Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory is excited to present To Become Two, an exhibition that brings together six films from artist Alex Martinis Roe’s long-term research project under the same title. The exhibition project traces the genealogy of “feminist new materialist” and “sexual difference” theories through her engagement with different international feminist communities and their political practices, which include Women’s Studies (now Gender Studies) at Utrecht University, Casco’s long-term and affectionate partner. To Become Two elaborates on a number of historical practices developed by these communities and explores their interconnections across generations and different contexts. The six films are presented in a modular architectural installation that speaks to the project’s long journey – commenced in 2014, To Become Two includes workshops, performances, and an artist’s book, and will later travel onwards to Bolzano and London.
Australian-born and Berlin-based artist Alex Martinis Roe locates an affirmative politics of difference by performatively tracing a social history of feminist theory and practice. She engages in the making of films, textual documents, and material structures and sites where discursive strategies are practiced in order to show how the significant feminist work of the past is linked to contemporary feminist theories and practices of the present and future. These materials, coupled with the different forms of research and storytelling that Martinis Roe employs, support the stitching of time and history across varied experimentation and encounters with the specific and situated communities she has worked with as a generative methodology towards intergenerational solidarity. As twentieth-century feminist work is often distinguished by generational waves that demarcate priorities and achievements, Martinis Roe’s films and their installation offer alternative stories of affirmative relations between feminists across generations.
Martinis Roe draws from the early political work that engages with “sexual difference” – a theory and practice of relational subjectivity that involves relating to, making space for, and inventing a sexuate culture that begins from differences – and later “feminist new materialist” theory, which takes up similar concepts, forms, and political theories of this differing to extend these ideas by accounting for human and non-human forces and modes of relation, exploring the agency of bodies, of matter, and their entanglement with culture in a convergence between the sciences and humanities. The genealogy that Martinis Roe traces not only demonstrates the generative process of developing a social history, but also shows the potential for establishing and practicing a political theory as a result of doing so, thus emphasizing the connection between theory and activism.
Each film explores the history and organization of a feminist group that emerged in the 1970s, ‘80s, or ‘90s – including the Libreria delle donne di Milano (Milan Women’s Bookstore co-operative) (Italy); Psychanalyse et Politique (Psychoanalysis and Politics) (France); Women’s Studies (now Gender Studies Programme) at Utrecht University (The Netherlands); a network of those active in the Sydney Filmmakers Co-operative, Feminist Film Workers, and the Department of General Philosophy at Sydney University (Australia); and Duoda – Centro de investigación de Mujeres (Duoda – Women’s Research Centre), and Ca La Dona, Barcelona (Spain). By employing various methods such as participant observation, oral history interviewing, archival research, and collaborative social practices Martinis Roe connects the theories and practices of previous groups to a younger generation of women through reenactments, storytelling, consecutive translations, and the presentation of archival material. Her work with this younger generation later resulted in the development of twenty propositions for feminist collective practices, which forms the subject of the final film Our Future Network (2016).
The architectural installations that support the viewing of the films, designed with Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga, allow for multiple encounters and ways of viewing the exhibition. Drawing from the interior spaces and material-discursive settings created by these early feminist collectives, these structures emphasize how both material space and social formats inform lived and embodied subjectivity and political practice.
More about the Films within To Become Two
The six films and their architectural installations provide a deeper understanding of these feminist theory-practices that extend internationally and across time. To Become Two includes the film Their desire rang through the halls and into the tower (2014-16), commissioned by Casco and in collaboration with the Graduate Gender Programme of Utrecht University, it centers around the interconnected histories of the first-known female university student in Europe, Anna Maria van Schurman (b. 1607), and the development of the Women’s and then Gender Studies Research School at Utrecht University. A story from Circolo della rosa (2014) is a filmic letter exploring the relationship and social-symbolic practice of affidamento (entrustment) between two experimental historians of the Milan Women’s Bookstore co-operative who worked together on feminist pedagogical experiments in the late 1980s and who entrusted Martinis Roe to narrate their story. Event and document meet in It was an unusual way of doing politics, there were friendships, loves, gossip, tears, flowers (2014), a two-channel film that presents a choreographic reenactment of a Psychoanalyse et Politique meeting and location shots of the site where 300 women from different European women’s groups met at La Tranche sur Mer, France in 1972, to work to distinguish European feminist practices from the “imperialism” of North American feminism. For the joy of being together, they didn’t have to agree (2015-16) features oral history research, stories, and translation to discover the desire, affirmation, and joy that accompanied feminist practices in Barcelona in the ‘90s and their relationship to the political practices of Italian sexual difference feminists. Through the interconnected stories of political groups working in Sydney in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Martinis Roe explores how political practices of alliance led to the development of transdisciplinarity and feminist new materialist methodologies in It was about opening the very notion that there was a particular perspective (2015-16) (Sydney). Lastly, the film Our Future Network (2016), co-commissioned by ar/ge Kunst, Bolzano; Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht; If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution, Amsterdam; and The Showroom, London, presents twenty propositions for feminist collective practices with an intergenerational group of women, and is derived from the practices and propositions that arose out of a series of workshops, embodied research, and the five earlier films.
Education Program Related to – To Become Two
Two courses led by Martinis Roe will take place within the To Become Two installation: Theory in More Formats, taught together with Vasso Belia, with students from the Netherlands Research School for Gender Studies at Utrecht University on joining academic practice and interdisciplinary forms; and The Practice of Authority, on the practice of shifting agency and giving authority amongst members of a group, with students from the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, and KABK – The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague.
Also on view are six film posters, a collaborative project with Chiara Figone founder of Archive Books, Berlin, as an extension of the Our Future Network project. The exhibition will also be accompanied by the publication of To Become Two, an artist book published by Archive Books (2016).