From the series: Even if I Exist in Embo: Jaundiced Tales of Counter Penetration
Edition of 5 + 2AP
Paper size 74 x 107 cms
Athi-Patra Ruga's inaugural UK solo exhibition, Of Gods, Rainbows and Omissions, was presented at Somerset House in 2018-19.
In the performative series Even I Exist in Embo: Jaundices Tales of Counterpenetration Ruga shows the afrowomble attire worn: " Although totally alien, this creature has a deeply human appearance, and it is unquestionably met more amicability than many other city dwelling aliens migrant labourers or asylum seekers.
But what does this disguise mean? Although the artist dislikes the unholy trinity of gender, race, gay it is impossible to understand his work in public space without referring - at least to a certain extent - to notions of 'othering'. However, the Other, in his case, has two particular qualities which I would like to discuss here: Firstly, Ruga's figures (or the performing self) cannot be reduced to a single signifier - rather, their appearance is charged with so great a number of allusions that it tends to develop a multiple and equally hyper- and invisible identity. Secondly, with his performance, Ruga deals with an alternative way to perceive, explore and experience a given space other than the objectifying 'othering' of subjectivities.
The first argument is both obvious and complicated. The alien appearance of both Beiruth and the protagonist in the performance series Even I Exist in Embo draw on several optical strategies. For instance, the artist is often almost entirely covered with fabric or paint, preventing us from any direct conclusion about his race or sex. Adding to this layered ambivalence, his garment derives from diverse social contexts female and male, sports garments as well as those tailor made for the erotic world, Euro-American as well as Afro-Chic. This ambivalence is supplemented by an eccentric behaviour, which recalls codes of transvestite or camp aesthetics. However because the protagonist denies any definite label or attributions of known types of social beings and behaviours, it cannot be categorized. And what cannot be categorized - what is embedded in our doxa10, but not in our epistemic system - remains unrecognised, hence invisible." Fiona Siegenthaler, "Athi-Patra Ruga's Performances. Showing the Invisible Side of Public Space" in Athi-Patra Ruga, The Works 2006 - 2009.