Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz: Collaborations across Time
Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz have been creating art in collaboration since 1998. They work with artifacts from the past, like photographs, music, and film, to expose unseen moments of queerness through history. Their work shows a relation between different historical times and reveals the possibility for a chance at queer futurity. Their work also questions normality and examines the opportunity for difference without disempowerment, appropriation or the neoliberal traps of inclusion. Since much of Boudry and Lorenz’s work draws on the past, and implements others’ work (research, music, art, etc.) they call their pieces “illegitimate collaborations.” This cross temporal, not entirely realistic, lens through which they present their work allows for viewers to take part in the examination of the past and conception of the future. In Renate Lorenz’s writing: “Radical, Transtemporal, Abstract” in Queer documents of Contemporary Art, Lorenz explains some of these thoughts in relation to drag. Lorenz writes that “drag proposes images in which the future can be lived” and that drag “may take on and thematize norms it is… not restricted by them” (153).
In that same writing, Lorenz explains one of the pieces that the artist pair created called N.O. Body. the piece is centered around research done by Magnus Hirschfeld around his “Transition Theory.” The theory explained that ideals of masculinity and femininity were unattainable. He published a book of photographs of people in drag, people participating in SM, people whose genders were ambiguous, images of fetishes, and photos of same sex couples. One of those images was of the “bearded lady.” In their piece, Lorenz and Boudry show a reenactment of this woman and represent the way she was originally seen as a “wonder” by Barnum and Bailey, and later as a patient by Hirschfeld. In this way, the artists show the transformation of the way differences have been evaluated over time. In Lorenz’s writing on the piece, Lorenz explains that “the body she presents in the film… is part of a communication” (154). The historical context of the art piece makes a connection to viewers as “participants in the artistic process” and show that the piece is not about providing access to another’s body, but is about how bodies are seen and read (154).
Another “illegitimate collaboration” is “To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of their Desperation.” In this piece, Boudry and Lorenz base the work around “To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of their Desperation,“ composed by Pauline Oliveros. In the composition, musicians were allowed to choose pitches, and asked to play for long periods of time. When one musician became too dominant, the group would adjust to absorb that. The work “values the unpredictable and unknowable possibilities that might be activated by not specifying pitches and rhythms.” It is about recognizing relationships between people and about the possibilities that come with music and film. In this piece, Boudry and Lorenz ask “Can sounds, rhythms and light produce queer relations? Can they become revolutionary?”