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ELLE MEETS ANTHEA MOYS

Anthea Moys is one of several artists from across the continent whose work forms part of the exhibition Towards Intersections: Negotiating Subjects, Objects and Contexts. ELLE caught up with Anthea to find out more about her work.

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ELLE: When did you realise that performance art was your calling?

I never wanted to become a performance artist. My interest in art first began with dancing at the age of six. Essentially, my first relationship with art was an embodied one – one where I was moving – using the movement of my body as a means of expression. I went on to study fine art before completing my Masters degree with a focus on play and performance in public space. Part of that time was spent in Switzerland and it was there that I was really exposed to performance art. When I returned I started experimenting more with this medium.

ELLE: A lot of your work looks at different ideas related to the concept of ‘playing’.

I was inspired by one of my lecturers to use play not only as a process in my work but use it in my final executions as well. It was and still is my most honest engagement. I am naturally quite a playful person and for me playing with someone is also learning from them. In my most recent series of works, Anthea Moys vs The City of Grahamstown and Anthea Moys vs The City of Geneva, I challenged each city by joining different teams for three months and learning their skills. I then challenged each team singlehandedly – obviously losing at the end. I played soccer alone against a 12-strong soccer team; sang alone against two choirs; and got my yellow belt in karate so as to fight eight black belts! The point of these works was not about the winning, of course. The series re-imagines victory as the act of learning rather than conquest. This is the main reason why I work with play in my work – because I really am passionate about learning from as many different people as possible through the medium of play.

ELLE: What can we expect from this exhibition?

For Towards Intersections I performed The Portrait Exchange whereby you, the audience member, sit opposite me and we draw each other for one minute. The only rule is we can’t look at our pages while we are drawing, putting both of us at a disadvantage. After the minute we both sign, date and exchange the portraits. In the end I have a wall full of portraits drawn by willing participants. The work is really about a playful exchange and it was an incredibly joyful, focused and engaging experience.

ELLE: Are you working on any creative collaborations that we should diarise?

Yes! For July I will be working with artists Dean Hutton and Lindiwe Matshikiza on a new billboard to go outside Ithuba Arts Gallery in Braamfontein. The new work installed will be responsive to its surroundings. Other new collaborations include working with an incredibly exciting bunch of individuals – we are calling ourselves JHB MASSIVE for now – and we are looking to get to Ghana in August to participate in the Chale Wote Street Festival. In September I will be showing the video work I made during the Johannesburg Pavilion included in the 56th Venice Biennial.

Towards Intersections is currently open at Pretoria’s UNISA Art Gallery until 22 June and concludes in Joburg’s Museum Africa on 30 June.