Have You Ever Killed a Bear or Becoming Jamila

Have You Ever Killed a Bear or Becoming Jamila
Marwa Arsanios
2013-2014
HD video, color, sound
26:19 min

Have You Ever Killed a Bear or Becoming Jamila is a video made after a performance whose starting point is an inquiry into Jamila Bouhired, the Algerian freedom fighter. The research focuses on the different representations of Jamila in the cinema, and on her assimilation and promotion during the 1960’s and 1970’s in the Egyptian magazine Al-Hilal [the crescent] which used to be a major Arab cultural magazine. The performance attempts to look at the history of the Egyptian socialist projects, the Algerian anti-colonial wars, and the way they have promoted and marginalized feminist projects.

Indeed, the clear gender division used to marginalize women from the public sphere was overcome for a short moment during the Algerian war of independence-with Jamila becoming its icon. The project raises the issue of what it means to play the role of the freedom fighter. What does it mean to become an icon? Between role playing and political projects, how does the constitution of the subject serve certain political purposes?

Marwa Arsanios was born in Washington DC, USA in 1978. She currently lives and works in Beirut, Lebanon. Marwa Arsanios is an artist, filmmaker and researcher who reconsiders politics of the mid-twentieth century from a contemporary perspective, with a particular focus on gender relations, urbanism and industrialisation. She approaches research collaboratively and seeks to work across disciplines.

Arsanios has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Beirut Art Center (2017); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); Witte de With, Rotterdam (2016); Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon (2015) and Art in General, New York (2015). Her work has also been shown in a number of group exhibitions, at SF Moma (2019), Sharjah Biennial 14 (2019), Nottingham Contemporary, UK (2017), Maxxi Museum, Rome (2017), Sursock Museum, Beirut (2016), Ludwig Museum, Cologne (2016), Thessaloniki Biennial (2015); Home Works Forum, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut (2010, 2013, 2015), New Museum, New York (2014), 55th Venice Biennale (2013), M HKA, Antwerp (2013), In Other Words,nGbK, Berlin (2012) and 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011), among others. Screenings of her videos have taken place at FID Marseille (2019), tiff Toronto (2019), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2011, 2017), Berlin International Film Festival (2010, 2015) and e-flux storefront, New York (2009). She was awarded ‘Prix Georges de Beauregard International’, FID Marseille (2019), Special Prize of the Pinchuk Future Generation Art Prize (2012) and nominated for the Paulo Cunha e Silva Art Prize (2017) and for the Han Nefkens Foundation award (2014). She was also a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany (2014) and Tokyo Wonder Site, Tokyo Arts and Space (2010). She is the co-founder of 98weeks Research Project.

Arsanios received a Master of Fine Art, University of the Arts London (2007) and was a researcher in the Fine Art Department, Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, The Netherlands (2011–2012). She is currently a Ph.D candidate at the Akademie der bildenden Kunst in Vienna.

In 2019, Marwa Arsanios participated in the 1st edition of Sharjah Architecture Triennial.