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Antonia Wright Uses Her Body as an Artistic Medium: "I Got a Concussion and a Black Eye"

"Be" by Antonia Wright
"Be" by Antonia Wright
Photo by Rudy Duboue

Antonia Wright puts her whole body into her work. Literally.

As a performance-based video artist, Wright uses her body as her medium. Whether she's rolling naked down an alley or simply kissing on an escalator, there's little doubt she gives it her all.

With such dedication to her work, it's no surprise gallerist Anthony Spinello has picked her up. This last year, Spinello included her into his fold alongside local art stars Agustina Woodgate, Typoe, and Farley Aguilar. And what better way to say "Welcome" than with a solo exhibition?

Tonight, Spinello Projects will debut "You Make Me Sick: I Love You," Wright's largest solo exhibition to date. On display will be 13 videos that will encompass not only Spinello's space, but spill over to the adjacent Butter Gallery and Projektraum.

We spoke to Wright about what to expect from the show, using her body as an instrument, and the hazards of the job.

See also: Antonia Wright and Ruben Millares: Booking It at Spinello Projects

Cultist: With people who are unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you do?

Antonia Wright: I do mostly performance-based work for video and photography -- it's myself in all the work. I make aesthetic choices on how to create it. It's all action based.

Is the show a retrospective?

I wouldn't use the word retrospective, no. It's sort of a breadth of work that I've made over the last several years. We are showing all video work, and we are showing about 13 different video projects. It's a pretty big show. It's the biggest show I've ever had, and it's the biggest show that Spinello has ever had, too.

How did the idea come about to do the show?

Anthony [Spinello] approached me -- he represents me now -- and he said he wanted to have a big show of mine of video work. We started talking about it, and next thing you know, we were taking over the whole building, and we are creating video rooms, massive projectors, and four-channel audio. The idea just started growing.

Was the idea at first to display just in Spinello's space and then it started to spill over into Butter, or did you plan it this way from the beginning?

We started realizing that there was so much work we wanted to show that we needed more room. Then he told me, "I want to do it in the whole building." And I said, "Yea, of course! Let's do it."

You do a lot of live performance work. Are you doing anything like that for the opening?

No, I don't think so. We have two brand new pieces that I've never shown before in the show and those are very performance based, but I'm not going to do anything live.

 

Some of your best known work is you smashing through a wall of books, or also you rolling down an alley in Miami Beach. Does the work at the show keep in that theme, of you using your body as an instrument?

Yes, it's all very action based, and I use myself in all the work. I think that I use my body almost as a tool that enables me to create these pieces. Sometimes I get battered, and sometimes I don't. I don't think that's the unifying theme. I think more it's that I use my body as my medium, and I do whatever it takes to create that.

Having seen your work, you put your body through a lot. Have you ever hurt yourself and regretted it later?

[Laughs] Yea, I have. I got nicotine poisoning -- like, really badly -- after this one video that I made where I smoke a whole cigar without breathing any other air. I remember lying on the floor, passing out and thinking, "Maybe this wasn't a good idea." I don't know if you've ever had nicotine poisoning, but it's really miserable. It was really horrible. I was throwing up.

After I made Deep Water Horizons, in which I roll naked down the alley, I got a concussion and a black eye. But I never regret it. It's what I do. If I don't do these projects, I can't sleep. I think about them all the time until I make them. My work is fighting against apathy. I think that's a problem facing us a culture in that we're becoming more apathetic. We watch the news and read about it, but we don't really react or make our thing or do enough to cause change. For me, why I make these projects, is my way of doing something.

As a local Miami artist, how is it making art in Miami? Do you feel you get enough support?

Totally. I was living in New York for a long time, and when I decided to really commit to being an artist, I moved here. I feel like it's been a really great thing to grow here as an artist along with an art community that is also growing. There's been a lot of change that's been happening.

What do you hope people get out of your show?

I hope to make people really feel. I hope to generate conversation and thought, and pull people into a whole new experience. I'm approaching it in that when you go to an artist's solo show, you are walking into their world. If you do it correctly, you almost have traveled into this other space. I'm hoping to create that experience here with people feeling like they've been transported.

"You Make Me Sick: I Love You" by Antonia Wright. Thursday, March 20 - Saturday, May 3. Spinello Projects, 2930 NW Seventh Ave., Miami. Opening reception 6 - 10 p.m.

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