings’ in Kur­dish), along with mag­nif­i­cent instal­la­tions by Rom artist Mal­go­rza­ta Migra-Tas “Lost Mem­o­ry”, and the extreme­ly pow­er­ful col­lec­tive and sin­gu­lar real­iza­tion by the young Mapuche artist Pao­la Baeza Pail­amil­la, “Kurü Mapu” (mean­ing Black Earth in Mapuche) of which more in a future arti­cle. A beau­ti­ful space in which women from dif­fer­ent parts of the world could meet with expres­sions that criss­crossed and interwined.

  • Mar­wa Arsanios

Marwa ArsaniosMar­wa Arsan­ios was born in Wash­ing­ton D.C. She obtained a Mas­ters in Fine-Arts (MFA) from the Wim­ble­don Col­lege of Arts of the Lon­don Arts Uni­ver­si­ty in 2007 and was a researcher in the fine arts depart­ment of the Jan Van Eyck Acad­e­my in Maas­tricht Hol­land. She is the found­ing mem­ber of the research project 98 weeks, a space focus­ing 98 weeks of research on var­i­ous top­ics.

Using topo­graph­i­cal maps, videos and instal­la­tions, Arsan­ios rais­es pub­lic aware­ness on envi­ron­men­tal issues affect­ing the city of Bey­routh in Lebanon. Her work approach­es an event such as this one in order to bring light on nation­al con­flicts the the future of the Lebanese peo­ple. Oth­er works by Arsan­ios inte­grate ele­ments from pop cul­ture, sex­u­al­i­ty, geog­ra­phy and history.

She mul­ti­plies her exhi­bi­tions, in 2009 I heard 3 sto­ries, Every­thing about Aca­pul­co in 2010, The Col­lapse is not hap­pen­ing, the Col­lapse is ongo­ing in 2016, Ham­mer Projects: Mar­wa Arsan­ios in 2016–2017…

Cur­rent­ly estab­lished in Berlin, she is par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Bien­ni­al with the third part of her tril­o­gy Who’s afraid of ide­ol­o­gy?: Microresistances. 

Who’s Afraid of Ideology?

Lebanon, Kur­dis­tan, Syr­ia, Colum­bia /Trilogy – 2016–2020
By Mar­wa Arsan­ios

At the core of the cur­rent anti­colo­nial strug­gle for a wider social and polit­i­cal change we find the reaf­fir­ma­tion of the fun­da­men­tal life prin­ci­ple against the machin­ery of cap­i­tal­ist exploita­tion; and women are fight­ing on these var­i­ous fron­tiers. Mar­wa Arse­nios’ three films in Who’s afraid of ide­ol­o­gy (2017–2020) weave an inter­link­ing path through these wom­en’s strug­gles – in places such as North­ern Syr­ia and Colum­bia – in order to reclaim land and re-estab­lish direct links with nature. Self-defence, ecofem­i­nism, prop­er­ty, heal­ing, resis­tance, State con­trol, auton­o­my, col­lec­tiv­i­ty, indi­ge­neous strug­gles, the pro­tec­tion of seeds and prop­er­ty rights define the com­mon ground cov­ered by these women resist­ing against indus­tries of extraction.

Reassert­ing the fun­da­men­tals of life against the machiner­ies of cap­i­tal­ist exploita­tion is the core of today’s anti­colo­nial strug­gle for wider social and polit­i­cal change, and women are fight­ing on its dif­fer­ents fron­tiers. The tree films of Mar­wa Arsan­ios’ Wo is Afraid of Ide­ol­o­gy? Series (2017–2020) weave an inter­sec­tion­al path through these strug­gles of women ‑in places such as North­ern Syr­ia and Colom­bia- to claim the right to the land and to recon­nect with nature in an unmedi­at­ed way. Self-defense, eco-fem­i­nism, own­er­ship, heal­ing, resist­ing, state con­trol, auton­o­my, col­lec­tiv­i­ty, Indige­nous strug­gle, seed pro­tec­tion, and land rights define the com­mon ground of women who are resist­ing extrac­tivist industries.

How are we choos­ing to live and sur­vive today? Can ide­olo­gies be trans­for­ma­tive? How can life be fos­tered with­in the con­text of mil­i­tary con­flict and war? Arsan­ios’ time­ly ques­tions probe not only the ways in which ide­ol­o­gy and the­o­ry coin­cide with liv­ing prac­tice but also whether “we” who ate out­side these cir­cles of strug­gle can embody answers. Who is afraid of ide­ol­o­gy? Part 1 (2017) and part 2 (2019), are shaped around inter­views the artist made with mem­bers of the Kur­dish autonomous Wom­en’s Mou­ve­ment in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan and Jin­war, a women-only com­mune in north­ern Syr­ia, explor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of a polit­i­cal prax­is based on an exis­tence close to nature and with­in armed strug­gle. While pro­duc­ing the films Arsan­ios orga­nized dif­fer­ent meet­ings with women farm­ers and eco­log­i­cal fem­i­nists from Syr­ia, Lebanon, Colom­bia, Mex­i­co, India, Poland, Den­mark and Greece to exchange knowl­edge around their coop­er­a­tives and com­munes. Who is afraid of ide­ol­o­gy? Part 3, Microre­sis­tances (2020) draws from these intense exchanges and footage part­ly filmed in the south of Toli­ma in colom­bia. The last film of the tril­o­gy focus­es on the ongo­ing sys­temic war waged by transna­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions against the small­est and the most essen­tial ele­ment of life-the seed.

(ÖÖD – Excerpt from the Cat­a­logue of the 11th Berlin Biennial)

Marwa Arsanios

Part 1, 23 min, 2017

Filmed in the moun­tains of Kur­dis­tan in the begin­ning of 2017, this film focus­es main­ly on the autonomous wom­en’s move­ment of Roja­va and its struc­tures of self-man­age­ment and pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge. It deals with a gueril­la move­ment which con­sid­ers the lib­er­a­tion of the sex­es as insep­a­ra­ble and of equal impor­tance as the res­o­lu­tion of war con­flicts, feo­dal­ism, reli­gious ten­sions and eco­nom­ic strug­gles. Yet, despite its main focus on ecol­o­gy and fem­i­nism, the wom­en’s autonomous move­ment is not a lib­er­al project. It is an ide­ol­o­gy that has emerged in wartime and which is put in prac­tice in a war set­ting. The most recent par­tic­i­pa­tion in the move­ment takes into account the Syr­i­an rev­o­lu­tion which began in 2011 and is ongoing.

 Marwa Arsanios

Part 2, 28 min, 2018

It exam­ines dif­fer­ent ecofem­i­nist groups, includ­ing the wom­en’s autonomous move­ment in Roja­va, and the way in which they attempt to tend both the the earth and to them­selves. Using as an exam­ple an alliance between a wom­en’s com­mu­ni­ty, nature and ani­mals, Mar­wa focus­es on the var­i­ous aspects offered by this eco­nom­ic alter­na­tive and the recon­struc­tion of the world. The film also rais­es the prob­lem of the “nat­ur­al” role devolved to women assign­ing them to care functions.

Part 3, 30 min, 2020: “Microresistances”

The final part of the tril­o­gy pre­sent­ed to the pub­lic at the Berlin Bien­ni­al “is inspired by these intense exhanges and images par­tial­ly filmed in the South of Toli­ma in Colum­bia. The final film of the tril­o­gy focus­es on the cur­rent sys­temic war led by transna­tion­al firms against the tini­est and most essen­tial aspect of life: seeds.” (ÖÖD – Excerpt from the Cat­a­logue of the 11th Berlin Biennial.

  • Marwa Arsanios

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges 
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Chat de gout­tière sans fron­tières. Jour­nal­isme à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mar­mara. Archi­tec­ture à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.