Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz – Glass Is My Skin
Palacio de Cristal – Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid
October 07, 2022 – April 09, 2023
Glass is my skin is a new installation that Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz designed specifically for the Palacio de Cristal in Parque del Retiro. The project gives the building a voice that speaks about its colonial history and presence, in a song composed and interpreted by Aérea Negrot, with lyrics that have been written in collaboration with the artists. Inspired by queer clubs, the artist duo also created a set of platforms or stages made out of mirrors. Reflected on the surfaces, the Palace becomes a performer, appearing on stage in different, multiple, and dissipated ways. At certain times the platforms exhale smoke and render the transparent building entirely opaque.
In the installation, the smoke 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. The platforms or stages don’t wait for us, we cannot enter them, their stairs are up in the air. They seem to be caught in a moment of stillness before continuing to dance, or taking off from the Palace’s floor. On the verge of movement, they become protagonists in this installation as well. The stages turn the Palacio de Cristal itself into a performer. The building enters the stages, slightly distorted, reflected by the mirrors.
The Palacio de Cristal, built-in 1887 for the General Exposition of the Philippine Islands, is a symbol of Spanish and European colonial history and therefore the extraction of wealth and knowledge through the subjugation of the colonized people. The exposition aimed at better understanding 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. While showing mainly art and artifacts in the Palace itself, the exposition included the humiliating display of Philippine people in their presumed living environment within the surrounding park. As is the case with all Western colonies and settlements, decolonization as a return of robbed goods and ideas has yet to take place.
Re-imagining the Palace as mirrored in the stages and hiding in the smoke doesn’t allow for easy reconciliation. Instead, it connects the building to queer traces of a possible different past. What if the Palace had been built for different purposes, and been employed for different relations? In Boudry/Lorenz’s work the stage becomes an element that allows fantasies of past and future relations to appear in public. It is the stage for revolutionary moments that didn’t come through, the stage for a queer dance, the stage of the drag show. The stage allows us to claim what we desire. At the same time, it confronts us with our own fragility, as when we have stage fright or nightmares about having to appear. The artists refer to the role of the stages in their work as such: “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.”