“Trans-species artist” Agnes Questionmark (Agnes?) in conversation with Antoine Schafroth about transitioning, water, myth and science.
Hello Agnes?, most of your performances are related to water. Can you maybe introduce yourself in relation to this element?
My name is Agnes Questionmark (Agnes?), a name that carries the complexity of my multiple being. The question mark “?” symbolises the incongruity of my persona and the transitivity I live in. My life is nomadic, like a whale’s transoceanic trip. It’s an open question whose answer is yet to come. The acceptance of being trans is the acceptance of a never-ending process made of questions and doubts rather than answers and fixed terms. My feet do not gravitate in the ground but rather flow in a liquid mass like fins resisting any sort of friction.
I am always in transition diving into the depth of the ocean. Nothing is fixed nor firm thus, my art is constantly developing and transforming at the speed of the sea currents.
You defined yourself as a trans-species artist. Could you explain what it means?
To flow, to transition, to permeate, to fill, to melt, to fuse, to evaporate…Water allows me to take the form I need depending on my mood or intention. I am an octopus, a cuttlefish, an orca, a shark, a seaweed, a yeti crab, a signature whistle, a sperm whale’s click. I am fluidity itself, and like water, I enter into the constant flux of transformation. To transcend the human being is a practice that started since the beginning of civilisation, with the advent of mythology. To praise a Goddess, Titans, Nymphs, Heroes – they all are inhuman beings. Transhumanism aspires to a better human being, often enhanced by technology and overcoming itself. Trans-species was a term I first heard in Barcelona by the cyborg artists. When I told them about transhumanism, they replied that they prefer to consider themselves as “trans-species” and disguise transhumanism for its eurocentric humanism view. From that moment onwards, I felt the new term fit into my transness. To be trans-species means to physically connect with other species. The word “trans”, in between, alludes to an interconnected relationship across species, not far from what we are for dogs or cats. My ongoing research explores the interconnection between humans and sea creatures. Using technology as a medium to intercept mammals’ sounds, I am entering into conversation with them and perhaps one day understand each other. To be trans-species means to step down the human pedestal and dive deep into the mysterious pelagic world.
Can you speak about the evolution of your work, in which transition is a central theme? How are your personal life and your art practice intertwined?
Transitioning was a turning point in my life—an opportunity to reinvent myself, re-born and re-generate. My work and life are ever related, informing, disturbing and challenging one another. Accepting to be trans is accepting your multiple faces, the coexistence of opposite forces that try and succumb to each other. Transitioning strengthens myself and my work by allowing vulnerabilities to leak in and flowing everything in a river to the sea.
Your work often tells stories between myth and science; why are these concepts so important for you?
Through myth, I create reality. The sea is my oneiric fantasy, the place where I give vent to myself, where I let my thoughts free in a deep transcendental journey. My imagination gives shape to my torments. Since I’m not able to find any story or place to inhabit, I urge to create my own. Myth is as important as scientific research in the sense that we can write narratives and literature about what/who we are. Such a process should be maintained open and fluid, both in science and mythology. My studio is a science lab where I delve into my research while my body becomes the scientist and the test subject.
You told me that Hermann Nitsch was particularly relevant for your current work in progress; how has he inspired you? Do you have any other artists that guide you through your journey?
Flesh, blood, meat. Nitsch’s performances are a source of inspiration for my transition. I am closely looking at my body, fat, muscles, and hair changing. I am warmer, and my blood is thicker. There’s a fire within me. Walking within Inferno’s exhibition in Rome at Palazzo delle Scuderie while listening to Philip Glass, I felt something within me moving and arising. It is time for a real transformation.
What are your future projects?
I am working on a new project which will take me some time to make. It’s something I’ve been dreaming of lately, which involves whales and their communication skills. Soon I will perform in Milan, presenting a new piece. In August, I will move to New York for a master at Pratt Institute, but before that, I will do a residency in Istanbul.