When questioned about the desired impact of one of his shows, performance artist and design extraordinaire Alexander Mcqueen once remarked that “if you leave without emotion then I’m not doing my job properly”. Highly personal, confessional and rooted in the fragility of life, Mcqueen’s shows were works of art in themselves, designed to hold a mirror up to society and let the darkness in.
Channelling McQueen’s spirit somewhat, perhaps one of the most interesting, multifaceted, artists of the past decade, Gazelle Twin, seems to spend her time searching for similar danger and opportunities to provoke a reaction. Dark, frightening, and highly political, Gazelle’s work has gained a reputation for being shocking, as well as making interesting statements about human behaviour in the 21st century. Yet whilst her recorded music and accompanying videos (check out the superb video for recent release ‘Glory) have gained critical acclaim it’s her live performances,(which see her performing as a number of dark, affected, characters) which gain the largest praise, regularly critiqued as ‘brilliant’, ‘terrifying’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘outrageous’, and for being a show which presents serious statements and interesting ideas.
“I thrive on the characters in the show” confirms Gazelle Twin, the stage name of artist Elizabeth Bernholz, “and the characters take over.”
Described as claustrophobic and distressing, Gazelle Twin’s live show suggest her as a natural anarchist and an artist constantly searching to button-press; “I do try to create a show which has no room for comfort, and in a certain sense no rest bite from certain messages I am trying to convey. There is a strong element to the show of wanting to provoke a strong reaction.”
And yet for all her creative and bold ideas, Gazelle admits that whilst the characters need her to bring them to life, she needs the characters just as much; “I see myself as a puppeteer in the live show and I get possessed by the characters. I find that interesting and thrilling as it gives me a sense of confidence and power which I don’t have in my every day personality. In some ways it’s the characters which allow me to challenge both myself and the audience”. One such character, a nightmare court jester sporting Adidas trainers and a faceless mask, seen in the ‘Hobby Horse’ video, is particularly terrifying.
Dangerous, brave, and highly antagonistic the resulting show is designed to allow the audience greater access to Gazelles recorded music, and in particular the brittle electronic world of 2018’s ‘Pastoral’, itself an investigation of the dark impulses coursing through the English psyche; “The show is my attempt to actualise my last album which is linked to the history of travelling performers. My role in some ways is to get immersed into the strange world I’ve been sucked into, and to help others be able to get immersed in it to’.
Brutal, personal and expertly performed, I’m sure Mr McQueen would be a huge fan.
Gazelle Twin will play The Cluny, Newcastle, on 12th April.