Earlier this year, together with ARTsouthAFRICA, we hosted THAT ART PARTY at the inaugural THAT ART FAIR in Cape Town. We invited Michaelis Fine Art student and performance artists Angelo Antonio Valerio (a.k.a Angel-HO) to stage a continuation of a performance he had started at the Design Indaba festival. I’m a big fan of performance art, but to be honest half the time I’m never really sure what I’m looking at and I think that is the case for a lot of us. Personally I think there is a lot of conversation to be had around performance art, especially between artists and audiences. So I invited Angelo for a quick chat about performance art work in general and the piece that he performed at our event.
Let’s talk about your performance at THAT ART FAIR
It was a basically a conclusion to Ascension, an earlier performance that I did at Design Indaba. It was based around the idea of ascending and transgressing all these boundaries of identity, class, and race, which have been created through the structures of Western society and projected onto South Africa. So it has a lot to do with our history and kind of transgressing those things as a way of moving forward, progressing from this point where we are. In this case I’m using my body as a way to move forward.
What I also wanted to achieve with the performance was to use sound as something that would accentuate my movement. I think that to be in constant movement is to have no place, no ideology, and that is something that I’ve been exploring. So throughout the performance I’m in constant movement, constant transformation, and constantly disrupting visual and aural senses. It’s kind of influenced by the Brechtian theory, I’m trying to alienate the audience, and through my performative gesture I try to redirect their attention to the message.
What’s behind your choice of these very specific sharp harsh base and industrial sounds?
The influence behind the sound came from listening to New York bass, and the vogue and ballroom scene. Also from my relationship with the virtual internet space. Considering my identity as a queer male who doesn’t really try and constrain myself to certain categories or classifications of gender identity, I resonate with the NY ballroom sound because it kind of allows the body to negate systems of classifications projected onto it. The sounds are also sourced from the net, then distorted and transformed to a narrative which deconstructs identity archetypes, and how those function and play within structures of society. The sound accentuates my performance and becomes the backstory of Angel-Ho, a binary, or a difficulty in living within structures which distribute power.
And the visual aids that you used in your performance?
The focus of Ascension – especially the first part at Design Indaba- was to disrupt. The space that I performed in was not a typical art viewing space. It was a music festival. I wanted to disrupt that stage, and bring a new audience to what I do, who might otherwise not have engaged with performance art, or my body.
Performance art can be tricky to read for a lot of people, it certainly is for me. Do you find people get the point you are trying to put across?
The audience has a huge part to play in performance art. I mean, they kind of complete it really. Sometimes, depending on your conceptual motive, it’s necessary to have the engagement of an audience, or a third component. If there’s a lack of visual literacy it only gives me the opportunity to expand their ideas of body representation, or make them think about their own perceptions.
In terms of your own work, is there an overarching story or theme that you’re think you’re going to be exploring for a while, as far as you can see for now? Is this the beginning of a specific line of questioning?
I’m definitely going to continue what I’ve been working with, it’s something that was so natural for me to do. It’s about a lot of things that affect me in my environment.
Images supplied by Angelo Valerio