I first contacted Nástio to make him answer some questions on his work but was not satisfied with what we had. He agreed to a Skype interview, the transcription of which you will find at the bottom of the page, along with a form we asked the visitors of his exhibition at Artes Mundi 7 (21.10.16 – 26.02.17) in Cardiff to fill in. Thanks to Karen MacKinnon, Director and Curator at Artes Mundi for her precious collaboration, and to Godelieve and Nástio Mosquito for making this interview possible.
Nástio Mosquito was born 1981 in Angola. His practice mixes performance, music, video, installation, sound, and poetry. He is interested in language as a tool to gain power and, at the same time, express one’s potential and wishes. Once a television cameraman, he likes to conceive multidisciplinary projects in which politics and entertainment are complementarily entangled.
Recent exhibitions include: 9 Artists, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2013; Politics of Representation, Tate Modern, London, 2012; the 29th São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo, 2010; Nástio Mosquito: Template Temples of Tenacity, Fondazione Prada, Milan, 2016; Projects 104: Nástio Mosquito, MoMA, New York, 2016.
Michela Alessandrini: I was searching for some biographical info about you on the Internet and I found this: “I was born in Angola in the month of the enlightened! I am the Crab and for that reason they say I have the potential of being a born psychologist, or even a teacher!”. Do you have a personal anecdote to share about the way your idea to raise awareness and improve change was born?
Nástio Mosquito: I am not really sure that this is what I do. It all just came out of a need to value my own existence, I guess. There was also a belief that somehow it mattered. I keep the journey that is making that feeling become tangible rhetorical truth… it is a doomed mission, no?
MA: It is, I guess. So tell me… what criteria do you follow to shape your ideas, besides efficacy and cohesiveness?
NM: I do not do much, as far as shaping ideas is concerned. I think that what I try the least is to shape or condition my ideas. I like to leave the ideas as pure as possible. It is always about protecting the idea by surrounding it with the great bodyguards – the format, and the circumstances to serve the idea. I am not always successful. Now, what makes me pay attention to any idea is how stubborn that idea is; as well as the fact that if it is something worth doing, it touches a part of me that provokes an inner uncontrollable smile…
MA: You said: “I am a preacher that does not give a fuck about your sense of sensibility”, and that you want to celebrate motivation more than identity. Your work tries to provoke reactions in your audience, but what does provoke reactions in you? What does get you excited?
NM: My work is not looking for reaction in people, it might end up doing so but its motivation is to create inside-out action. I get excited by the “I” in “We” giving all it has got… I get excited by individual victory… I get excited by people’s enthusiasm for a vision… I get excited by nature’s, human or not, capacity to materialize and celebrate vision, solutions, and commitment… and rice!!! Rice always excites me.
MA: Your art is transformation, movement from the individual to the collective, mutation from a state to another. What’s the ‘’change you wish to see in the world’’?
NM: Me with the full capacity to accept how beautiful the “I” in “me” is. Only that way may I, more effectively, contribute to this movement you mention… I guess.
MA: You often talk about your art being a way to define somehow the “I” in me. How do you define yourself through art?
NM: I do not know how to answer that question in a way, because I would not say that I define myself through art in any way. I do think that it is part of what I do, if you call what I do art. It is a way to be alive and to take some joy out of life. I think it is common to me and to most of the individuals I have encountered: this immense accelerating joy that humans have in transforming, taking something from the idea and materialize it. I think that is to some extent a big part of my humanity. I am particularly proud of this need I have to transform as much as possible. Not everything is worth it but when those ideas do not disappear, I have the impulsion to materialize them. I don’t think it’s connected to art in a particular way, it is just what I do. I do not connect or define myself through art but I do not deny that is something that I do and it does give me joy one way or another. I am sure that it even informs who I am but it’s not my job to define myself in any aspects, even when I reflect about who I am and how I want to live and all of that, it is not to define. More than that, it is to refine the kind of life I have. I guess the same thing is connected to this journey of the “I in me”. Everything that I dedicate my time to should be contributing to a better understanding of who I am. It should bring a level of simplicity, and truth.
MA: It is interesting that you connect the notion of simplicity to the notion of truth. Is truth a place where simplicity can express itself?
NM: At least so far it is what we understand. It is quite a scientific approach to truth. I think we investigate and we try things out and always realize that, in the end, we get to that point of simplicity. However complex or intricate the cohesion might be to achieve, the objective is always to simplify.
MA: Reading about your project “Respectable Thief” at MoMA I have understood, correct me if I am wrong, that you are now dealing with anger. Is it true?
NM: I think it is important to establish a distinction between what I am dealing with as an individual and what my work is dealing with. I do not think they are the same thing. If you look at “Respectable Thief”, it’s all about seeking clarity. “Respectable Thief” recognizes the difference between anger and bitterness. Anger automatically means that you care about something enough to feel emotionally moved. This word provokes movement. Anything that gets you angry, automatically makes you do something about it by creating a movement inside of you. If you do not engage with that movement, the risk is to become bitter. There are things that imprison us: concepts, behaviors, perspectives that imprison us emotionally, psychologically and some of them physically. We should — or we have the right, at least — to engage in our anger. It provokes frustration, anxiety, indignation not to do so.
MA: A lot of what you are saying makes me think of the Other. I cannot embrace your work if I don’t think of the one attending the performances, watching the videos, experience your installations. The question “what is the other?” was really very important in my opinion and you actually did not answer when I first asked.
NM: I do not disagree that is an important question but I think it is unnecessary. Because it is a bit of a trap; one cannot say but bullshit about it. I take that as a compliment if you say that looking at my work you cannot ignore the Other… that is a huge compliment for me, because it means that I am doing my job. The relevant thing is perhaps for you to reach out to the people that have experienced the work. That is a more efficient way even for me to understand what happens when I deliver my work. I could get curious to know what that is.
MA: Have you ever tried? I mean, have the institutions that you were involved with ever tried to interview visitors?
NM: I am not sure if that has ever happened. I cannot recall that happening, actually. It is not something that I actually pursue.
MA: Maybe it could be interesting to contact the curators of your last exhibitions and try to understand if they did it?
NM: Definitely. If you think that it could provide an engagement, a level of relationship with what matters and what moves you to do this in a first place… I think that’s a good thing for sure. And yes, I would also be curious to check it out, even though I think it could be also dangerous for me… but I think it can be profitable in the end.
MA: That’s great. So I will come back to you to keep you updated about this research of mine. Let’s keep in touch. I thank you for your time, Nástio.
NM: Thank you for your time too.
Comments received at Chapter Arts Centre (Cardiff, 21.10.16 – 26.02.17), within the frame of Artes Mundi 7 in which Nástio Mosquito participated
I didn’t think that he’s meant us to…. it in such a normal way, he just knows how people bullshit about artwork and I think he’s trying to get away from that but can’t. I think he’s challenging people because he doesn’t give a shit about what people thought of his work.
Interesting, interactive and timely!
Sometimes I feel unsure too… unlike my ego!
The empty room reminds me of working in hospitals in Africa.
Not sure about Mosquito’s work but intrigued by the typed newspaper – like clippings and the edited cut words, phrases etc. remind me of Hillsborough and the cover up regarding the role of authority.
Is it about censorship? I wonder what the words are underneath!
Despite the apparent bravado, the text is surprisingly tender.
Nástio’s piece for Stockholm Syndrome was very interesting, the installation reminded me of a crime scene through lighting, tape on the entrance and the typography reminded me of crime documents.
The room with the writing looked like a crime scene – like there should be blood on the walls.
I could really relate to the writing – it felt like me after a night out.
Is he genuine? Or is he just a con artist putting things together just because he likes to be known as an artist?
Love the aid drop with pills that promise to “awake God” and the way the exhibition gently challenges our deference to “art”.
There is a gentle understanding of humanity underneath the more confrontational elements that endears me to his work and approach. Really effective work.
Very angry feeling from the exhibition but very thought provoking. Needed more narrative to understand the artist.
I am annoyed by the fucking “f” words – but the pattern on the Pruritus packaging makes the chevron floor is thought provoking.
Masculine and confrontational, I felt a bit uncomfortable as a young woman.
Felt like more than an observer – a participant in the exhibition.
Strange… very strange. Like a different world but not a different world. Deep man, thanks.
Hugely disappointed, found the exhibition completely egotistical, not taking others into account and not responding to anything other than personal musings and unconnected from the world. Shocking for the sake of being shocking and not adding anything new and devoid of skill. It’s a shame because I know so many people that are incredibly skilled crafts people that could make much better use of the space. It’s too easy to just point out problems and go on about how terrible the world is.
Overall, wasn’t a huge fan but did love the room with suppositories – thought this was brilliant.
Thanks for the imaginary butt drugs Mr Mosquito.
So satisfying to be able to touch and get involved.