artists & participants
From July 23 to October 16, 2016, the Kunsthalle Bielefeld will present the exhibition Anohni—My Truth. Anohni is the new, feminine name of Antony Hegarty, who is probably best known as a musician in the band Antony & the Johnsons. Following the spectacular success of her new album, Hopelessness, which was released on May 6, 2016, Anohni will present an entirely new side of her artistic oeuvre in the Kunsthalle Bielefeld. For about ten years Anohni has been creating a body of visual work, some of which has appeared on her album covers. Like her music, her visual art is characterized by a combination of melancholy, violence, and poetry. Through it she advances her profoundly humanitarian mission: creating awareness for the destruction of our environment—specifically, climate change and each individual's responsibility for this world.
"I am presenting My Truth at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld in July 2016. It is a survey of the work I have accumulated over the last ten years. I have been exploring my sense of this world as 'Paradis,' and my sense of vanishing, or 'Exodus.' I am circling a notion of our virulence as a species in our relationship to biosphere and biodiversity. As an effeminate, I see a parallel between the intention of HIV and our intentions as a species, and I wonder how conscious a virus is of its tragic trajectory, and if it could be possible for a virus to change its trajectory. I feel innocent and yet complicit in committing acts of violence. In a world in which all moments in time exist simultaneously, I experience my truth as a cacophony of terrible, gentle beauty. In this exhibition, I am also sharing the work of Peter Hujar, Kazuo Ohno, and James Elaine: three artists whose work formed me." –Anohni, Berlin, December 2015
On the second floor of the Kunsthalle, Anohni brings together works of art by James Elaine, Peter Hujar, and Kazuo Ohno. The drawings and sculptures by the American artist James Elaine (born 1950) will be shown for the first time in Europe. In the 1980s and 1990s Elaine lived in New York City, where Anohni first became aware of his work. Elaine works with found objects, creating pieces of great melancholy. Peter Hujar (1934–87) is considered the photographer of the AIDS generation in New York City during the late 1970s and 1980s. His portraits of artists, musicians, intellectuals, and the gay scene in Manhattan at that time are empathic and concentrated. Motifs from other photo series by Hujar can be read as metaphors for this complex era. Finally, Anohni refers to the Japanese Butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno (1906–2010), whose art combines traditional Japanese dance with European expressive dance and has exercised considerable influence over Anohni's performances.
Works by Anohni herself are on display on the third floor. The exhibition comprises paintings, collages, and installations that have a strong thematic focus on the changes to our environment caused by humans. One of the show's central figures is the polar bear. A collage titled Swanlights has already been seen on the cover of Anohni's fourth studio album of the same name (2010). At the center is a picture of a dead polar bear named Swanlights. Polar bears are threatened with extinction, due to global warming.
Anohni's encaustic paintings form a group of works. Encaustic is a technique in which hot wax is used as a pigment binder. Anohni also incorporates found material into the wax, so that the surface of each painting is layered and glued together. Sometimes she burns and destroys the surfaces again.
Three major themes in the show are paradise, exodus, and angel of death. Anohni's angel of death refers to an uncertain future involving global warming, war, terrorism, and the extinction of entire animal species caused by human destruction of the biosphere. In the video installation Angel of Death, Johanna Constantine, a performance and body art artist with whom Anohni has been working for years, embodies the angel of death. She moves through an artificial environment, accompanied by the song of the same name. Her performance style is tender and beautiful. She appears as a half-animal, half-human mourning over the exodus of animal species, which anticipates the exodus of all living creatures.
The AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s made a strong impression on Anohni when she moved to New York City in the early 1990s. Peter Hujar's iconic photograph of the dying transgender actor and Andy Warhol muse Candy Darling, titled Candy Darling on her Deathbed, adorns the cover of I Am a Bird Now by Anthony & the Johnsons, released in 2005. Artists and activists like Candy Darling; the gay activist and drag queen Marsha P. Johnson; the actor, singer, and drag queen Divine (aka Harris Glenn Milstead); Hibiscus (aka George Edgerly Harris III), with his psychedelic theater group The Cockettes; and Anohni's own group, Future Feminism, are just a few of the characters and influences found in a series of totems, which will be seen in the show. The totems are collages made of various kinds of paper, magazine articles, posters, restaurant bills, flyers, photographs, and paintings. The group of totems forms intellectual and spiritual relationships and tells stories. It builds a new context in which people, animals, plants, and events are combined to form a utopian totem pole. The exhibition, which Anohni conceived under the title My Truth for the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, functions similarly. It brings together the works of Peter Hujar, James Elaine, and Kazuo Ohno, all of whom had a strong influence over Anohni, and, as she says, "shaped" her.
The exhibition is funded by the Federal Cultural Foundation, the Sparkasse Bielefeld Foundation, the Pro Bielefeld Cultural Foundation, the Stadtwerke Bielefeld GmbH Foundation, and Liquitex.
Curators: Dr. Friedrich Meschede, Anohni Curatorial Assistant: Meta Marina Beeck