ANGELUS : Angels de Beer
10th December 2019
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham
This immersive and promenade performance was created especially for The Barber Institute of Fine Arts as a frame for the special exhibition of altarpieces and drawings by Jan de Beer (a Flemish painter of the 16th Century, and Antwerp Mannerists). The performance was created in collaboration with Jazz Collins, Jenny Escott, Cecile Fayter, Camille Hinton, Jack Mackenzie, Sam Strachan (Drama and Theatre Arts students from the University of Birmingham).
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 are almost proto-vogue. Voguing Angels!
Emphasising this Queer aspect, ANGELUS: Angels de Beer used 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 was interwoven with a secondary, older Queer text: Allen Ginsber's 'Footnote to Howl', as well as smaller shards from Samuel Beckett, Joseph Conrad, Goethe, Tolkien, Virginia Woolf, and biblical scriptures. A full version of the original script can be found below.
"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!