Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz
Installation with film (16 mm. /DVD 15 min) and 47 photographs, 2008

Performance: Werner Hirsch

Digi Zeigt Dia Dia Fernbedienung Sm B Dia Lacht Ballerina Digi Ganzes Setting Dialesben Dia Detail Hand A Dia Maske Von Nah Digi Frauen Zeichen

“Laughing speaks the unofficial truth, and this is in a system that stabilizes–through differentiation, opposi- tion, and hierarchization–the ambivalence of things in part produced by it, but also disguised by it. Laughing resides in the margins and border regions of a social apparatus of power by reintroducing the rejected and the taboo.” (Linda Hentschel)

Film and installation ‘N.O.Body’ are the products of research on Magnus Hirschfeld’s sex theory, the so-called ‘transition theory’ (‘Zwischenstufentheorie’). Hirschfeld assumed that masculinity and femininity were only ideals, unachievable by anyone, and that all individual bodies could be placed somewhere between these two ideals. Magnus Hirschfeld published another, thicker volume along with his book on sexology: ‘Sexology, Pictures’ (published 1930). In more than 800 pages, this book exclusively shows photographs and drawings, of people in drag, of crossdressers who ‘pass’ in the clothes of the other gender, of fetishists and SM scenarios, of gender ambiguity and the clothing that goes along with it, of uniform fetishes, same-sex couples, or even animals that are called ‘intersex’ (‘Zwitter’). Magnus Hirschfeld used all these images as visual records of his theory of gender. Photographs assumed great value for him in communicating his theories and their evidence. Hirschfeld’s scholarly lectures were usually accompanied by a slide presentation.

The film reenacts a photograph of the ‘bearded lady’ Annie Jones (1865 – 1902). She lived in the USA and was one of the most famous bearded ladies of her time. Her face was already covered with hair when she was only nine months old, when she was put under contract by the Barnum Circus and presented in a museum as a ‘freak.’ She toured throughout the USA and all over Europe, first with the Barnum Circus and then later with her own show. The photograph of Annie Jones crosses through two different contexts. It travelled from the freak show in the Barnum Circus, whe- re she was presented as a ‘wonder’ (for a fee), to the medical theater, where she was shown in Hirschfeld’s book as a potential ‘patient.’ This transformation from ‘wonder’ to medical objectification indicates the increasing significance of modernity and enlightenment bringing along with it the story of a historical transformation in the representation and evaluation of difference.

The setting of the film N.O. Body is a nineteenth century lecture hall in which the possible positions of the production of knowledge are spatially organized – the central position of ‘the professor,’ the large table, which introduces the object of interest, the blackboard, on which knowledge is recorded, and the listeners, sitting in rising rows of seats facing the scene of knowledge. But what happens in the production of normality and deviance, asks the film N.O. Body, if the ‘object of knowledge’ assumes the position of the producer of knowledge, starts laughing and opens up the history of knowledge production once again?
The image of an empty auditorium assigns a position to the potential audience: N.O.bodies.

Informations on the film:

Film Material: 16 mm. / DVD
Length: 15 Min. Loop
Camera: Bernadette Paassen
Sound: Karin Michalski
Sound Design: Rashad Becker

Information on photographs:

Reproduced from: Magnus Hirschfeld, 'Geschlechtskunde, Bilderteil', Berlin 1930

Download Text:
Lorenz, Boudry - Lachen über N.O.Body (dt.)
Lorenz, Boudry - To laugh about N.O.Body (en.)