Produced in collaboration with the inmates of Venice’s women’s prison, this is a lively, joyful carnivalesque gesture in which the history of the place, a former convent, meshes with the present.
An artist, filmmaker, and performer, Pauline Curnier Jardin makes “wild anthropological” incursions into representations of femininity and women’s gender roles, retracing myths, rites, and beliefs. Her resulting readings are sometimes irreverent, sometimes grotesque, and often burlesque, as in the films and installations where she revisits the figure of Saint Agatha (Fat to Ashes, 2021), or that of Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes (Grotta Profunda Approfundita, 2017). In Adoration, made in collaboration with inmates from the Giudecca Island women’s prison in Venice, stories collide with one another. In this “relegated space” that was previously a convent, Pauline Curnier Jardin uses collage in a spirited way to bridge one period to another, and one use to another. The film opens with the voice of an inmate we imagine as elderly (a nod to another invisibilized group) who recounts the history of the site, then the songs of birds and nuns lead to a finale as dynamic as it is unexpected: a feverish whirlwind based on a collective script and drawings and self-portraits by the inmates. Meant to enliven the prison visiting room, Adoration recalls festivities in which the women of the convent were once the inevitable protagonists. It is a joyous, carnivalesque turnaround for those who were, alternately or all at once, “women, prostitutes, nuns, actresses.”