For years, Dora García has meditated on 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 materialist vision of women’s liberation — rooted in free love and abolition of the nuclear family — was never fully realized. Two of García’s recent films are screening as part of her exhibition at Amant, Revolution, fulfill your promise!. Both foster dialogue between Kollontai’s work and communism in Mexico. Love with Obstacles (2020) follows six women examining Kollontai’s archives in Moscow, while If I Could Wish for Something (2021) focuses on abolitionist struggles in Mexico City, where feminists are forging networks of survival in the ashes of hetero-patriarchal structures.
As the first female ambassador in history, Kollontai resonated with women of the Mexican Revolution, whose handmade gift to her is featured in both films, connecting the two. Filmed footage of Soviet women’s councils show men in suits following their lead, with love letters and posters from lectures contextualizing her personal life and political persona. Caroline Daish reads Kollontai’s short story “Soon (In 48 Years’ Time),” which describes a utopian future communism, while the camera zooms into the cold eyes of Soviet monuments, weighing the dream against its failure.
Kollontai’s writings influenced Soviet legislation protecting maternity and social security, despite her being derided by male peers. In Mexico City, government neglect of maternity and social security spawned uprisings during the 2020 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. If I Could Wish for Something is set against the backdrop of these demonstrations, while trans musician La Bruja de Texcoco records her song “Nostalgia” — drawing influence from a Weimar-era ballad popularized by Marlene Dietrich.
In the film, García documents the time Bloque Negro anarchists occupied the Human Rights Commission federal building in November 2020, turning it into a shelter for women and children fleeing domestic and sexual abuse. President Andrés Obrador, widely known as a social democrat, responded by condemning both sexual violence and the protests, despite years of peaceful actions yielding no meaningful legislation. Empty hallways display graffiti phrases such as “Say goodbye to your dick, fucking rapist,” “Zapata is alive,” and “Abortion is also an act of love.” Out in the streets, women distribute “green tide” bandanas, clash with police, light flares, and sing protest songs as hospitality workers and elders cheer them on. García cuts between her own footage of protestors spray-painting local monuments with real cellphone recordings, blurring the boundaries between auteur, spectator, and revolutionary.
Rather than promote a feminist state, García focuses on abolition, hinting that the Bolsheviks never truly smashed the state as Lenin predicted. To drive this point home, she sifts through several copies of the same Kollontai portrait. Each successive photo appears in clearer resolution, indicating her resurgence in contemporary discourse. From one film to the next, García supplants Soviet machismo with new communities of care rooted in Kollontai’s unfinished revolution.
Dora García’s Revolution, fulfill your promise! is on view at Amant (315 Maujer Street, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn) through April 24, 2022.