378

Can a good artist be politically active?

 

How do you combine politics and a successful live show? The transgender artist Anohni offered the beginnings of an answer on July 6th at the Paris Philharmonic.

Anohni on stage. 

 

It’s a risky one. Attempting to express political and social opinions at a successful live show… how do you avoid the pitfalls of self-righteousness and populism in the face of a concert crowd? Two artistic formations provided diametrically opposed answers.

 

On the one hand you’ve got cult trip-hop band Massive Attack. In February they denounced a society based on consumerism, liberalism and the fate of refugees in a concert of efficient protocol. It was all about numbers. The number of children killed in the recent refugee crisis set against the figures of the stock exchange streamed by on giant screens. The message was simple, simplistic even. The good on one side, the bad on the other. Support in the concert hall was unwavering. And the music? Pretty lazy to be honest, but who cares, Massive Attack’s audience were fully won over back in the 90s.

 

Then you’ve got Anohni. Two days ago the transgender artist whose magnificent voice put the group Antony and the Johnsons on the map, offered the Paris Philharmonic a brilliant and generous alternative to typical political meetings. It was a direct hit. On stage, just like on her album Hopelessness released in May – the most beautiful so far in 2016, the English artist challenged a range of issues from drone attacks in Afghanistan to the global hypocrisy on climate change, from Obama to the widespread camera surveillance. 

 

 

A giant screen hung above the stage projecting close-up images of women formulating the words sung by Anohni. The artist doesn’t pretend to be a spokesperson for minorities and the disinherited; she quite literally gives them the chance to speak. 

Anohni on stage. 

 

But the stage presence was quite different. It’s no secret that the person known as Antony Hegarty a few years ago has had a very complex relationship with her own body. So when she arrived on stage and for the entire concert, Anohni was dressed in a loose tunic giving her the allure of a Jedi bathed in an energetic light show. Her face was covered with a black veil. Only the movement of her hands gesticulating to the music proved her physical presence was real.

 

It could all have been perceived as coquetry had she not already artistically sublimated her anxieties and loathing. But this refusal to fully appear was all about shifting the focus. A giant screen hung above the stage projecting close-up images of women formulating the words sung by Anohni. An elderly Native American woman, a mature black woman, appeared one after the other, rendering the artist’s political, desperate and galvanising words universal. Anohni doesn’t pretend to be a spokesperson for minorities and the disinherited; she quite literally gives them the chance to speak.

 

 

“The idea that my voice be embodied by Naomi Campbell in the video takes the song to a whole new level of universality. It’s no longer just my words, but a universal discourse carried by an icon of femininity. It means that my voice can be embodied by anyone, anywhere.” Anohni

Anohni’s Hopelessness cover.

 

In the video for Drone Bomb Me (directed by Nabil with Riccardo Tisci as artistic director) Anohni had already called upon the services of Naomi Campbell. She told us, “The idea of my voice being embodied by Naomi Campbell in the video takes the song to a whole new level of universality. It’s no longer just my words, but a universal discourse carried by an icon of femininity. Naomi also brings her own power and innocence to the song. Her performance is impressive. I like the idea of my voice being an independent entity, separate from my body. It opens interesting creative perspectives because it means that my voice can be embodied by anyone, anywhere.”

 

Above all this mise-en-scene successfully makes the works more nuanced. Onstage Anohni is fired up and furious as she intones “I am sorry”, while above her a young woman weeps heavy tears. Sadness and fury blend to express a complex and moving human condition, a world away from the short cut sensationalism of mere numbers. The damp eyes of all the invited personalities said much more than any figure or statistic ever could.  

 

 

Affirming the truth is always going to be better received that opening complex issues. But that’s the role of the artist. 

 

 

Even better she allows everyone, according to their sensitivity and willingness to see what they want to see. It’s a revolt against the egotism of men. A belief in a better future… Of course there were some who left mid show. Apparently even more walked out in other cities. Asserting simple truths is always going to be better received that opening complex issues. It’s also undoubtedly because the subtlety of the world’s approach and the human soul plus the poetic power of Anohni requires a bit of effort. But the best things in life are worth it. 

 

 

Hopelessness by Anohni (Rough Trade Records). Available.

 

 

By Thibaut Wychowanok

4 things you should know about Lana Del Rey, the vintage star with an irresistible pout
718

4 things you should know about Lana Del Rey, the vintage star with an irresistible pout

Music With her vintage allure and her throbbing vocals, Lana Del Ray is nothing short of captivating. Just a week after the unexpected release of her “Mariners Apartment Complex”, she unveils “Venice Bitch”, a 10-minute track that wraps up summer perfectly, while announcing her sixth album, “Normal Fucking Rockwell”. Numéro looks at four must-know facts about the diva with the irresistible pout. With her vintage allure and her throbbing vocals, Lana Del Ray is nothing short of captivating. Just a week after the unexpected release of her “Mariners Apartment Complex”, she unveils “Venice Bitch”, a 10-minute track that wraps up summer perfectly, while announcing her sixth album, “Normal Fucking Rockwell”. Numéro looks at four must-know facts about the diva with the irresistible pout.

With “Love S.O.S.”, Justice serves up a cocktail of strip-tease, voyeurism and violence
475

With “Love S.O.S.”, Justice serves up a cocktail of strip-tease, voyeurism and violence

Music Currently promoting “Woman Worldwide”, the live version of their “Woman” album, the Justice duo have delivered a video that is as sexy as it is violent to accompany their new track, “Love S.O.S.”. Currently promoting “Woman Worldwide”, the live version of their “Woman” album, the Justice duo have delivered a video that is as sexy as it is violent to accompany their new track, “Love S.O.S.”.

Lana Del Rey, rough seas and butterflies in her new video for “Mariners Apartment Complex”
571

Lana Del Rey, rough seas and butterflies in her new video for “Mariners Apartment Complex”

Music Over a year after the release of “Lust For Life”, Lana Del Rey is back with “Mariners Apartment Complex”, a searing guitar ballad accompanied by a vintage-look black and white video directed by her sister. Over a year after the release of “Lust For Life”, Lana Del Rey is back with “Mariners Apartment Complex”, a searing guitar ballad accompanied by a vintage-look black and white video directed by her sister.

Meeting with The Blaze, the duo that shines French electro abroad
748

Meeting with The Blaze, the duo that shines French electro abroad

Music After only a few tracks and just a couple of arthouse videos, French twosome The Blaze are being touted as the next big thing on the electro scene. Ahead of the release of their first album, the haunting Dancehall, cousins Guillaume and Jonathan, a generally shy and discreet duo, agreed to discuss their work with Numéro. After only a few tracks and just a couple of arthouse videos, French twosome The Blaze are being touted as the next big thing on the electro scene. Ahead of the release of their first album, the haunting Dancehall, cousins Guillaume and Jonathan, a generally shy and discreet duo, agreed to discuss their work with Numéro.

Meet Kiddy Smile, the queer herald of our times
874

Meet Kiddy Smile, the queer herald of our times

Music The DJ, singer and voguing star set the Élysée Palace on fire last June. Now he’s getting ready to conquer the world with a first album, caught between flamboyant house and a queer pop hymn. A future legend who lent himself to a fashion shoot for Numéro. The DJ, singer and voguing star set the Élysée Palace on fire last June. Now he’s getting ready to conquer the world with a first album, caught between flamboyant house and a queer pop hymn. A future legend who lent himself to a fashion shoot for Numéro.

Christine & the Queens as an S&M prostitute in her new video for “5 dollars”
674

Christine & the Queens as an S&M prostitute in her new video for “5 dollars”

Music After “Damn, dis-moi” and “Doesn't Matter (Voleur de soleil)”, Christine & the Queens, now known as Chris, is releasing a third single “5 dollars” with a video in which she plays a high-class S&M prostitute getting ready for work. After “Damn, dis-moi” and “Doesn't Matter (Voleur de soleil)”, Christine & the Queens, now known as Chris, is releasing a third single “5 dollars” with a video in which she plays a high-class S&M prostitute getting ready for work.