In ‘Lascia Ch’io Pianga’, an aria historically designed to be performed by a male Castrati singer rather than a female soprano is re-appropriated and performed by the artist. The costume based on intra-cultural signifiers have a personal resonance to the artist and call upon art deco designs as a movement that previously hybridized inter-cultural motifs as decadent and exotic, rather than acknowledging how these may be truthfully inhabited by a subject as intra-cultural experiences.
The queering of this performance reflects the artist’s biography as a singer and set in the Royal Brighton Pavilion Music Room where recitals of Handel’s music are often played. Handel’s Opera Rinaldo (from where the song is taken) is set during the first crusades in Syria, and speaks of prayer and liberty from colonial oppression and forced conversion.
The flamboyant Royal Brighton Pavilion, known to locals as their “mini Taj Mahal” for its Islamic Mughal architectural motifs, was a recovery hospital for wounded Indian soldiers in WWI; it is also historically the site where the first gay marriage took place in UK and sets an important context for the artists performance.
The artist reproduced the 17th Century fashion of internationalist imperialism by performing the German composers Italian Opera in Brighton, Venice during the 57th Biennale d'art and Kassel during their time as a precarious worker for documenta 14. This colonial trans-nationalism can be reflected in the conditions of contemporary art for example, in the expectation of “biennale hopping” to a global centre for culture.
The work was funded by Arts Council England and ASC Gallery for the exhibition “Fire Rooster” inspired by the artists journeys “home”. This solo exhibition negotiated the notions of provenance and intra-cultural identity constructed through pop culture.