The starting point for “The Two Pop(e)s” is two paintings. The first is Velazquez’s painting of Pope Innocent X (1650). The second is a mirror-image or photographic negative of Velazquez’s portrait by Francis Bacon, titled: Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Innocent X (1953).

The performance is, in essence, a recording and reporting of the research we conducted into the paintings’ history and also into the paintings’ various interpretations. But it is also about our contemporary take on themes that the paintings confront us with.

The screaming mouth, isolated from other facial features and divorced from any narrative context, suggests existential agony. The pathos of human vulnerability and loss of faith or conviction are accentuated by the precisely rendered space frame in Bacon’s image of the pope, which makes the figure register as ‘enclosed in the wretched glass capsule of the human individual,’ to cite the evocative phrase used by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in “The Birth of Tragedy “(1872), one of Bacon’s favorite books.

The performance itself will take the form of structured improvisation. The two performers/popes will play with the material they assembled without a clear score letting the live interaction with the viewers control the decision they make. It is as if the two popes are just passing the time while waiting for their portraits to be taken.

July 25 + 26, 2023, 1 – 3 pm (durational)
July 27, 2023, 6 pm (show format)

Leopold Museum, Museumsquartier, 1070 Vienna


Popes: Yosi Wanunu, Roland Rauschmeier
Video + Music: Michael Strohmann
Make-up: Marietta Dang
Set: Ensemble
Concept: Yosi Wanunu
Produced by Kornelia Kilga
In Collaboration with PKW