Interviews

Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz

Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz, To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation, 2013, 16 mm film, HD video, 18 minutes. Ginger Brooks Takahashi.

Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz, a Berlin-based duo, reinvent historical narratives in film, photography, and performance through queer discourses. Aftershow, a new book published this month by Sternberg Press, will be available at the New York Art Book Fair from September 26 to 28, 2014, and focuses on three “filmed performances”: No Future / No Past, 2011; Toxic, 2012; and To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation, 2013.

WE LIKE TO DESCRIBE OUR FILMS AS “FILMED PERFORMANCES” because they don’t actually document performance. Instead, performance and film are folded into each other. Usually, we take some material from the past—a photograph, a fragment of a film, a dance, or a song—as a point of departure for these works.

Recently, we worked with a 1970 score by Pauline Oliveros titled To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation. This turned out to be particularly interesting for us because scores already imply a specific temporality. You can produce your own version of one, but of course, there have already been different renditions and adaptations made of it long before you’ve begun, and there will probably be an infinite number made afterward. This introduced a new perspective on our interest in archives—for instance, how we might playfully deploy a photographic document from the past as a “score” for a future performance?

By looking at forgotten or disavowed queer moments, affects, acts, or leftovers, we not only want to (re)consider them as political interventions, but also try to re-create the past in order to articulate a contemporary desire. Retroactively, they have the potential to build an archive of denormalizing practices. Our work primarily focuses on the temporal politics of embodiment, and we find literary scholar Elizabeth Freeman’s term “temporal drag” very useful in this respect. It introduces a different understanding of drag, one that is not limited to the subcultural performance of undermining, or “mining,” the dual-gender system. It situates drag as a set of temporal practices that works against normative biographies and other hegemonic historical narratives.

Drag also rejects the act of revealing what lies beneath one’s clothing (or behind a curtain on a stage). It generates productive connections of the natural and the artificial, the animate and the inanimate, from props and vinyl records to wigs—and everything else that tends to produce connections to others, and other things, rather than merely representing them. In our films, we especially like messy embodiments of anachronistic elements in which different temporal or historical moments take place. For this reason, our performers don’t try to “be” or “act” like figures from the past, but instead connect to objects, clothing, gestures, and poses.

We began developing our new artists’ book, Aftershow, following the completion of two recent solo exhibitions: “Patriarchal Poetry” in 2013 at the Badischer Kunstverein and “No future / No past” in 2011, which was part of the “Chewing the Scenery” project at the Fifty-Fourth Venice Biennale. We chose the title because aftershows are situated on the limits of performance. They are usually informal, yet celebratory, parties that often happen behind or beneath the stage. And in order to address the power relations that are connected to the staging of bodies and the apparatus of vision, we often use the perspective of the backstage: In our installations and exhibitions, visitors might enter a space and find themselves behind a projection screen or a display case that they have to walk around to view. This “backstage perspective” is also a constant preoccupation in our films: What happens beyond the frame? What is the boundary between staged and unstaged moments?

In the book, we’ve written a series of letters to friends and collaborators, including Virginie Bobin, Gregg Bordowitz, Anja Casser and Nadja Quante, Mathias Danbolt, Sharon Hayes, Fatima Hellberg, Werner Hirsch, José Munoz, Henrik Olesen, Bernadette Paassen, Yvonne Rainer, Irene Revel, Eran Schaerf, Jack Smith, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, and Andrea Thal. The letters consider not only questions of research but also political and formal problems; however, many of these exchanges are somewhat fictional. Some letters, for example, are addressed to “friends from the past”—such as the one to Jack Smith whose work has inspired us for a long time (and who may or may not be happy with this made-up “friendship”). We chose the format of written correspondence because we wanted to intercut different personal and experimental writing styles, and carry out in-depth discussions on aesthetic and theoretical concepts central to our work—the archive, restaging, opacity, and desire. Over the years, we have developed long-term working relationships with friends, and others from our social circles who have artistic practices that we admire. With these letters we’ve sought to render our collaborations and ongoing conversations visible.

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