Nico Athene is a body of colliding personas: 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, figuring that if she had to do unpaid sex work in the form of gendered performances and flattery to get by, she may as well charge for it.
Athene’s practice explores real-time intimate improvisation between bodies, persons and personas, across online and domestic spaces, often using transactionalism and non-linear narrative as a challenge to stereotyped relating, and blurring the boundaries between public and privates to disrupt the moral and class assumptions that precede how an artist or artwork is realized. In 2017 she infamously held an artist’s residency in her bed. As her character ages she continues to explore the implications of domestic production as a fetishized practice, and ritual and nurturing as artistic generation. She is also working on a series of artistic abjections. She is interested in what it means to work from the ontology of the spectacle – as the traditionally silenced art ‘object’.
Athene has been an artist in residence at Arteles Creative Residency in Hämeenkyrö Finland, the Vermont Studio Centre in Vermont, Any Body Dance Lab in Cape Town, and Arts Letters and Numbers in New York.