New PICA exhibition is inspired by Jewish Adelaide Lesbian Feminists group


A new artwork opening at PICA this week explores feminism, and gay and lesbian liberation, from the perspective of a small community in South Australia called JAFL – the Jewish Adelaide Lesbian Feminists.

Alex Martinis Roe’s latest film installation, Coming Home, explores the legacy of kinship practices that began within these movements and the very specific cohort who make up the JAFL group. The new work focusses on the group which includes the artist’s aunts Miranda Roe and Carla Vicary have been members of the collective since the beginning.

The artist and researcher’s work explores feminist genealogies and seeks to foster specific and productive relationships between different generations as a way of participating in the construction of feminist histories and futures. This involves developing research and storytelling methodologies that employ non-linear understandings of time, respond to the specific practices of different communities, experiment with the set-up of discursive encounters and imagine how these entanglements can inform new political practices.

Central to the new exhibition is a four-channel video, directed and produced by the artist in person in Adelaide between lockdowns and over zoom earlier this year. Shot in a private living space, the women candidly share their personal histories and experiences. They tell stories of marriage, dissolution, coming out, fleeing home, and, afterwards, of finding a sense of belonging and refuge, of ‘coming home’.

This film is shown as part of a larger installation, co-designed with Basel-based designer Vela Arbutina, that traces their diverse Jewish genealogies. Focused on events meaningful to each member, a timeline provides rich descriptions of their ancestors, their complex migration routes and resettlements, of starting new lives, learning new languages, supporting their families in new countries, creating their own new kinship structures and of their engagement with community and politics.

Presented in this way, Coming Home illustrates how the JAFLs have created a sense of continuity between the cultures they inherited and the one they have created for themselves and those who have come after them: their children and grandchildren as well as other queer and feminist kin.

Alongside Coming Home and showing in the PICA Screen Space is Bliss Techniques, a film by Alex Martinis Roe and commissioned for the exhibition Sex, Taxispalais – Kunsthalle Tirol, Innsbruck, Austria, 2018. Bliss Techniques takes the form of an instructional video, composed of four tutorials led by different presenters focused on ways of enhancing health and sexual bliss.

Bliss Techniques speaks to Martinis Roe’s interest in the instructive potential of artworks. This impulse to teach, share and provide access to knowledge links to earlier practices and beliefs of the 1960s and 70s liberation movements, and the importance of gaining knowledge about their bodies and passing this on to others.

“PICA is thrilled to be presenting this new body of work by Alex Martinis Roe. By examining the extraordinary journeys and drawing together of a specific, and perhaps little known, Australian community Martinis Roe expands our broader understanding of human connection, love, ritual and kinship.” PICA’s Director Amy Barrett-Lennard.

Coming Home will open at the gallery’s Spring Exhibition Celebration from 6.30pm on Thursday 21 October, alongside Sky Cave by Amy Perejuan-Capone. The exhibition will be on until 9th January 2022.

OIP Staff

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