Related
School Watch
October 2022

Field Notes: Adina Pintilie, “You Are Another Me — A Cathedral of the Body,” Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale

Monica Seiceanu

Adina Pintilie, “You Are Another Me—A Cathedral of the Body.” Installation view, Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Monica Seiceanu.

Adina Pintilie, “You Are Another Me—A Cathedral of the Body.” Installation view, Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Monica Seiceanu.

Adina Pintilie, “You Are Another Me—A Cathedral of the Body.” Installation view, Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Monica Seiceanu.

Adina Pintilie, “You Are Another Me—A Cathedral of the Body.” Installation view, Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Monica Seiceanu.

Adina Pintilie, “You Are Another Me—A Cathedral of the Body.” Installation view, Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Monica Seiceanu.

Adina Pintilie, “You Are Another Me—A Cathedral of the Body.” Installation view, Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Monica Seiceanu.

Adina Pintilie, “You Are Another Me—A Cathedral of the Body.” Installation view, Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Monica Seiceanu.

As the adage goes, the medium is the message. [1]1
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964).
In Adina Pintilie’s “You Are Another Me — A Cathedral of The Body,” at the Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, the mediums of installation and film not only distinguish the exhibition from the artist’s previous cinematographic works but also transform it into something more than the sum of its parts. Presented in a dark room containing six screens and a white room with three more that form a teleprompter, the installation presents deep reflections on love, desire, and corporeality, in scenes performed the by transgender activist Hanna Hofmann, actors Laura Benson, Hermann Müller, and Dirk Lange, and disability rights activists Christian Bayerlein and Grit Uhlemann. In the installation’s reterritorialization of cinematic elements—moving images and sound—Pintilie’s films become kinesthetic experiences. Displaying filmed explorations of intimacy in a multiscreen installation facilitates the viewer’s integration into the portrayed stories, relationships, and spaces, to the point of totally immersing the viewer in the film so that voyeurism evolves into identification and the exhibition serves as a cathedralesque space of acceptance, learning, and, ultimately, boundless celebration. The viewer’s absorption into the exhibition space encourages a psychosomatic understanding that differences of age, gender, sexual orientation, and ability are not sufficient reasons to divide the self from others nor to perpetuate distinctions between the “normal” and the pathological. [2]2
Georges Canguilhem, Le normal et le pathologique (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2013).
Transgressing those normative and exclusive dichotomies is inherent to the experience of “You Are Another Me.”

Adina Pintilie, “You Are Another Me—A Cathedral of the Body.” Installation view, Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Monica Seiceanu.

Pintilie’s films offer an alternative to the state of separation in which our bodies have been kept in recent years and show six people in their utmost vulnerability disclosing the ordinarily private moments of their bodily and cerebral experiences. Following calls by public health officials to maintain social distancing during the pandemic, Pintilie’s films remind that closeness does not necessarily entail danger and that the body and mind do not thrive in isolation. Christian Bayerlein’s confession during the last few minutes of the film, of his feeling like a brain carried around without a body, while specific to his own experience, subtly hints at the sensation of quarantine and the current resurgence of biopolitics, which Pintilie seeks to counter in her work. Moreover, the perception of confinement in one’s mind is a symptom of the mind–body dualism that privileges intellect over corporeal sensation. In the narratives it presents, Pintilie’s film installation surfaces the conflict created by intellect’s dominance over corporeal experience: certain sources of pleasure are pathologized, guilt often attends and occasionally results from such satisfactions, differently-abled bodies are neglected, and personal identity can be lost. As the artist tells Laura Benson in one of their dialogues, “In my perception, you are your body in this moment, and you are talking about the body as about a stranger.” Luckily, the installation also provides us with solutions, potential cures, and remedies. While Bayerlein reclaims and enhances his corporeality through sex and pleasure, “You Are Another Me” invites viewers to reevaluate their relationships with the reality, vulnerability, and beauty of being embodied, beyond universalism and normativity and toward a world of pure experience. This invitation rhymes with certain propositions in “The Milk of Dreams” that aim to redefine our understanding of humanity, our modes of coexistence, and our not yet questioned representations. [3]3
Cecilia Alemani, “The Milk of Dreams,” curatorial statement for La Biennale di Venezia – 59th International Art Exhibition, April 23–November 27, 2022, .

In its three film sequences, the Romanian Pavilion presents its three main focuses: the female body, with its transformations over time and assigned connotations; a homosexual couple’s complex dynamics of love, desire, pleasure, and pain; and the cathartic power of the whole self’s psychosomatic integration, especially as a differently abled person. These intimate discourses on and around gender, sexuality, and ability broaden what we perceive as “the realm of human commonality.” [4]4
Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography,” in Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities, eds. Brenda Jo Brueggemann, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Sharon L. Snyder (New York: Modern Language Association, 2002).
To work against the forced erasure of minority identities or the obliteration of diversity, artists like Pintilie can provide counter-visualizations and representations, ways of seeing and being seen, for understanding and being understood. [5]5
Nicholas Mirzoeff, The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2011).
Art has the capacity and the means to make visible certain bodies that are often rendered invisible as political agents in public space, as Johanna Hedva has written, and to show that the bodily vulnerability does not have to be an exception but a norm in itself. [6]6
Johanna Hedva, “Sick Woman Theory,” Mask Magazine, January 19, 2016, republished on Topical Cream, March 12, 2022, .

Adina Pintilie, “You Are Another Me—A Cathedral of the Body.” Installation view, Romanian Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, April 23–November 27, 2022. Photo: Monica Seiceanu.

While exhibitions perhaps cannot overthrow the status quo on their own, “You Are Another Me” stages in its installation a viable alternative. By bringing viewers together, the exhibition translates the idea of unity across corporeal differences discussed in the films into the physical space of the pavilion. All visitors, of diverse bodies and backgrounds, are welcomed to forget their differences for a little while and collectively form an encompassing totality. Pintilie’s artistic discourse is expressed not only through moving images, but also in an exhibition space that encourages viewers’ movement. This kinesthetic experience of film is more empowering than the ordinarily static mode of viewing films in a theater or traditional exhibition space. At the pavilion, multiple two-sided screens display films simultaneously, offering the viewer a choice to direct their body to one film or another and integrating facets of selfhood more various than individual perceptivity, such as motricity, dynamism, and social interaction. [7]7
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phénoménologie de la perception (Paris, Gallimard, 1945).
Taking on Donna Haraway’s call to stay with the trouble, the screen-lit two-room Romanian Pavilion invites its visitors to voluntarily inhabit the obscure, to counter the mainstream search for clarity and rectitude, and to forgo distinctions and individualism for an unprejudiced rediscovery of togetherness. [8]8
Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2016).

In its spatial and narrative organization, “You Are Another Me” expresses the Mayan greeting Lak’ech Ala K’in, the English translation of which gives the exhibition its title. Seeing people help one another go up the pavilion’s stairs or hold each other and kiss passionately inside while watching Pintilie’s films—intimate actions performed onscreen—shows how representations of tenderness can transform into bodily intimacy. In an era in which virtuality and distance have become dominant paradigms of interaction and communication, “Your Are Another Me” necessarily reminds viewers of the oneness we are capable of feeling, building, and entertaining as humans. If this Cathedral of the Body is built in a time when the Nietzschean God is already dead, when we have largely become conscious of being simply all too human, Pintilie’s films artistically reveal that instead of dreading the fragility and contingency of our bodily condition we should rather find solace in our humanity, which can be attained through the intimate closeness the body itself makes possible.

Monica Seiceanu is a philosophy graduate and art history researcher at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her focus is on contemporary art, mainly textiles, exhibition making, art criticism, and cultural mediation.

Thank you!

An email with a confirmation link has been sent to the email address you entered. To complete your subscription, click this link.