Who's Afraid of Ideology? (part 1) // Marwa Arsanios

A woman is standing in the middle of a valley, a brown landscape of mountains and rocks. She walks towards the camera and starts to talk. The camera retreats, slowly and continuously, keeping her in frame as we listen to her voice. But something seems to be off. The movement of her lips doesn’t match the voice we hear. There is a kind of displacement, something that we still cannot fully understand. By disconnecting the voice from the body in the image, Marwa Arsanios seems to suggest that we need to slow down a bit, to escape immediacy, to pay attention and listen carefully. 

The body will be later replaced by landscapes. Snowy mountains from elsewhere. The words reverberate in that space, and when they come back to us, they seemed to be charged with something else. The connections are there but we need to jump into a space of contemplation and reflection in order to find them. It’s as if it’s not necessary to find answers, but to inhabit the questions in-between the silence and the landscape. 

The film is built from material - images, interviews, conversations and thoughts - collected by Arsanios during a period in which she stayed with the Autonomous Women's Movement in Rojava in northern Iraq. It presents a series of stories and reflections that are linked to the experience of the Kurdish people’s resistance, and to the relationship between ecology and feminism within it. 

To think about ecology, especially about an ecological consciousness developed within the frame of war, makes me think about the very idea of protection, and the spaces of protection that we have left, or believe that we do. A later voice talks about a common understanding of the liberal system, that individuals and groups must surrender the means of protection to the State. The State, therefore, has the monopoly of violence as the only one authorized to exercise it. It reinforces that the use of force is most frequently a tool for the maintenance and the support of the established geometries of power. That is still constituted today by the definition of the bodies that must live and of those who can die, an idea that the philosopher Achille Mbeme has developed under the concept of necropolitics. 

When the state no longer defends us, what kind of strategies can we use in order to defend ourselves? Where do we flee and where could we find protection when the experience of life itself cannot be separated from the mediation of the state? 

The idea of protection as a right granted to a citizen of a certain state becomes especially problematic when the very notion of nation-state is falling apart, and if we take into consideration the huge amounts of individuals that are continuously pushed out of this system. In the same way, the idea of peace, or of living in peace, has become a strategy of governance in the systems that we live in. To live in peace means not only that we should surrender the fight but also to accept the conflict that is imposed on us by others. This dynamic might also be what allows the transfer of violence to the red zone of the world, far away from the centers of power. Violence became then a distant idea, something that happens outside of the safety of the west, making invisible the mechanisms of control that operate or our societies.

When the idea of peace became a strategy to govern bodies within certain geographies, how can we understand resistance and radicality? Is it possible to operate under a different paradigm? 

A voice from the screen talks about how the state works to break the relationship of the individual with nature, as the only possible way to legitimise its power. And I’m led to think that this is no longer just about safety or protection, but about the individual's ability to establish relationships of survival without the State as their intermediary: “existence is based on the ability to defend yourself”.

Who is afraid of ideology? opens space for us think about ecology, not only in relation to nature, but in the very set of relations that individuals establish with all their surroundings, with communities, knowledge and territories. And the question that remains is, as artists and individuals, how can we learn from the experiences of those who live in different communities, under different paradigms, to build strategies of resistance? When difference is continuously threatened, can art still be a space of protection?

- Túlio Rosa

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Who’s Afraid of Ideology? Ecofeminist Practices Between Internationalism and Globalism - E-Flux Journal

Kdo se boji ideologije? / Who is afraid of Ideology?

Thinking Projects - Marwa Arsanios

NECROPOLITICS - Warwick University