Beyond uniqueness

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Queer identities and political resistance: Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz question conventional boundaries in the Julia Stoschek Collection.

What do Ulrike Meinhof, Marilyn Monroe and Chelsea Manning have in common? They all have an appearance in the Julia Stoschek Collection – evoked by the artists Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz. In the exhibition “Ongoing Experiments with Strangeness,” which comprises four room-filling video installations, the artist duo will provide all sorts of strange encounters.

The starting point of the show is the question of how identities are actually constructed. Boudry and Lorenz refer to the British theorist Sara Ahmed. In her book “Strange Encounters”, Ahmed describes how identity is only formed in encounters with other people. “In order to define an “I” or a “we”, we need an encounter with others,” says Ahmed. This also means that identities are never ready to constitute themselves. Every encounter, every confrontation leads to a new formation of the subject.

The work is based on a score by Pauline Oliveros

The show in the Julia Stoschek Collection is the most comprehensive presentation to date of Boudry and Lorenz, who are currently also playing in the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In the first room, the video work “Telepathic Improvisations” can be seen, in which performers whose gender identities cannot be read move and interact through the space. The video ends with the artist MPA, who recites Ulrike Meinhof’s famous words: “Protest is when I say that this and that doesn’t suit me. Resistance is when I make sure that what doesn’t suit me doesn’t happen any longer”. Meinhof here again quoted the Black Panther movement.

The work brings together the thematic focuses of Boudry and Lorenz: Queer identities, the dissolution of binaries, political resistance – and music. The performance is based on a score by US composer Pauline Oliveros. Their music is also the focus of the video “To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of their Desperation”. Here, a group of female musicians, including electro star Peaches, examines the hierarchies of music making. In the Funkhaus Berlin they improvise together, in the background video footage of the radical feminist Valerie Solanas after her arrest. She had tried to shoot Andy Warhol in 1968. The scene of Marilyn Monroe’s suicide can also be seen.

Manning denied hormonal treatment in solitary confinement

Boudry and Lorenz’s works are often abstract and characterized by an associative openness; they are not apparent at first glance. Theory plays a major role in their work, each video in the brochure is accompanied by long texts. The work “I Want” from 2015 is most easily accessible. Lying on large black cushions, visitors can watch the video on two screens. The gaze oscillates between the shots, which are similar but not identical. They show the US artist Sharon Hayes, who constantly adopts new identities during a performance and then discards them again, like the writer Kathy Acker. The focus is on the whistleblower Chelsea Manning and her coming out as Transfrau. Hayes tells from Manning’s perspective how she is denied hormonal treatment in solitary confinement – and thus the right to her own identity.

[Julia Stoschek Collection Berlin, Leipziger Str. 60, Mitte, Sa und So 12-18 Uhr, until 28.7. Artist Talk with Boudry and Lorenz on 27.7. at 18.30]

Negrot smiles, smokes and cries

“If you’re not weird, get out,” it says on the artist’s T-shirt. It could be the motto of the exhibition. Boudry and Lorenz make art for all those who do not fit into conventional social patterns and question rigid limitations of identities. The same goes for the video “Silent”, which is presented in a completely white room at the end of the show. In the video recorded in 2016 at Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg, the singer Aérea Negrot performs John Cage’s work 4’33.

For 4 minutes and 33 seconds she remains silent in microphones and looks directly into the camera. Negrot, smiles, smokes, at some point a tear rolls over her face. Her silence and intense eye contact are more intimate than any speech could be. The singer has to fight for her identities as a transfer woman and immigrant from Venezuela. The video is shot exactly where the Refugee Camp stood until 2014. Finally Negrot starts singing about war, freedom and art. It’s the moments of silence that are remembered.

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Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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