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Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Oriana at EMPAC

October 14, 2022

A group of feminist activists seeks refuge amid a vibrant Puerto Rican landscape in Beatriz Santiago Muoz’s first feature film, Oriana. The movie relocates the characters from the infamous novel Les Guérillères by Monique Wittig to the island after Hurricane Maria, where they labor and cook, dance and relax, and train for fight amidst the lush tropical foliage.

Oriana extends across forests, caves, rivers, and the ruins of industry and imperial infrastructure and is permeated with unexplained encounters. The movie depicts a world of perceptual distortions, enigmatic gestures, and social processes, one in which common objects change into magical weapons and ancestral spirits and the recently deceased become phantasmatically present. It does this by incorporating both delirious choreographic interludes and attention to quiet rituals.

Oriana was filmed on location in Puerto Rico and at EMPAC, where the Center’s theater transforms into a site of temporary shelter and respite from a struggle that remains both all-pervasive and unspecified. It was performed by a cast of Santiago Muoz’s collaborators from music, performance, art, and poetry. The movie nevertheless tries to depict the exhilarating and disturbing possibility of new social forms, languages, and ways of life in a delayed escape from lengthy legacies of patriarchy and colonization against this backdrop of weariness and menace.

The enlarged moving image work of artist Beatriz Santiago Muoz is linked to feminist practices, Bolian theater, and expanded cinema. She frequently collaborates with people who are not performers and uses improvisation in her work. Her most recent works focus on the sensory unconscious of anti-colonial movements and include feminism’s experimentation with language and storytelling as well as ordinary poetic thought. Oriana at PIVO, Sao Paulo, the 34th Sao Paulo Biennial, the Momenta Biennale in Montreal, and Gosila in Der Tank, Basel are a few recent examples of solo shows. Her work is included in both public and private collections, including those of the Guggenheim, Kadist, and Museum of Modern Art, among others.

She has been awarded a USA Fellowship, a Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, a Creative Capital grant, and a share of the 2021 Artes Mundi Prize with the other six contenders.

Vic Brooks is responsible for the exhibition’s curation. Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts have all generously contributed to Oriana.

EMPAC—Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 8th St.
Troy, New York 12180
United States
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