TT: Your most recent exhibition at Reena Spaulings, Where You Lie, dissects the bed from your previous marriage: the foam, legs, headboard, mattress cases and wooden slats used to display a series of photographs. Where did the inspiration come from in exhibiting this personal belonging? 

PLB: The impulse initially came out of personal necessity. While I was going through the process of divorcing my ex, it felt necessary to stop sleeping in the bed we had used as a couple. I wanted to find a new purpose for it, transform its meaning somehow, force an awakening from the bad dream associated with this particular piece of furniture. And the issue of what to do with the bed seemed to have artistic potential, first of all through a consideration of the actions of cutting and separating. Beds are where we lie awake with insomnia or feel safe enough to sleep, where we take our clothes off, have sex,  dream, sweat. They’re also where we die. When I made a sculpture called ‘Ceiling Analysis’ which is based on my psychoanalyst’s ceiling, I became interested in a book of photographs of Keats’ ceiling in Rome, the one he stared up at while he lay in bed dying of consumption. 

TT: The bed bears remnants of being slashed, played out through detailed process photographs on top. Other images, with perhaps a more tangential meaning, portray a knife cutting through meat, splayed pieces of clothing or a New York skyline. Could you expand on your instinct for taking photographs? 

PLB: I methodically cut the bed into six parts, with scissors and a saw. I consider it to have been surgery rather than slashing. The latex mattress was unzipped and disassembled into its component parts. I recently started to think about Where You Lie as an exhibition that had a double life as a performance. This performance included me sending the bed back to New York, where I lived with my ex-husband, chopping it up in the gallery, and then displaying it as a public object at the opening and in the exhibition. A bed is usually a private possession, and the act of making it public—to a particular audience—was an important part of that work. The photographs that I took while cutting the bed were part of the performance documentation. Some of the other photos in Where You Lie were taken specifically for that exhibition and contain references to other artworks, for example in ‘False Case’ I included a photograph I took of Ophelia’s hand as she drowns in Millet’s painting; and in 'Lit Dèfait’ I used a reproduction of Delacroix’s painting of that title photographed on my computer screen. The rest are photos that I happened to have in my archive—from my everyday life, like the pig trotters in a pan, or linked to previous unrealised projects, like the view from the Empire State Building taken with a tilt shift lens.

TT: Artificial lighting finds its way into the installation, a departure from the impromptu influence of natural light in your previous exhibitions. Can you discuss how lighting techniques, akin to ones applied by museums to best illuminate artefacts, made their way into your decision making?  

PLB: Illumination was important, in the sense of shining a light on the bed, cutting it open and scrutinising it to see what it’s composed of. There’s a degree of irony, since what is discovered inside the cuts can’t be called the ‘truth’. The lights inside the vitrines came first, and I then extended the idea to include other forms of lighting such as a bedroom lamp that sits on top of a mattress topper in ‘You wool-feathered bastard’, which, incidentally, is a title I gleaned from a Jack Spicer poem called ‘One Night Stand’. I wanted there to be a relationship between insides and outsides. Museum vitrines suspend their contents in an untouchable, illuminated, dust-free present tense. By isolating certain artefacts within the same sealed atmosphere, they demarcate the relationship between the elements inside. But as sculpture, they have a strong influence over the way the external setting is experienced and navigated. Rather than being focussed only on framing their own internal organisation, they reach outwards towards the viewer’s body and the gallery space more generally.

Patricia L. Boyd, Insides, 2023

TT: Having followed your installations closely over the last five years, most of which have been exhibited in established institutions across Europe, the materials and rooms are often dealt structural or formulaic changes. You’ve previously inserted sculptures made of recycled cooking grease into gallery walls, or shown large photograms that react from brief movements of light at night. Is it important for your work to correspond directly with the sites and environments they’re shown in? 

PLB: The photograms in Hold at Kunstverein München were made against my Brooklyn apartment windows, but I made them on paper that was scaled to the size of the windows at the Kunstverein, and I hung them in a way that took the features of the gallery (the scale of the rooms, the radiators, the windows and their shadows) into account as compositional elements. The exhibition happened during the pandemic, and although I’d previously done a site visit I couldn’t fly to Munich during install, so decisions were made by watching a webcam feed that was set up for me, and video calls with the curator Gloria Hasnay. The exhibition was very much conceived around questions of what could be seen from where, from which vantage point each work would be visible, and how the works dictated or prevented the viewer’s circulation through the rooms. But these issues were all explored while not being physically in the space myself.

TT: You mentioned previously about including photographs of unrealised projects for Where You Lie. This notion of repetition, or rehashing the past seems important for how you construct exhibitions. 

PLB: Certain pieces of mine are structured so that the resolution of a work becomes complicated, or somehow resisted. Operator, a video installation, is re-edited each time it’s exhibited according to calculations from a debt repayment scheme that uses the exhibition date as ‘payday’ for an imagined loan. 

TT: You’re currently preparing for a two-person exhibition at Croy Nielsen in Vienna before contributing at the Taipei Biennale in November. What do you have planned for it? 

PLB: For the Taipei Biennale, I’m making a new version of Operator. The exhibition at Croy Nielsen is with Na Mira and curated by Quinn Latimer. I’m showing a fragment of a larger project that I’m currently working on called Contents in the Storage Problem. It consists of over forty moving boxes that I used to move from New York to London and then within London to various locations. Over each of these uses they acquired different layers of packing tape, writing and labels on the outside.

TT: These boxes like the bed are containers imprinted with markers of time. Much of the vessels you’re drawn to are semi-biographical in how they trace your movements. Does making them into display systems help to manifest significant events you’ve experienced? 

PLB: I increasingly begin with biographical or personal material, but I use it to also move away from the personal. The material from my life, however cutting and to the point, gets framed and therefore to a certain extent distanced from myself, fictionalised. I’m often drawn to things which have been marked somehow by a process external to myself, like the labels on the boxes, or the way I make sure I have little control when making photograms so that the night-time street lights determine what kind of image shows up on the paper.

Adam Gordon painting hovering over NYC skyline, 2022