Marwa Arsanios’ Who Is Afraid of Ideology? focuses on ecology, feminism, social organization, nation-building, war and economic struggle. In its formal construction, the film lays bare some of the documentary form’s devices to create a record of shared living and organising— voiced by those within, and in proximity to, the communities documented. Arsanios presents us with two radical women’s movements and their means of survival as a possible solution to the degradation of the commons and the destruction of the earth.

Q&A with Marwa Arsanios

In the film's first section, self-governance and knowledge production in Rojava’s autonomous women’s movement provide the two pillars of Arsanios enquiry. Using recorded testimony captured in the mountains of Kurdistan, the filmmaker outlines the movement’s practical concerns, among them: how to consume fish within its biological cycles of production, or when to cut down a tree for survival and when to save it. While filming, Arsanios spent her time in reading groups, meeting with ecological, natural medicine and education teams across various locations in the region, later recording additional conversations remotely by phone and Skype. What emerges is a look into how a group of individuals comes together, as guerrillas, to create a radical movement.

The second half of the film extends Arsanios’ research into a farming cooperative in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley, near the Syrian border. With this new work on Jinwar—a women-only village in the north of Syria—Arsanios documents this Lebanese cooperative and its informal, NGO-like structure, which has become a safe space for Syrian refugee women. Through the artist’s close and detailed study we are shown how land was reappropriated by this autonomous movement after 2011 and how this communal feminist project has, in concert with non-human species, decentralised the top-down, partisan ideologies of the nation-state.

Marwa Arsanios

Marwa Arsanios is an artist, filmmaker and researcher with a body of work spanning installation, performance and moving image. Gendered labour, non-human ecologies, collectivism, urbanism and industrialisation are some of the concerns that underpin Arsanios’ incisive reconsiderations of mid-twentieth century politics from a contemporary perspective.

Arsanios has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Skuc Gallery (Lujubljana), the Beirut Art Center, Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (Rotterdam), Kunsthalle Lissabon (Lisbon) and Art in General (New York). Her work has also been shown in a number of group exhibitions, including Warsaw Biennial, Sharjah Biennial, Gwangju Biennial, Home Works Forum (Ashkal Alwan, Beirut), Venice Biennale and Istanbul Biennial, among others. Her videos have screened at the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Berlinale and CPH:DOX. She was awarded the Georges de Beauregard award at FID Marseille 2019, the Special Prize of the Pinchuk Future Generation Art Prize 2012, and was nominated for the Paulo Cunha e Silva Art Prize and the Han Nefkens Foundation award.

Arsanios was also a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude (Stuttgart) and Tokyo Wonder Site (Tokyo Arts and Space). She is the co-founder of 98weeks Research Project. Arsanios received a Master of Fine Art, University of the Arts London in 2007 and was a researcher in the Fine Art Department, Jan Van Eyck Academie (Maastricht, Netherlands) from 2011–12. She is currently a PhD candidate at the Akademie der bildenden Kunst in Vienna.

Filmography

Who is Afraid of Ideology? Part II (2019), Amateurs, Stars and Extras or The Labor of Love (2018), Who is Afraid of Ideology? Part I (2017), Falling is not collapsing, falling is extending (2016), Olga's Notes (2014), All Those Restless Bodies (2014), Have You Ever Killed a Bear or Becoming Jamila (2014), I’ve Heard 3 Stories (2009), Carlton Hotel Project (2008), I’ve Heard Stories (2008)