Photo: Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo: Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo: Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo: Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo: Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool

ANOHNI’S ARMORY
By Lars Byrresen Petersen

It’s always an incredible experience entering the Park Avenue Armory; the space itself is impressively grand, and the programing lately has consisted of powerfully immersive and political experiences. Laurie Anderson’s Habeas Corpus, Philippe Pareno’s H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS, and Douglas Gordon’s tears become… streams become… were all unforgettable. But not quite as much as the recent performance by ANOHNI (formerly known as Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons).

Upon entering the Wade Thompson Drill Hall, there was nothing but a big black curtain and a line of people waiting to get a drink at the two opposing bars (understandably so as the night’s performance was bound to provoke heartache). Once behind the curtain, there was a big stage built out at the far end of the massive room. The lights went down and an unsettling sound of drones starting moving in and out. Naomi Campbell appeared on the screen behind the stage. She was dancing and she did so for the next 35 minutes. Just as anxious as the audience crew during the long performance by Campbell, as excited they were when the ANOHNI entered the stage. Despite the grand cheer, everyone was aware that the night was not about her–covered completely in clothes, not one piece of skin showed and unlit–it was about the message and the people who helped emphasize it. Female trailblazers like Shirin Neshat, Kembra Pfahler, Lorraine O’Grady, and again Naomi Campbell all underscored the singer’s voice via very emotional on screen lip-syncs. As they were moving their lips to songs like Drone Bomb Me, Hopelessness, and Execution, some of them broke into tears.

As the song titles might suggest, ANOHNI was not trying to disguise her opinions. Hopelessness, the politically charged album released May 6, 2016, talks about surveillance, drone warfare, capital punishment, and environmental disaster. All songs are reactions to events like Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, the trial of Chelsea Manning, the Black Lives Matter movement etc, which have all taken place since the artist’s last release six years ago.

In April, she told the NYTimes: “Artists have different responsibilities in different eras. But at this point, I really feel like it’s all hands on deck. An artist that’s fiddle-faddling in opaque, gossamer gestures — I mean it’s fine to do that, totally fine, but there’s no time left. We don’t have the luxury of time any more. Oh, you might be able to carve a little bit out in your life, but you’ll be carving it out of the lives of the people in the future.”

If there’s one thing to take away from the night, it’s that there are people, like ANOHNI, who manages to create something so meaningfully beautiful that it’s impossible to ignore. Not only does she possess the most convincing and haunting voice, her simplistic approach to the visuals made her point that much clearer. BRAVO!

Photo: Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo: Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo: Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo: Drew Gurian / Red Bull Content Pool
Photo: Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool
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