Walking into The Showroom, you might think you’ve made a wrong turn into a feminist group’s meeting. But look past the DIY aesthetics and give this exhibition time – you’ll be rewarded by the political resonance and relevance of Alex Martinis Roe’s work.
‘To Become Two’ has few – if any – of the visual hooks visitors might expect from an art show. Instead, the familiar paraphernalia of zine fairs and consciousness-raising groups takes its place: shouty posters, mismatched chairs, a stray book by philosopher Elizabeth Grosz. A film installation screened onto makeshift metal partitions narrates the stories of six past and present feminist communities, with a geographical spread ranging from Australia to Italy. They cover a broad span: from experiments in co-parenting and strategies for tackling institutional sexism, to working in male-dominated environments. Given that the longest film is 54 minutes, there’s a lot of ground covered here. Stories of past mistakes and successes offer advice on how to, for instance, deflect the infighting that so often afflicts progressive efforts, or how to arrange a successful meeting. This is filmmaking designed to inform the current generation of feminists. Saving the show from po-faced worthiness is the liveliness and character of Roe’s subjects, young and old. A poster sums it up: ‘It was an unusual way of doing politics. There were friendships, loves, gossip, tears, flowers…’
There’s a palpable sense in this show that the art doesn’t matter that much, really. Rather, it’s the potential these stories have to create real-world change that does. In an art world often dominated by rampant commercialism, that idealism is seriously refreshing. Isabella Smith.