From June 15 to September 17, 2023, OTTILIA, a solo exhibition by Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, curated by Elfi Turpin.

Monique Wittig—who was born in 1935 in Dannemarie, a town just a few kilometers from CRAC Alsace, and passed away in 2003 in Tucson, Arizona—is part of the art center's political and affective territory, so much so that we set out to read the entirety of her work over five years ago, to see how this experience would affect our program. In the course of collective readings, projects and residencies, the books—La Pensée straight (The Straight Mind), Le Brouillon pour un dictionnaire des amantes (Lesbian Peoples: Material for a Dictionary), L'Opoponax (The Opoponax), Le Corps lesbien (The Lesbian Body), ..., Paris-la-politique—were passed from hand to hand until Les Guérillères* reached the top of the pile in 2019, eventually becoming the bedside book of the group exhibition Le couteau sans lame et dépourvu de manche (The Knife Without a Blade That Lacks a Handle)**. At the time, we were happy to find out that this book influenced a number of artists, including Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, whose reading of Les Guérillères during her early years at the University of Chicago had a lasting impact, impressed as she was by the way Wittig's formal experimentation made it possible to touch the world by naming it differently.

Published in 1969, Wittig writes Les Guérillères in the context of decolonial struggles and women’s liberation movements. She constructs a long epic poem describing a mythical and colorful march to overthrow, guerrilla-style, both the patriarchy and the language upon which it’s established. It’s a war of pronouns: They appears [in French: Elles, third person feminine, plural], a collective entity and main character engaged in a bloody struggle against the patriarchal regime. The book is divided into three sections separated by circles, while a poem mainly composed of a list of names cuts through the length of the narrative, appearing every five pages. The final section is the one Wittig first wrote, the part where They win and where, heavily armed, They thrash this regime. Then “They say, if I take over the world, let it be to dispossess myself of it immediately, let it be to forge new links between myself and the world.”*** The first two sections take place after the last section, in the future, one where no class shall take power over another. A future where we invent and decontaminate language.

In 2017, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz plunged back into the vast literary field initiated by Monique Wittig. She decided to draw inspiration from the book, its techniques and its power to transform the world through language, and turn it into an experiment in cinema. More than an adaptation, the book is transposed into her own artistic, emotional and political territory, the island of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean. Les Guérillères thus becomes an instruction manual for making a film, from which she borrows words, situations and strategies that she experiments with by shooting with a close group of performers and feminist activists, crossing through caves, rivers and the tropical forest, on the edge of a landscape marked by colonial violence and military occupation. Together, they form a plural subjectivity, a figure that, in order to free itself from the categories of gender, sex and race, is characterized only by each other’s actions and relationships. What happens when Wittig's ideas are thrown into the tropical forest? They’re humidified, updated, extended into a different relationship with the living and the invisible, confronted with the question of race. It makes the film Oriana****. And it's powerful.

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz continued this experiment last summer at CRAC Alsace, where she worked to form a new collective subjectivity together with a group of artists, teachers, students and children close to the art center. The text from Les Guérillères became a tool for tying together, for loosening up, for improvising in French and filming in this territory, in the bright white summer light, with a 16 mm camera: inside an old library, beside a lake, in a print shop, on the edge of a rural landscape scarred by industrialization and wars. What happens when Beatriz's ideas are thrown into Wittig's native Alsace? It makes the film Œnanthe. It's sweet and tastes like Opoponax*****.

This exhibition presents the two films Oriana and Œnanthe, whose sequences are re-edited and installed within the walls of the art center (the former high school of Altkirch), assembling images shot in Alsace and Puerto Rico and summoning presences, Monique Wittig's entourage, and the figure of the viewer, to form the constellation OTTILIA******.

—E.T., May 2023.

Monique Wittig, trans. David Le Vay. Les Guérillères (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971). 

** Le couteau sans lame et dépourvu de manche (The Knife Without a Blade That Lacks a Handle), a group exhibition at CRAC Alsace with Meris Angioletti, Tarek Lakhrissi, Candice Lin, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Liv Schulman, Marnie Slater, P. Staff, Lena Vandrey, October 13, 2019–January 12, 2020.

*** Les Guérillères, 66.

**** Oriana, a solo exhibition by Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Pivô, São Paulo, September 5–November 6, 2021; Argos, Brussels, February 11—May 7, 2023.

***** The Opoponax is Monique Wittig’s first novel, published by Les Éditions de Minuit in 1964.

****** Ottilia is the Latin name of Odile, healer and patron saint of Alsace, of the blind and of the visually impaired.


Opening on Thursday, June 15 at 7.30 pm. On this occasion, a free shuttle will leave from Art Basel, departure from Bleichestrasse at 7 pm, return to Basel at 10.30 pm. Reservation: