Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz

Moving Backwards

As we get into our 150th year and related celebrations, we pause to take advantage of the presence of Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz in Amsterdam to invite them to talk about their recent presentation in the Venice Biennial, ‘Moving Backwards’. The work, amongst other things, questioned modernist notions of progress and linear time.

Starting with the feeling of being pushed backwards by recent reactionary backlashes, ‘Moving Backwards’ explores resistance practices, combining postmodern choreography and urban dance with guerrilla techniques and elements of queer underground culture. A film installation with five performers from diverse dance backgrounds complicates the notion of backwards movements and their temporal and spatial meaning. Parts of the walks, solos and group dances are carried out backwards, others are digitally reversed, creating doubt and ambiguities for the installation on the whole. In an environment that the artists call an ‘abstract club’, the uncanny experience of temporal and spatial insecurity is complemented by a moment of reflection on the planetary politics of ‘Moving Backwards’ with letters written to the audience in a newspaper by a number of artists, choreographers, activists and scholars.

“Our works often revisit recent and past material, a score, a piece of music, a film, a photograph or a performance, wondering about and excavating unrepresented or illegible moments of utopia.

We work with performance to create embodiments which are able to conflate different times and we often create illegitimate collaborations – partly fictitious, partly cross-temporal: in ‘To Valerie Solanas’ we gather a number of musicians to perform a minimalist score from 1970, meeting in an imaginary way with its composer Pauline Oliveros and her ideas about the power of listening. In ‘I Want’ we stage a meeting between punk poet Kathy Acker, artist Sharon Hayes, and transgender- and prison-abolitionist activist Chelsea Manning, who, in 2010, channeled classified information about the war in Irak to WikiLeaks. The performers in our films are choreographers, artists and musicians, with whom we are having a long-term conversation about performance, the meaning of visibility since early modernity, the pathologisation of bodies, but also about companionship, glamour and resistance.

Our films show long sequences of performance, where it is not a matter of ‘acting’. For instance, the (drag) performer Werner Hirsch – a performer that we have often collaborated with – does not purport to play a role in a conventionally convincing manner. Rather, Werner Hirsch establishes a connection of desire with human and non-human objects, through a series of actions and practices, carefully carried out, which are recorded and repeated in the projection in the exhibition space. The topic is the performativity of the performance, the actions, the operations, and their effects.

We usually understand the camera as a performer in its own right. The camera work reflects on the violent history of visualisation. It determines the frame that allows or hinders the audience to see. The camera's movements establish encounters in between performers or performer and audience. At the same time, we incorporate lines of desire, the conventions of fetishisation, and the glamour of film portraits (with its associated valuation) for the images of the performance. We are interested in the question of how 'normality' can be reworked today, how difference can be lived without constant disempowerment, without being appropriated and without taking on the neo-liberal economy’s offers of integration.”


Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz have been working together in Berlin since 2007. They produce installations that choreograph the tension between visibility and opacity.

Their most recent work, ‘Moving Backwards’, featuring choreographers/performers Latifa Laâbissi, Werner Hirsch, Julie Cunningham, Marbles Jumbo Radio and Nach premiered at the Swiss Pavillon of the 58th Venice Biennale. ‘Telepathic Improvisation’ with performance by Marwa Arsanios, MPA, Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Werner Hirsch, premiered in 2017 at Participant, New York. ‘Silent’ with performance by Aérea Negrot, premiered at the Biennale of Moving Image in Geneva in November 2016. In 2015 ‘I Want’ with performance by Sharon Hayes, was shown in their solo show at Kunsthalle Zürich and Nottingham Contemporary. Recent solo exhibitions have included ‘Ongoing Experiments with Strangeness’ at the Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin, ‘Telepathic Improvisation’ at the Centre Culturel Suisse Paris (2018) and CAMH Houston (2017), ‘Portrait of an Eye’ at Kunsthalle Zürich (2015), ‘Loving, Repeating’ at Kunsthalle Wien (2015), ‘Patriarchal Poetry’ at Badischer Kunstverein (2013), ‘Aftershow’ at CAPC Bordeaux (2013), ‘Toxic Play in Two Acts’ at South London Gallery (2012), and ‘Contagieux! Rapports contre la normalité’ at the Centre d´Art Contemporain Geneva (2011).

On Saturday March 14 the work of Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz will be on view at Ellen de Bruijne Projects. The opening will take place from 17.00 – 19.00.

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