10th December 2019 The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham I am beginning to prepare a performance event for The Barber Institute of Fine Arts; which I will co-create with Drama and Theatre Studies students from the University of Birmingham. The performance will act as a frame for the special exhibition of Jan de Beer's work (he was a Flemish painter of the 16th Century, and Antwerp Mannerists).
Angels as One and Many. Angels as Messengers. Angels as Heralds. Angels as Guardians. Angels as Guides. Angels as Illumination. Angels as Revelation. Angles as the Gentle Hand caressing away the scales from our eyes. A Chorus of Cherubs! Celestial Whispers and Heavenly Shouts! A Seraphic Symphony!
There's something Queer about Angels. Angels are the Primordial and Proverbial THEY. Whether conventionally gender-less or instead gender-full, featuring a plethora of genitals (as Tony Kushner depicts them in "Angels in America"); it's undeniable that Angels are Celestial Beings Angels beyond the gender binary. Thus, THEY!
Returning to Jan de Beer's paintings, his Angels strike me as having something Fierce and almost Sassy about them. With Their powerful and flamboyant countenance, Their dreamy pastel colours, Their heightened Mannerist aesthetic, Their sculptural hand gestures, I venture to say They are almost proto-vogue. Voguing Angels!
Emphasising this Queer aspect, thus queering art and the institution, ANGELUS: Angels de Beer will use as its backbone various fragments from Tony Kushner's "Angels in America" (all lines used are spoken by the Angelic characters in the play). This collage is interwoven with a secondary, older queer text: Allen Ginsber's 'Footnote to Howl'. "Greetings, Prophet. The Great Work Begins. I, I, I, I am an infinite aggregate myriad entity. I, I, I am the Bird of Heaven, the Celestial Eagle, Continental Principality… I, I, I unfold my laves, Bright Steel, in salutation open sharp before You. (...) Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The bone is holy! The tongue and hand and every hole is holy! Everything is holy! Everybody’s holy! Everywhere is holy! Everyday is in eternity! Everyman is an Angel! (...) Heaven here reaches down to disaster And in touching you touches all of Earth. I, I, I am the Book. Read! (...) Surely you see towards what We are Progressing: The fabric of the sky unravels. Angles hover, anxious fingers worry. (...) The tattered edge. Before the boiling of blood and the searing of skin Comes the Un-Secret Catastrophe: Before Life on Earth becomes finally merely impossible, It will for a long time before have become completely unbearable. What will the grim Unfolding of these Latter Days bring? To Live Past HOPE To Find HOPE Anywhere. To see BEAUTY, really!"