Grants & residencies: Angelica Mesiti - Art Collector

Issue 59, January - March 2012

This profile appeared in the Grants & Residencies feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2012.

Angelica Mesiti was a recipient of the Australian Film, Radio & Television School’s second round of annual Creative Fellowships in 2011. The fellowships, according to the AFTRS website, are designed to “fund daring and adventurous” projects from “emerging or experienced practitioners and for the support of creatively innovative work”. Applicants from the art world and the film industry vie for one of three $50,000 packages that also offer production support and mentoring from industry professionals.

For Mesiti the fellowship has enabled her to expand a project she’d had in development since late 2010. “It’s a piece called Citizen’s Band,” she says. “I came back to Sydney and applied for the AFTRS fellowship and that’s enabled the next stage of the project.”
With an ongoing interest in dance, performance and music that she has explored in earlier solo work, and as part of the four-member Sydney art group The Kingpins, Mesiti’s new four-channel video installation records musicians from different parts of the world. “It’s made up of different musicians from different places but in the final piece it’s a complete, polyphonic cacophony of sounds. It’s a bit of a mash.”

The work includes musicians from Sydney, Brisbane and Paris performing traditional music from their homelands but displaced into odd new contexts. There is Asin, from the Sudan, who lives in Brisbane and drives taxis to support his music PhD studies. “He’s a classically trained professional musician,” says Mesiti. “He’s a multi-instrumentalist and he’s an amazing whistler, a skill that he’s learnt from childhood – it’s a big thing in the Blue Nile region where he’s from. In Brisbane he’s known as the whistling taxi driver.”

Also featured are Bukhu, a Mongolian throat singer now resident in Sydney, and two performers from Paris, Mohammed, an Algerian born singer of protest songs who busks on the Paris Metro, and Geraldine from Cameroon. “Geraldine does water drumming, where she splashes and cups the water to make rhythms,” says Mesiti. “Normally women perform this in groups in rivers but she does it in public swimming pools.”

The AFTRS fellowship has enabled Mesiti to experiment and test her new work. “I’ve had a week where I set up the installation and worked it through when it was at a nascent stage [and] experiment with the multi-screen set up,” she says. “The sequences play individually as a solo performance, then perhaps together. I’m still shooting it to be honest. This is the first time I’ve worked on a multi-channel work. It’s a real shift for me, a different structure.”

Mesiti’s work, both in her more recent solo projects and her collaborative pieces with the Kingpins, has been marked by a fascination with the nature of performance – be it in song, dance or performance art. “I’m turning the camera away from myself and towards other people,” she says. “And it’s taking me in a different directions. It’s linked to conversations with the Kingpins about physically expressing social ideas, the social aspect. For me, all of my work comes from performance and [the] experience of performing oneself. I’m interested in where performance comes from – where it comes from as a form, as a means of expression and its origins, as a mode of storytelling, as a [form of] human expression. All the performances in Citizen’s Band share these elemental things.”

Andrew Frost

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