Interview with Angelica Mesiti

From our friends at Guernica, today we present an interview with Australian video and performance artist Angelica Mesiti. Author Naomi Riddle notes, “In Mesiti’s work, verbal language is decidedly absent. The artist is preoccupied with actions and movement—with the communicative potential of sound and the body, the significance of an upturned hand.” This article was originally published on November 2, 2015.

Artist Angelica Mesiti.

Artist Angelica Mesiti.

I stood watching Australian artist Angelica Mesiti’s Nakh Removed (2015) at Carriageworks, Sydney, in the middle of winter. A silent single-channel video installation, the film is made up of nine looping minutes in which four Parisian women of Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian heritage perform the nakh, a “hair dance” originating from the Algerian-Tunisian border. Traditionally danced by women at weddings and during periods of fertility, it consists of a kind of swaying movement, the women flicking their hair up and over their heads, back and forth, again and again.

Mesiti presented Nakh Removed on an imposingly large screen. She chose to show the dance in slow motion, which meant that my attention was drawn to every soft, arching coil and tendril of hair. It’s said that the performers of the nakh enter into a trance-like state through the rhythm of the movement, which seems to transport them elsewhere. Mesiti has often spoken about the hypnotic pull of bodily motion, and it became hard to watch the work without swaying in time. But beyond the transcendent allure of the performance, Mesiti is interested in the ways in which tradition and the present overlap but also remain separate. The film is indeed of a dance removed, highlighting the somewhat jarring contrast between a historical-cultural gesture and modern women dancing in plain black clothes in a Parisian studio.

Read the full article here.