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Nastio Mosquito harks back to yesteryear to deliver a modern message of power in 'The Age I Don't Remember' at the ICA. Francesca Donovan reports.


"I am a prophet unto you!" Nastio Mosquito, the Artes Mundi shortlisted performance artist from Angola proclaims to his adoring audience. The message is clear: Nastio has much to say and no obstacle will stop him from doing so as he bounds around the dimly lit room at the ICA.

He sits atop a plinth, chanting melodically as the crowds enter. Timid at first, we stand in awe of him a figure dressed in white and wielding a bloody sword and cloth, jittery and full of energy. N stio exudes power and charisma as he wiggles and sashays across to the other side of the performance area, climbing a ladder and shrouding himself in a length of white material. He looks ethereal and other-worldly and yet his presence is so strong. The audience members are quick to adjust their position, following him clamouring to get closer, waiting for bursts of speech and catharsis.

The Age I Don't Remember commissioned by the EMDASH foundationis an autobiographical explosion in which Nastio self-reflects and muses on his own quirks and philosophies, his proclamations and desires. At 17-years-old, he announces, his greatest joy was found in if I heard correctly over the appreciative hollering from female members of the audience "pleasuring women". At 35-years-old, Nastio's mother asked him: "Do you think you're Jesus?" A brief pause in the monologue suggests the affirmative. The artist lays himself bare in a flurry of words amidst a live musical score and flashing images of Angola intercut with bold statements that make up his performance manifesto, flipping between subjects and styles, language and method. The projections fall onto Nastio's white shirt as he speaks: he is what he preaches.

The narrative returns time and time again to power structures and the artist's reaction to social systems. In his rhythmic tones he speaks of expectations, including those of his hosts the ICA. Is this performance what they want from him? He drops in that he hadn't a clue what to do for them, the ICA, with their traditions and ideas. He ducks again, moving the narrative up, off and away. He pauses, reflects; then chants out in full Mosquito-style: "Next time a motherfucker tells you to be powerful tell them to fuck off," he orders. "Be power!"

The art world has been quick to adopt Nastio as its own, giving him a platform and facilitating his naturally-gifted ability to ensnare a room full of people with his witticisms and poetical diatribes. We fawn over him, photograph him, follow him and laugh at his jokes. All the while, Nastio questions all forms of dominance.

He clearly mocks himself and our adoration of him, but it is hard to care when you are caught up in this artist's work. He's a force of nature, sound and visual. The Age I Don't Remember gallops down memory lane and tripping into adulthood pushes us to question anything proclaimed as gospel: Nastio's power over us, the power of expectation, the power of one's own voice and the power granted to artists, the spokespeople of a modern age.

A flurry of confetti falls from the ceiling: stickers emblazoned with slogans. People drop to the floor in a strange mimicry of fandom, scrambling to collect a slogan which sits comfortably with their newfound sense of anarchy. We are given a choice between "Fuck concepts" and "Don't Be Cool, Be Relevant" and "Fuck Original, Be Genuine."

The artist spends the performance among the audience, dancing and singing and challenging us to let loose and enjoy the moment. Whiskies and bananas are handed out as N stio continues to give himself whole-heartedly to this small but hungry crowd. He levels the playing field between artist, institution and audience by simply telling the truth: "It is not about the story-telling of the wise...it is about being 35."

He is the DJ, the dancefloor, the concierge, the VIP guest and the beau of the ball. Nastio Mosquito is having a party and everyone is invited.







Image: The Age I Don't Remember, 2015, Nastio Mosquito at the ICA. Photo: Ric Bower.