Artist: Nástio Mosquito
We sit in the middle of the front row to watch the thundering that was Nástio Mosquito’s Respectable Thief in late July as part of Season 2 (2017) at the Arts House in the North Melbourne Town Hall. A large shadow appears from behind a screen wall, singing an acapella gospel song. Jesus hereby called upon. As the song progresses to a slow rhythm, itself voicing suffering and repentance, the boiler suit-clad Nástio Mosquito appears.
Originally commissioned by MOMA, this performance included visuals projected onto a large freestanding screen wall, sound, a powerful voice and text. Ocean waves crash with force on the screens. Words appear overlayed onto images at a frantic pace. Words speaking to worriedness, for example, that he would not be able to make his wife ‘cum’. This is where it begins. Text emerges letter by letter as though being typed in real time over images of pretty much everything. Sublime images of nature are interrupted by words. Like a mind engulfed with anxiety, the screen samples images and throw us words.
Mosquito interrupts the fuselage, offering visual respite as he appears up on the screen reading. Familiar terms and quotes, sometimes melodious and full of truth. At times the words seem exposed as lies in the most dissonant and humorous of ways, becoming disarmed and armed again and again.
The interior of a home which is familiar to me in its colonial aesthetic appears intermittently, contrasted with images of the tropics. Inside, plaster saints populate tables. As we travel through the hallways and rooms of this family home we hear a man’s voice say something like:
“Hey sweet hoe, leave me your number.
A mother (perhaps Mosquito’s) leaves a message in which she rouses him for speaking to his mother like that, followed by a loving litany, which includes a plea that he stops masturbating as he is too old to be doing so.
It would seem that Mosquito has a lot to say. Many things at once. But at the same time the artist is using his entire arsenal of tools to speak of one thing. He speaks of the contemporary masculinity of a man of colour with as much nuance available, to him and to us.
Once again text arrives and stays for a second before it disappears and says something like:
“The city has ruined the constructive potential of anger.
I agree. We have forgotten that anger is transformative and productive. If you know what to do with it, that is. Emotions have become so colonised into a vacant and at most polite public front that we don’t know what to do with them when they surface anymore. Until their explosion and the consequential ruins.
Back to the stage. There are props. There are words - literally - in the form of a pile of shredded papers in the corner. The cable of the microphone is dragged along the ground. Then the piano comes out. Wheeled furiously, theatrically, by Mosquito onto the centre of the stage.
Mosquito croons with that powerful voice. I seek refuge from the sound, words and projected images by focusing on the piano, but find Mosquito’s image reflected onto its polished surface behaving like another screen, this time acting as duet. The artist with himself.
In the spirit of the things that shape us, politics take the screen. There are truth-telling mathematical equations. There is a sing-a-long where John Howard’s head bounces from word to word. Then little emoji pizzas appear in a psychedelic pattern floating alongside little pills:
“It’s easier to be a father than a husband.
Now up on the screen romantic couples speak of their relationships from their lounge rooms, documentary-style. I feel relief. I’m not sure if it’s from the break from the epic overstimulation, or from the light anxiety caused by the need to catch all those words before they disappeared.
“Overall to have fun together and dance a lot.
One of the people up on screen says warmly, tenderly. This is refreshing after a bravado that is charming but also at times abrasive.
It is suddenly very quiet. We sit there. Wondering what next. We get up. I need a drink and I think to myself, Please, Jesus, let me never not dance again.
Lucreccia Quintanilla is an artist, writer, researcher and sometimes DJ living and working in Narrm Melbourne.