In the comic book series The Wicked + The Divine (written by Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Jamie McKelvie) ancient gods return to Earth in the form of modern pop stars. The series wittily bases its super beings on real life icons. Lucifer is a riff on David Bowie, Odin is essentially a member of Daft Punk and so on. The story shows the extent to which the contemporary consciousness is stalked by the fame machine. In the same way that our ancestors projected their hopes, desires and fears onto mythological beings, we worship at the altar of sound and vision. Look at how Michael Jackson and Prince have effectively being deified in death. Under the screens of daily life lies a harsher and brighter world of wild emotion and uncontrollable dreams.
South African musician Angel-Ho is an artist who profoundly understands this collective cultural unconscious, and how to manipulate it for their own ends. Through their recordings, image and performances they conduct the iconography of pop into transgressive realms. A key example is the blistering ‘ I Don’t Want Your Man’, a mutation of a Keyisha Cole sample into the national anthem of dread post-human robot empire.
The Cape Town based producer has become an acclaimed global underground figure over the last year. With their brutal music and assertive non-binary queer image, Angelo Valerio was identified by many publications as making the perfect soundtrack to the tumult of Rhodes and Fees Must Fall. Their musical output is combined with intense live performances. Dancing on glass and a carefree attitude toward pyrotechnics. They is also a founder of the NON Collective, one of most visionary, intense electronic labels out there. NON has also been blowing up this year, with one of their most recent releases being his spiritual allies FAKA’s mind expanding Bottoms Revenge. They share personal visions of glamorous extremism- glitter and tinnitus, gold paint and bloody wounds.
Angelo’s first brush with musical glory occurred at the Manenburg Jazz Club when they was a little kid- ” little did I know the song I loved the most ‘ I love you Daddy’ was going to be performed live by Ricardo Gronewald himself. So he called me on stage, and I had stage fright throughout the whole performance, omg! All I do now is laugh because it was embarrassing, but it was funny because it happened at his gig!” The former child star sadly passed away last year, but as Angel-Ho notes ” he lives on”.
This charming anecdote may almost seem out of place with Angel-Ho’s dystopian and sexualized work. But while they deals with intense subject matter they sees their work as embodying a hard-won optimism. In response to a question about how politics impacts on his practise, they suggested that it’s about keeping positive in dark times. ” There’s no escaping reality and fantasy, they are the same. Of course, what happens around you affects you, and people collectively. With every event that happens globally, we see the repeating of white supremacy and collateral violence which comes out of a desire to maintain power. You see it in South Africa, you see it everywhere in scales. It makes me want to spread good energy and make tracks which counter negativity. What better way to step away from negativity then to let it thrive in itself, like a parasite with no wound to feed on?”
To this end, 2016 has seen them spreading good energy around the world. They recently took on the Performa Biennale in New York, in collaboration with Dope Saint Jude, Vuyo Sotashe, Jackie Manyaapelo and Athi-Patra Ruga. Their forays into the world of High Art also saw them unleash the firestorm of his Red Devil performance on the Berlin Biennale. This performance was inspired by the Kaapse Kloopse festivals- ” Red Devil was a desire to be your complete diva self, in my drag. It had a lot to do with the Red Devil performer who traditionally lead the atjas in procession, and would scare the kids away alongside moffies. Red Devil, in my case, was chasing away fears, in celebration of the things which make people separate from each other. It became an intervention where I performed a re-birth of my feme energy, without restraint, using fire to light the way.”
The performance has the Devil transformed into a character called Gia. The theme of transformation is central to his work more generally “our generation leads by not conforming to gender, race, sexuality… As a performer it became important to tell the narratives which I live day by day, to be fearless”. And with their track record, the secret projects they has lined up for 2017 are bound to be as fearless.