Artwork details

Anthony Aquarius
HD video, color
Nicole Miller

Courtesy of the artist.


Anthony Aquarius, 2015
Nicole Miller addresses the issue of identity and self-understanding, taking her point of departure in the presentation of African American figures in popular culture, and she explores the influence Hollywood films have on our cultural identities. In the work Anthony Aquarius a Jimi Hendrix impersonator sings “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life”, two songs originally composed for the musical Hair, which were combined into one song and made famous by singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone. The song first refers to things the protagonist does not have (“I ain’t got no home/ain’t got no shoes”) before turning to the things that the person in question actually does possess (“Got my liver, got my blood/I’ve got life”). Miller drew the inspiration for this work from a controversy that arose in the media when it was announced that Zoe Saldana would play the part of Nina Simone in a film about the legendary singer’s life, although her skin is lighter and she is more conventionally pretty than Simone. The artist reflected on the absurdity of trying to embody a person who was no longer living, and further developed the idea by asking a profession celebrity impersonator to sing Simone’s song. The character Anthony Aquarius is usually found impersonating Jimi Hendrix on Hollywood Boulevard, letting tourists take their pictures with the legend that he personifies with his clothes and makeup. Aquarius has immersed himself in Hendrix’s persona by learning the most minute details of his gestures and vocal techniques in order to “revive” the legendary musician, but does this mean that he is annihilating his own identity? Miller adds several more layers to the complex self-staging process, where the Hendrix impersonator is already playing a role as the interpreter of a third person. A final layer is added by letting a man perform the role of Simone.


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