Andrea Crespo, parapagus, 2017 (still). HD video, color, sound; 105:47 min. Courtesy Downs & Ross, New York; Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin; and the artist
In conjunction with Andrea Crespo’s solo exhibition “Joined for Life,” on view at Downs and Ross through April 23, the New Museum presents a cinematic screening of parapagus (2017), a feature-length film by this dexterous and original multidisciplinary artist. The film traverses concerns raised in “Joined for Life,” which portrays the artist’s errant and unexpected form of identification with the dicephalic parapagus (conjoined) twins Abby and Brittany Hensel—or, rather, to their image, which has been circulated in television talk shows, documentaries, and the press since the 1990s.
The screening is one hour and forty-five minutes long and will be followed by a conversation between Crespo, writer Erin Prinz Schwartz, and New Museum curator Lauren Cornell.
A groundbreaking work that addresses theories of psychosexual development, body image, and desire, parapagus is also an intensely personal project. It portrays the artist’s experience of what is possibly, but not definitively, a condition medically described as Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which a person’s body image is at odds with their actual physical form. In the film, reanimated memories and encounters—between the artist and the twins’ images, as well as between the artist and doctors, family, and peers—weave together into a kaleidoscopic personal history that breaks the mold of autobiography by replacing a singular authorial subject with a ravel of voices. A challenge to bounded notions of gender and selfhood, the identity evoked in parapagus is one defined by liminality and ambiguity—what the artist describes as “the state or states of being neither and both.” They can’t be reduced to a simulated plural or to a gender neutral “they,” and yet, they also embody both of these positions.
For those who have followed Crespo’s work, the conjoined twins Cynthia and Celinde will be familiar from the artist’s sculptures and videos, where they have appeared as both chimerical outline and as commanding protagonists. Through parapagus, viewers can connect the elusive Cynthia and Celinde, with a deeper personal narrative, which Crespo describes in an essay accompanying “Joined for Life”:
I’ve chosen to be transparent about the bifurcation of desire my situation implies: wanting to be and to be with. I feel a potent unilateral erotic and amorous relation to images external to my body, but this exists alongside an equally charged relation that loops these images back into it as our body. Like Ariel from The Little Mermaid, loving is not enough—one must become what one loves.
Andrea Crespo (b. 1993, Miami) is an artist based in New York. They have had solo exhibitions at MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA (2017); New Museum/Rhizome, online (2016); Swiss Institute, New York (2015); vdrome.org, online (2015); Hester, New York (2015); and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin (2015). Their work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016–17); MINI/Goethe-Institut, New York (2016); the Kitchen, New York (2016); the Zabludowicz Collection, London (2016); Musée Éspace Arlaud, Lausanne (2015); LUMA Foundation/Westbau, Zürich (2015); Associazone Barriera, Turin (2015); Serpentine Galleries, London (2015); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2015); and the Fridericianum, Kassel (2015).