Nico Athene

Nico Athene / South Africa


Nico is a body of colliding personas and intimate intricacies: of political and personal, immediate and distant, academic and under-qualified. Born and raised in Cape Town South Africa, she has two degrees under her formal identity, neither directly related to art. She worked a number of years in the creative film industry before giving up her ‘real name’ to become a stripper in a Cape Town club. She blames patriarchy and glass ceilings, ‘I figured that if I was going to be sucking cock for cash, I may as well be doing it for proper pay.’ Actually it’s because she always wanted to be a dancer. It was here that she was born – a stripper/whore whose only mandate is to use artists and their institutions to up her cultural capital: a hyperbolised comment on demonised female stereotypes, sexuality and transactionality that constantly flits between the surreal and mundane.


Keeping the body of the artist tangible and disrupting the distance between ‘art object’ and ‘art audience’ is a central strategy and constant challenge in my work, employed to confront our habitual objectification and distancing of ‘the other’ by positioning self as ‘voyeur’, and challenge the moral and class assumptions that differentiate our experiences of safety, surveillance and legitimacy within the art world. How do we queer the violent binary of what it means and has meant to look, consume, commodify, and how do we do this from the position of the historically silenced-through-objectification ‘femme body’? I am interested in the aesthetic implications of making work (performance and other objects) from the ontology of the historic art object as a challenge to the continually privileged hetero-patriarchal gaze. I am currently situating this research in the femme-body-as-nourishment, domestic fetishism and the gestating body as a crucible of paradox, often using food and other perishables as materials to push the idiom. I am considering both states (body-as-food/femme-body-as-gestating-body) a kind of ‘analogue optimism’. A hopeful response to the commodity fetishism, burnout and immediacy of the digital era, and the hard transactionalism of my previous work. My time at Santa Fe was spent gestating these ideas. ‘Analogue optimism’ suggests a continuity – a celebration of cell division, reproduction, and disintegration – a feminist take back of sci fi that posits the future as now, our biological and emotional capacities as extra-ordinary. Considering this, how can we re-imagine our moral responsibilities towards self, planet, ‘future’ and other?

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