Past Screenings

Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz

Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz, Toxic

Toxic (2012), 13 min

Performers: Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Werner Hirsch
Director of Photography: Bernadette Paassen
Photographs: Ouidade Soussi-Chiadmi
Sound: Johanna Herr, Karin Michalski
Set photography: Ouidade Soussi-Chiadmi
Sound Design: Rashad Becker

Toxic shows two protagonists in an undated time, a punk figure in glitter (Ginger Brooks Takahashi) and a drag queen (Werner Hirsch), both of unclear gender and origin. They linger in an environment of glossy remains, of toxic plants and transformed ethnographic and police photography. While the punk gives a speech on toxicity and a performance referencing early feminist art works, the drag queen reenacts an interview of Jean Genet from the ‘80s and blames the filmmakers for exposing her to the police-like scenario of being filmed. The camera turns and depicts the space-off, the space outside the frame.

There is a toxic threshold, a toxic load and toxic waste, there are toxic agents, toxic doses, toxic effects, toxic strangers, toxic queers, toxic people with AIDS. Exposure to toxic substances is associated with the inability to work, with no kids, no future, with cognitive delay, enhanced aggression, with allergies and cancer. Lead has recently become racialized as Chinese, radioactivity and its endurance as Japanese. A toxin could also be a medicine, a so-called hard or soft drug or toxic waste. Might the discourse on toxicity, which installs violent hierarchies, also be able to introduce new subjectivities and new queer bonds (between people and people but also between people and objects, people and masks)? And what happens if another technology and its history–film and photography instead of chemical substances–is focused from a perspective of toxicity?

The film apparatus also uses chemicals and though it is mostly digital today it is even more dependent on toxic substances and toxic working conditions in the production of the chips, of cameras and computers. Its images have been used by anthropology as well as by the police to poison with serious social effects. But the effects of the very doses are not always predictable. When the mug-shot was invented around 1880–a way to photograph a human from two cropped and paired views, one frontal, the other from profile–it was used by diverse state and scientific institutions to identify, which meant, to install social hierarchies: between the photographers and the viewers as “normal“ and privileged on the one side and the photographed on the other side: criminals, sexworkers, homosexuals, black people and people from the colonies.

At Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, where Toxic was filmed, the work was also presented for the first time. The installation comprised not only the film but a series of 15 portraits of homosexuals and transvestites from the Paris police archive, so-called pédérastes, who were caught by the police in the 1870s and photographed. Those images were taken at a time when the state institutions had not yet developed their own visualising methods and apparatus. They took the homosexuals that they had caught to commercial photographic studios and had them photographed in a bourgeois setting, and with the same poses of pride and peacocky self presentation, which had been developed as means of recognition by the establishment.

While the cinematic apparatus tries to allow for unmediated objectivity and knowledge about “stranger danger” (Ahmed 2000), it might–as dirty and uncanny by-products–also produce ec/static bodies and queer connections.

Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz In Conversation, Wednesday 5 February 2014

Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz will be in conversation with Irene Revell, Director of Electra and Fatima Helberg, Curator at Cubitt Gallery on Wednesday 5 February 2014, 7pm at Carroll / Fletcher. Tickets are free but booking is essential. To reserve a place visit

Click here to download ‘Imitation of Life’, Christy Lange’s feature on Pauline and Renate published in Frieze, January – February 2014.

Click here to watch the artists’ performance at Tate, 2013 as part of the series Charming for the Revolution: A Congress for Gender Talents and Wildness.

Click here to read The End of Detox – Visual Myths and Estranged Dualisms, reflections on Toxic by Nana Adusei-Poku.

Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz live and work in Berlin. Solo exhibitions include Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz , Marcelle Alix, Paris (forthcoming); Aftershow, CAPC, Bordeaux; Patriarchal Poetry, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe; To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation (after a score by Pauline Oliveros),  Les Complices , Zürich (all 2013); A Toxic Play in Two Acts, South London Gallery, London, curated by Electra; Toxic, Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam; Toxic, Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, as part of the Triennale Paris; No Future / No Past, as part of Chewing the Scenery, Swiss Off-Site Pavillon, 54th Venice Biennale. Group exhibitions include Of Other Bodies, Centre for Contemporary Art, Derry~Londonderry; Sequins, Self & Struggle, Centre for Curating the Archive at Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town, (upcoming); Now Showing, Carroll / Fletcher, London; You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows, Hollybush Gardens , London (current); A Museum of Gesture, La Capella, Institut de Cultura de Barcelona; Disobedience Archive (The Republic), Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin; Fais un effort pour te souvenir, ou à défaut invente, Bétonsalon, Paris (all 2013).

Oliver Pietsch

27 January – 2 February 2014

Oliver Pietsch, The Conquest Of Happiness, 2005

27 January – 2 February

The Conquest of Happiness (2005), 45 min

The Conquest of Happiness is a 45 minute compilation of drug use and its representation in film. Pietsch’s overview on drugs in film is sorted by substance, ranging – in the chapter on cocaine – from  Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) to Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in Scarface (1983). It establishes visual patterns and citations of drug use (Robert de Niro and Leonardo di Caprio smoking opium, for example) and cuts them into a rapid, pop-promo staccato.

Interview with Oliver Pietsch, January 2014

Grace Storey: The Conquest of Happiness uses over 300 clips of drug use, sourced from recognisable Hollywood movies, indie archives and documentary films. The clips are organised by substance, in an almost encyclopaedic manner. Did you have a clear idea of the structure of the film before selecting these particular sequences, or did it evolve organically?

Oliver Pietsch: Conquest… is based on far more than 300 clips! It took around two years to produce, but the research was in fact easier than with my other works, because drug movies relate to a genre. Subjects like death or love can be found in nearly every movie; you could watch forever.

Conquest… was largely a by-product of two earlier videos, Drugged and Tuned (both 2004), which look at drug induced hallucinations and actors under the influence. In the end, there was so much material left that I started experimenting and the idea for another video evolved quite organically – showing a range of different drugs and how to take them.

GS: Many of the films you draw upon were originally intended to be hard-hitting cautionary tales about the consequences of drug use and abuse, but your piece avoids didacticism. The piece both emphasises narrative through its sampling of different films, and deconstructs archetypal filmic strategies. Do you aim to create a new narrative through the final work, or let the viewers make their own decisions?

OP: Right, many films dealing with drugs have a message and it’s not a hedonistic one. Early films like Reefer Madness (1936) were intended to warn viewers about drug abuse, but actually they’re quite funny and pure exploitation. In most cases, seeing someone taking drugs in a film triggers your desire.

My aim was to mirror the subject drug by aiming for a similar absorbing and lulling effect. The structure of repetition goes well with the principle of drugs: Again!

GS: The work is a seductive exploration of addiction, partly emphasised by the soundtrack, which includes samples from Neil Young, Brian Eno and Roy Orbison. By replacing the original soundtracks, the music becomes an essential part of the film itself. Could you talk about the relationship between sound and imagery in your films; does one come first, or is it a simultaneous process?

OP: It is quite simultaneous. Sometimes I look for the music, whereas other times a sequence is built around a certain song: music is the strongest tool. At the last Venice Biennale I noticed that every work I really enjoyed was built around music. Anri Sala’s great installation Ravel, Ravel, Unravel for example or Camille Henrot’s fantastic film Grosse Fatigue.

GS: Your new film Tales of Us (2014) is also an exploration of a particular universal theme, equally seductive but more optimistic than The Conquest of Happiness. Whereas the latter focuses largely on the solitary experience of the individual, the former takes the viewer on a journey of love, lust and desire from young to middle to old age. Could you talk about the new work, and how your technique has changed and developed since the 2005 piece? The Conquest of Happiness appears to use more of a collage technique, whereas the new work is more of a montage?

OP: That is a good point. Montage instead of collage. In the new work I tried to avoid too much repetition. There are some serial sequences (hands/sex), but there is also much more dialogue than in earlier works. The narration is built around a timeline: the progression of age and the progression of a typical relationship. That means that I had to deal with a big cliché, but in the end, when you cement a cliché and emphasise it, the cliché can tell a deeper truth (and the truth is not to show how movies work or manipulate; it is not about deconstruction).

It’s still interesting watching a lot of kisses in a row. The serial principle is unbeatable… comparative viewing. But little by little it got constricting, and after Conquest I tried to develop my montage towards a more open texture – a form that allows me to combine everything with everything. The Shape of Things (2008) for example is a very non-serial work.

Oliver Pietsch (b.1972, Munich), lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Recent solo exhibitions include From Here to Eternity, MM Projects, Karlsruhe (2012), The Shape of Things, Kibla, Maribor, Slovenia (2011) From Here to Eternity, Myymälä2, Helsinki, Finland  (2011); From Here to Eternity, Nettie Horn, London (2010); Pietsch Week, Goff+Rosenthal, New York (2009), The Shape of Things, D.O.B. Gallery, Belgrade, Serbia (2009). Group exhibitions include The Art of Pop Video, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Köln, Germany (2011); Featuring Cinema, Coreana Museum of Art, space*c, Seoul, Korea  (2011), No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better. Scheitern, Kunst und Wissen, Kunstverein Hildesheim, Hildesheim, Germany (2010).

Visit Oliver Pietsch’s website.

Thomson & Craighead, The Time Machine in alphabetical order

Thomson & Craighead

Thomson & Craighead, The Time Machine in alphabetical order

16 – 26 January 2014

The Time Machine in alphabetical order, 2010
Single channel video, 96:55 min

The Time Machine in alphabetical order is a complete rendition of the 1960s film version of HG Wells’ novella re-edited by Thomson & Craighead into alphabetical order of each word spoken. This resequencing is an attempt to use a system of classification as a way of performing a kind of time travel within the timeline of the movie. The ‘constrained editing technique’ employed by Thomson & Craighead is influenced by the literary artistic movement Oulipo, founded in 1960, who used constrained writing techniques as a means of triggering ideas and inspiration to make new works.


In his essay Archimedes’ Mindscrew, David Auerbach foregrounds Thomson and Craighead’s work in the overlap between “the quotidian and the global” characteristic of our hyperconnected contemporary culture. Hinged on “the tantalising impossibility of seeing the entire world at once clearly and distinctly”. The Time Machine in Alphabetical Order (2010), offers a compelling example of this. Transposing the 1960 film (directed by George Pal) into the alphabetical order of each word spoken, narrative time is circumvented, allowing the viewer to revel instead in the logic of the database. The dramatic arcs of individual scenes are replaced by alphabetic frames. Short staccato repetitions of the word ‘a’ or ‘you’ drive the film onwards, and with each new word comes a chance for the database to rewind. Words with greater significance such as ‘laws’, ‘life’, ‘man’ or ‘Morlocks’ cause new clusters of meaning to blossom. Scenes taut with tension and activity under a ‘normal’ viewing feel quiet, slow and tedious next to the repetitive progressions of single words propelled through alphabetic time. In the alphabetic version of the film it is scenes with a heavier focus on dialogue that stand out as pure activity, recurring again and again as the 96 minute 55 second long algorithm has its way with the audience. Regular sites of meaning become backdrop structures, thrusting forward a logic inherent in language which has no apparent bearing on narrative content. The work is reminiscent of Christian Marclay’s The Clock, also produced in 2010. A 24 hour long collage of scenes from cinema in which ‘real time’ is represented or alluded to simultaneously on screen. But whereas The Clock’s emphasis on cinema as a formal history grounds the work in narrative sequence, Thomson and Craighead’s work insists that the ground is infinitely malleable and should be called into question.

Taken from Daniel Rourke’s review ‘Neither Here Nor Then: Thomson & Craighead at Carroll / Fletcher Gallery’, published on Furtherfield, June 2013

Jon Thomson, born 1969, and Alison Craighead, born 1971, studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and now live and work in Scotland and London. Jon Thomson is Reader in Fine Art at The Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, while Alison Craighead is Reader in Visual Culture and Contemporary Art at University of Westminster and lectures in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University London. Thomson & Craighead have been working together since 1993. Recent exhibitions include Not even the sky, MEWO Kunsthalle, Memmingen and Never Odd or Even, Carroll/Fletcher, London.

The Time Machine in alphabetical order is on view as part of Thomson & Craighead’s solo show Maps DNA and Spam at Dundee Contemporary Arts, 18 January – 22 March 2014

Visit Thomson & Craighead’s website and artist page at Carroll / Fletcher

Further discussion of The Time Machine in alphabetical order can be found in the following essays and reviews:

David Auerbach, ‘Archimedes’ Mindscrew’, in Thomson & Craighead: Never Odd or Even, 2013

Thomson & Craighead, Morgan Quaintance, LUX blog, 2012