This can be found in the gaps, in all that which is not a continuation of their discourse, in the zero, the O, the perfect circle that you invent to imprison them and to overthrow them.
(Les Guérillères, Monique Wittig)
The work of Puerto-Rican artist Beatriz Santiago Muñoz is the outcome of quality time shared between the participants – and often the co-authors – of her films, whether they are people, places or objects. For the artist, the camera is an instrument of mediation between those in front of and behind the lens. The mutual acknowledgement of the object’s presence is the premise for establishing key links that time and again reveal the departure points for her works. Conducted almost always from her native Puerto Rico and its surroundings, Santiago Muñoz’s multilayered practice unveils via aesthetic paths the structural elements of contexts still marked by the not-so-distant colonial invasions and where people live according to parameters that differ from those prescribed by global capitalism. Her filmography deliberately intersperses the documental with the fictional and is on its own an invitation to de-automatize a way of seeing and being in a world created and supported by Eurocentric narratives of progress and development.
In her first solo exhibition in Brazil, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz presents Oriana – a multi-channel audiovisual installation based on the book Les Guérillères by feminist writer Monique Wittig (1969) – which occupies the entire exhibition space at Pivô. Since her teenage years, the artist has been revisiting the pungent landscape created by the French author and, in the last few years, she has focused on reinterpreting it in an open and processual feature-length film in which various women, mostly acquaintances and participants of Santiago Muñoz’s life, are invited to inhabit an undefined space-time proposed and conducted by her.
In the book, Monique Wittig subverts her mother tongue to narrate the uprising of a tribe made of bodies perceived as female against patriarchal semantics and its implications. The author is one of the first to question – as early as the 1960s – heterosexuality and gender roles as something natural, actively rejecting them by proposing the transformation of communal relations through the establishment of a grammar that challenges conventional binary arrangements. In her own way, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz stages a sort of visual translation of the universe created by Monique Wittig, above all, her predisposition to rip and implode the foundations of a language that does not handle those vibrant hybrid presences and, going even further, that is not enough to translate the wide-spectrum of human experience.
Similar to the book’s original design, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz breaks the sequences of her film into seven projections spread in the exhibition space. Visitors can choose their path and experience the circular narrative at their own pace. The space’s peculiar architecture, the original soundtrack composed by Brazilian band Rakta, and the graphic interventions created by Estúdio Daó act as sorts of narratives threads indicating possible ways around the profusion of images and sounds that take over the environment.
In its literary version, Wittig’s elles detach themselves from their proper names as a way of renouncing ruling words. To visually recreate Wittig’s female entities, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz delved deep into the humid density of the tropical forest and its many mysteries. Even though we don’t know for sure who her characters are, when or where they live, we follow them somewhere south. It is there, in this nameless place, that the artist sets a shared subjectivity in motion establishing a bond between those who act in, those who collaborate with, and those who watch her films. The collective experimentation that originated Oriana reiterates that major structural changes emerge above all from epistemological revolutions and radical convivial experiences, as we see in Wittig’s bold proposition, timely revisited by Santiago Muñoz over 50 years later.
Oriana is a co-production of Pivô with Fundação Bienal de São Paulo and is part of the 34th Biennial’s program. The artist also takes part in the 34th São Paulo Biennial, which can be visited free of charge at the Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion in Ibirapuera Park from September 4 to December 5, 2021.
During the opening of the exhibition, on Saturday, September 5, from 1 pm to 7 pm, the band Rakta will present live improvised music based on the film’s soundtrack.