‘very obsessed with the whole “death of venus” thing in life…’ By Athi-Patra Ruga and Linda Stupart

Athi-Patra Ruga, Ilulwane, 2011.

Athi-Patra Ruga, Ilulwane, 2011.

7:35 PM Athi-Patra | hey linda sorry am late.
  are you there.
 Linda | hey yay
  how you?
  its cool
7:36 PM Athi-Patra | am good, family and work and aaaaah.
 Linda | what you working on?
7:37 PM Athi-Patra | at the moment its a very large series of taps. for the various artfair
we’re gunning for. and also excited about the standard bank performance
with mikhael subotzky
 Linda | is Mikhael performing?
7:38 PM (in my head I am imagining him in like crazy drag etc. though probably not, I would think)
 Athi-Patra | no…and let him steal my spotlite! lol. he observes I perform
  she’s quite the violet non?
7:39 PM Linda | Ive always thought so
 Athi-Patra | hehe.
7:40 PM so yeah…how we gonna do this.?
 Linda | just chat is cool
 Athi-Patra | I think you know too much about the work at hand.
 Linda | I just want to run some of the ideas by you and also chat about some of the new stuff I havent seen
7:41 PM Athi-Patra | aha
 Linda | Ilulwane especially
  looks fucking amazing
7:42 PM Athi-Patra | yeah so please, very happy about how it’s kicked my butt to a direction that’s more challenging…just on a scale-tip .
 Linda | yeah, the excess of it I really really like
  that’s always been there, but in the space of the pools, like the actual physically hugeness…
 Athi-Patra | yes oh yes.
7:43 PM Linda | and do you think people could access the wok in NY as well…?
7:44 PM Athi-Patra | yeah I very interested in how this is in total contrast with the roots
of my performance work. Like the actual public intervention and this
pool now being a thin line between theatre and an interventionlike work.
 Linda | yeah
  I think also
  the whole idea of immersion
  which is at the core of installation, and a lot of affect stuff
7:45 PM and performing in a public swimming pool
  where were the audience for the performance?
7:47 PM Athi-Patra | on the bleaches…it’s sneaky coz that presents itself as a theatrical vibe…funny stor: when we were booking the place ,
  we had to say it was for swimming gala.
  it can only be that in my head.lol
 Linda | hahaha
7:48 PM a nightime redlit swimming gala
  so a theatre
  but a proper black box, like one that is actually dark
  /enclosing / immersive
7:50 PM Athi-Patra |
I was starting to roll with the “black box”  idea as this place
with a bombardment of various elements. also because of how this piece
is structured is to leave both the audience and me to sit and
7:51 PM Linda | so, what happens in the piece (am interested in how you describe it with words, but also, to actually know what happens)
  (as opposed to what it’s ‘about’)
7:54 PM Athi-Patra | The series originaly started when i killed off beiruth. beiruth’s
character construct revolved around creating a hyperfeminine character .
Ilulwane is more reflective , as i am delving into my rituals and the
mishmash that is heritage.
7:56 PM Linda | …I read Charl’s piece about your experience of initiation…
 Athi-Patra | it is set in the after world…and is about this ritual that awaits the
dead initiates…i wanted to do an alternative CAMPBATSHIT
spectacle…i always feel they can get to the point quicker sometimes.
  aha…master work that piece was.
7:57 PM Linda | … I think I mentioned that I wanted to talk about your work in terms of hysteria
 Athi-Patra | aha please do explain.
7:58 PM Linda | I think that I was thinking about that wok, and the darkness and the
performance, and also the mask that means you can’t speak because
hysteria is really exciting
  when you think of it as a way that people communicate without language or with multiple languages simultaneously
  and it’s also really violent
7:59 PM like this bodily spasm and enacting of language with the body
  there’s a kind of crazy urgency
  to communicate something, but that something is never didactic
8:01 PM also, when speech happens, like in titles and when you talk about the work, its often a non-linear non-sensical kind of speech.
 Athi-Patra | The work takes a very formal structure…a bastardisation of many a
elements regarding the historyof art and performance  and … I
felt that’s I needed to do. I like to think of my performance esp.
Ilulwane as a work that demands an intense engagement with the
audience…Fuckit! I think we are in cohoots , to be honest.
8:02 PM Linda | you and the audience?
 Athi-Patra | and it was very gesture-driven, this opens up another level in that “sophistication of language”… because of the personal .
8:04 PM Linda | I think people often forget the link between personal experience and ‘experiential’ work
 Athi-Patra | yeah. by using gesture…and usually it is something that you do or
fear doing …like wrestling or climbing churches…it’s visualy
juicier…when language as in the verbal…that can for both me and the
audience…as the focus becomes on piecing words instead of looking at
the scene.
8:05 PM Linda | also it seems as though even though its inside, and it seems like a
theatre, it might be very difficult to graso the scene as a whole
  but rather through fragments of meaning
  (but I dunno)
8:06 PM I just rally like the idea of a kind of hyper-language, that doesn’t
necessarily need to be readable, that can provide a space outside of
western ideas of ‘sense’ and authority and logic
 Athi-Patra | That can be the only direction sometimes I think. However the goal is
to let minds travel…spectacle demands that….the design of the show
demands an emgagement with the launguage.
8:08 PM Linda | I also like that the viewer actually loses some kind of agency in immersive environments
  like they cant choose whether to just look at something on the wall for five minutes
 Athi-Patra | How do you mean. Cant/Choose
 Linda | like they cant choose whether to just look at something on the wall for five minutes
8:09 PM once you enter into the space of a performance
  you are there for the duration
  in a theatre environment especially
  but I think also in immersive installations
  like the audience is inside you
8:11 PM Athi-Patra | yes…that the theatrical element , not to make it sound like a hostage
situation but the comfort comes from this auto-pact we make when they
enter…to start a conversation…not necesarilly with the images but
with something deep and with more longevity when it comes to what we
come out having learnt, my art has that job too.
8:12 PM Linda | I think sometimes hostage situations are appropriate
 Athi-Patra | yep.
 Linda | but yeah, I dont know if you’ve been reading any of the recent stuff about affect
8:13 PM Athi-Patra | and the passing of time…which is something that guides the Ilulwane rite/saga is
8:14 PM Like running on treadmill for 30mins to 45 mins of floating…can also make the hostage situation effective lol
 Linda | lol
  Are you still putting your body throughs sooo much for your performances?
8:16 PM Athi-Patra | the floating wasn’t a easy as it seemed…as you still use your back
and arms alot. there’s a moment when you just transcend…and for me the
story make sense in the chronosynclasticinfidibuli…
  or I’m just a slut for pain.
8:17 PM it makes sense to re-enact trauma to deal with it’s mortifying effects in reality maybe…dunno
 Linda | there’s the theory that trauma cannot be remembered, because every time you think about it it happens again
 Athi-Patra | die vokken pain ek se…lol [the fukken pain i say…lol]
8:18 PM Linda | so its constantly in the present
 Athi-Patra | the pain brings you into that little fact.
  that becomes maybe my theatre too…you know
  inside me.
8:20 PM the
silence all i hear is breathing , tryna not swallow water…and just
breathing. till the lift happens then the pain shifts to my balls…so
ironic I’m talking about cocks-under-threat and the finale is my balls
getting strangled…lol
8:21 PM Linda | (there’s no sex in your violence)
  psychoanalysts would have a field day talking to you
  but, I was showing one of my friends here your work and they asked me why it is that violence appeals to me so much
 Athi-Patra | why…?
  whadja say to it [the friend , i mean ?
8:22 PM Linda | and I was just like ‘I don’t know’
  I thought everyone was drawn to violence
  but I am also starting to think it might be a South African thing
8:23 PM but maybe also a way of being in your own body as well
8:24 PM there’s something very sadomasochistic about your performances
 Athi-Patra | hehehehehe
 Linda | yay
 Athi-Patra | it makes me feel alive to do these things.
8:25 PM Linda | like in that Goo Goo Dolls song (you bleed just to know you’re alive)
 Athi-Patra | it also materialises alot of stuff i was protected from…they are my unlearning…therefore necesarry,lol…
 Linda | but, I think it’s this relationship between power and control and sex again
  and a kind of transgressive language
  like one of the things that you’re not ‘supposed to do’ is hurt your’self’
8:26 PM Athi-Patra | yep that to me also translates into the tapestry’s …for starters thay are portraits.
 Linda | did you know hysterics basically all used to sew
8:27 PM Athi-Patra | tell me more…
8:28 PM Linda | its meant to be a way of knotting the unconscious or something
  these women who often refused to speak except in ‘nonsense’ would sit calmly and sew for hours
  and then go crazy again later
8:29 PM Athi-Patra | ahh…bingo!
 Linda | yeah
8:30 PM But I like the idea of taking control of your body
  even if its through pain
  you somehow get to exit all the discourses about the gaze/(gays)
  etc etc etc
8:31 PM Athi-Patra | yeah…because it’s like Crisp lose quote on glamour. “Having so much
contempt for the world, you wanna be above all critisicm and jugment.”
You wild-out to literal shout off such criteria.
 Linda | exactles
8:32 PM or, I do what I want
  do you think you’re going to keep this character for a while?
8:34 PM Athi-Patra | she has so much to do… the new performance will be a continuation in
doing a character that people can grow with after relating to spome
piece of the story.
  like in the tradition of Dame Edna and Evita. lol
 Linda | lol
8:35 PM Athi-Patra | i want to explore intimacy between prisoners in robben island…but
with a dignity that it demands…and that’s gonna be demanding.
 Linda | do you think its important that she’s less feminine than previous stuff
  that will be very very difficult
  but worth it I imagine
8:36 PM Athi-Patra | yeah my generation demands it. i am very happy to start slowly with
it…not theatre or performance. but print and just video. I’m enjoying
the seapunks at the moment. there’s an intimacy to their violence.
8:37 PM Linda | whats a seapunk?
8:39 PM Athi-Patra | it’s colorful…indescribable…it’s refered to as a culture, i just think it’s colorful trend…remember Nu-Rave
 Linda | aaah got it
  you should do green hair
  would be amazing
8:40 PM Athi-Patra | yep…i am enthralled by the music , the look the cinema..
  that doesn’t make me an exoticist paedo right.? Coz those seapunks are old enough to be my niecey !
 Linda | I think its fine
8:41 PM Im kinda an exoticist paedo too
 Athi-Patra | hehehe , oom [uncle] athi and tant [aunt] linda…lock up!
8:42 PM Linda |  I also keep trying to tell people that there is a really important link
between Christopher Kane dresses and the current interest in
metaphysics, but no one will listen to me
  I know
  goldsmiths undergrads
  except their hair tends to be more exciting than their art
8:43 PM Athi-Patra | sheeesh sister , it’s happenin this side of the sahara…that’s that
futile violence … like Ilulwane comes back as a prime minister’s
spurned lover…and dies a Marylin death…
  only to be ressuracted….lol
8:44 PM Linda | purrfect
 Athi-Patra | myth and space feed a big part of the performances aswell. ya…i see that alot in the work.
  i see big hats , big shoulders…diamaaante…willy ninja .
8:45 PM Linda | no more cutting shoulder pads out /off dresses
 Athi-Patra | more lace…i love being able to reinvent…such a closet vibe to it.
8:46 PM Linda | I know!
  ok, is there anything else you wanna say about new/old or whatever stuff
  Am gonna get kicked out of this cafe soon
8:47 PM (ridiculous life of struggling artist)
 Athi-Patra | do you have any thing…
 Linda | I think its cool
  I want to make up words
  in the text
  I think its important
 Athi-Patra | it’s worth it…enjoy…is there nice cock there if i may ask?
 Linda | like Im really sick of texts that are just like “this work explores the bla bla ba”
  no nice cock AT ALL
  or I cant find it
  massive fail
8:48 PM Athi-Patra | shame…hold on…
 Linda | I miss being properly slutty
  maybe its the weather or something
 Athi-Patra | hehehehe
8:49 PM summer is upon you lucky! short skirts and diamonds.
8:50 PM Linda | stoked
  my main aim is to wear red lipstick all through summer
 Athi-Patra | cool so if there’s any more questions …facts…facts are so boring.
 Linda | I know
 Athi-Patra | do shout
 Linda | facts are very 2010
  I will
 Athi-Patra | hehehe
8:51 PM Linda | I have to send them an abstract by tomorrow
  so will send to you and then you can also see what you think
  aaaaaaaaah abstracts
  but, yeah, ok, cool
  thank you so much for chatting
  also, you need to come to london


April 9, 2012





Exploring the border-zones between fashion, performance and contemporary art, Athi-Patra Ruga makes work that exposes and subverts the body in relation to structure, ideology and politics. Bursting with eclectic multicultural references, carnal sensuality and a dislocated undercurrent of humor, his performances, videos, costumes and photographic images create a world where cultural identity is no longer determined by geographical origins, ancestry or biological disposition, but is increasingly becoming a hybrid construct. A Utopian counter-proposal to the sad dogma of the division between mind and body, sensuality and intelligence, pop culture, craft and fine art, his works expresses the eroticism of knowledge and reconciles the dream with experience.

Recent exhibitions include: Beauty and Pleasure in Contemporary South African Art at the Stenersen Museum in Oslo, Norway; the Guangzhou Trienalle in China,Ampersand at the Daimler Collection (Berlin); _ A Life Less Ordinary – Performance and Display in South African Art_, (UK); For Those Who Live in It – Pop culture Politics and Strong Voices, MU (Holland), Athi-Patra Ruga – The Works, Solo Exhibition at FRED (London); Dak’Art – Biennale of African Contemporary Art (Dakar). Performa 11-Biennial for fine arts performance (New York) . He has been included in the official selection for the 2012 Moscow Biennial for Young Art .

Athi-Patra Ruga was also recently included in the Phaidon book ‘Younger Than Jesus’, a directory of over 500 of the world’s best artists under the age of 33. His works form part of private public and museum collections here and abroad, namely: Museion – Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano Italy; CAAC – Pigozzi Collection; The Wedge Collection, Iziko South African National Gallery.

He is represented by Whatiftheworld Gallery, Cape Town.


Linda Stupart is an artist, writer and educator from Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently undertaking a PHD in Art Practice at Goldsmiths College with a thesis engaged in positioning a female heterosexuality through investigations of subject formation, language, authorship, representation, romance and sex.


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