For years, Dora García has pondered the legacy of Bolshevik feminist Alexandra Kollontai, the Soviet Union’s ambassador to Norway, Sweden and Mexico. García’s films, books, and exhibitions detail how Kollontai’s materialistic vision of women’s liberation—rooted in free love and the abolition of the nuclear family—was never fully realized. Two of García’s recent films are screened as part of his exhibition at Amant, Revolution, keep your promise!. Both promote dialogue between Kollontai’s work and communism in Mexico. love with obstacles (2020) follows six women examining the Kollontai archives in Moscow, while If I could wish for anything (2021) looks at abolitionist struggles in Mexico City, where feminists forge networks of survival out of the ashes of hetero-patriarchal structures.
As the first female ambassador in history, Kollontai resonated with the women of the Mexican Revolution, whose handmade gift for her is featured in both films, connecting the two. Footage of Soviet women’s councils shows men in suits following their lead, with love letters and lecture posters contextualizing her personal life and political persona. Caroline Daish reads Kollontai’s short story “Soon (in 48 years)”, which describes a utopian future communism, while the camera zooms in on the cold eyes of Soviet monuments, weighing the dream against its failure.
Kollontai’s writings influenced Soviet legislation protecting maternity and social security, although she was ridiculed by her male peers. In Mexico City, the government’s neglect of maternity and social security has spawned uprisings on the 2020 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. If I could wish for anything takes place against the backdrop of these protests, as trans musician La Bruja of Texcoco records her song “Nostalgia” – inspired by a Weimar-era ballad popularized by Marlene Dietrich.
In the film, García documents the weather Block Negro anarchists occupied the Federal Human Rights Commission building in November 2020, turning it into a safe haven for women and children fleeing domestic and sexual violence. President Andrés Obrador, widely known as a social democrat, responded by condemning both sexual violence and protests, despite years of peaceful actions that have resulted in no meaningful legislation. The empty hallways display graffiti such as “Say goodbye to your dick, you fucking rapist”, “Zapata is alive”, and “Abortion is also an act of love”. In the streets, women hand out “green tide” bandanas, confront police, light flares and sing protest songs as hotel workers and elders cheer them on. García cuts between his own footage of protesters spray-painting local landmarks with real cellphone recordings, blurring the lines between author, spectator and revolutionary.
Rather than promoting a feminist state, García focuses on abolition, implying that the Bolsheviks never really destroyed the state as Lenin predicted. To drive the point home, she sifts through several copies of the same portrait of Kollontai. Each successive photo appears in clearer resolution, indicating its resurgence in contemporary discourse. From film to film, García supplants Soviet machismo with new communities of care rooted in Kollontai’s unfinished revolution.
by Dora Garcia Revolution, keep your promise! is on view at Lover (315 Maujer Street, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn) through April 24, 2022.