Artur Żmijewski’s video Ja i AIDS (eng. Me and AIDS) (1996) emphasizes the role of the body as an expressive medium. In the film, a woman and two men (one of them is Artur Żmijewski) engage in a painful exchange: they repeatedly with great force smash their naked bodies against each other. The video is played in slow motion and the impact of the body collisions is further underlined by a rumbling sound.
This dramatized collision of the bodies could be read as an analogy to the threat of AIDS and other diseases. However, the unconscious fear of contact with ‘the other’ can be projected on any signifier of difference: race, sexuality, illness, caste, class, gender…
In the foreword to the exhibition with the same title at Kino Stolica Gallery in Warsaw, Żmijewski wrote: “AIDS reminds us of the gravity of contact with others. They are hazardous. An encounter with another man is dramatic, and in the case of an HIV-positive person it becomes way more tragic.”* As AIDS has gradually been replaced with a less mythologized and medically manageable HIV in the narratives of the illness, AIDS remains a powerful metaphor expressing the irrevocability of repercussions of contact with ‘the other.’
* Artur Żmijewski, “Und morgen die ganze Welt…” in the flyer for the exhibition “Me and AIDS,” Kino Stolica Gallery, 1996. Quoted in: Szymon Adamczak, “Hif And Ejc: On Detecting Hiv In Polish Culture,” Visual AIDS: The Visual AIDS Blog, April 1, 2020, URL: https://visualaids.org/blog/hif-and-ejc, last accessed December 2, 2021.
Artur Żmijewski (*1966) is curator, art critic and artist working with installations, photographs, and video. Since 2006, he has been the artistic editor of Krytyka Polityczna and he curated the 7th Berlin Biennale. His latest works Glimpse and Realism were shown at documenta14 in Athens and Kassel. Żmijewski’s films are in collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Neue Pinakothek in Munich, Tate Modern in London, Rubell Family Foundation in Miami, Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, Kontakt Collection, and Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris.