[Photos: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía]

Museo Reina Sofía presents the last project by Pauline Boudry (Switzerland, 1972) and Renate Lorenz (Germany, 1963), who have been working as an artist duo in Berlin since 2007. Glass is my skin, located at Palacio de Cristal (Retiro Park, Madrid), recreates a large scenography from elements usually present at the artists’ work, such as smoke, scenery and performance, and focuses on several issues of their interest: a revision of cultural inheritance, gender discourse and, above all, queer theory.

Their artistic production questions the normativity of historical narratives, and the conventions associated with the spectator to generate new stages from which to reimagine them. Their work often revisits materials from a bygone era to recover marginalized or ignored readings, producing installations choreographing the tension between visibility and opacity. By way of approaches that blur the limits between film, dance, installation, social sculpture and performances, and which flow between reality and fiction, Boudry and Lorenz create settings which invite a collective negotiation with notions such as identity, stereotypes and resistance. The Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal), with its translucent walls and following the modern idea of transparency, was built for the General Exposition of the Philippine Islands in 1887, aiming to better understand the life and culture of the inhabitants of the Philippines, a Spanish colony since the sixteenth century and thus for more than three hundred years.

Smoke, scenography and music

At Glass is my skin, Boudry and Lorenz display some of the usual elements in their work, such as smoke. In this installation, it becomes an aesthetic tool for undermining the Palace’s transparency as a regime of visuality. It also connects to the density of the queer club, where individual bodies transform into one collective body while dancing. “A smoke that blurs and distances us from constraints and codifications”, explains the exhibition coordinator Soledad Liaño, “that somehow feeds an aesthetic with nods to glam and punk as an effective vehicle to challenge and subvert some entrenched drifts in society, turning everything into a more permeable and diffuse medium for a community that shuns any dualistic option”.

The stage is once again a fundamental element, as in previous works such as Loving, Repeating (2015). On this occasion, six stages of different sizes placed in various ways on the pavement of the Palace, which can be observed from various perspectives. In any of its versions, the stage confronts us with our own vulnerability and a fragility that, as Pauline Boudry states – in a conversation with Övül Ö. Durmuşoğlu, published in the book Stage that accompanies their recent exhibition at the Museo Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo- referring to their installations: “[…] “Stages are about the moment when you ‘take the stage,’ the moment when you begin to appear in public, when you begin to act. There is a transition, a fragile instant between not acting and acting, between not taking the stage and taking the stage, between being invisible and being visible”.

For this occasion, Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz have collaborated with Berlin-based composer and performer Aérea Negrot, who gives voice to the Crystal Palace throughout the exhibition. Performance, in all its facets, is inherent to the artists’ work and a fundamental ally that allows them to effectively take action and question perception. Negrot’s voice moves around the Palace through 17 loudspeakers distributed throughout the space. Consequently, if the audience wish to follow the song, they are forced to move. They generate a choreography, and tempt the disobedience of the individual as well as the possibility of moving in concert with other people. The movements of the public make it an active installation in constant transformation that gives us a glimpse of possible ways of togetherness.

Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz

The work of Boudry and Lorenz has been displayed in prominent international art centers and museums, for instance the Kunsthalle in Zurich (2015), the Kunsthalle in Vienna (2015), the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (2016) and the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston (2017). Moreover, they represented Switzerland in the 58th edition of La Biennale di Venezia (2019) with the installation Moving Backwards. This installation, along with (No) Time, coproduced by Frac Bretagne de Rennes and presented in 2021, are currently on display at Museo Ca2M as part of their exhibition Portrait of a Movement.

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