Nástio Mosquito Worships the People

When standing outside one building at Fondazione Prada, pale hues and shadows dance in the Milanese light due to an installation adorning the structure’s glass walls. Upon entering the building, the translucent colors become highly saturated, illuminating illustrations that depict alternate versions of popular fables. Angela Merkel fights Ronald McDonald; a man with a KGB wrist tattoo opposes an individual with an H&M tag hanging out of his boxing shorts; a family stands helplessly in front of an army of blind soldiers. Black pews inscribed with each fable stand throughout the room, along with a matching black pulpit. Within this context, the cartoon figures replace what would be religious iconography in a cathedral’s stained glass windows—exactly what Angolan-born, Belgium-based artist Nástio Mosquito wanted for the site-specific installation WEorNOT (Nastivicious Temple #01), part of his solo exhibition “T.T.T. — Template Temples of Tenacity.”

“There were different figures of the world that we wanted to incorporate and discuss—from a political sense, a social sense, a secretive sense,” Mosquito says when we meet him in the space. For example, the portrayed fables include “in the land of the blind, he who has one eye is king” and “when elephants fight, the one who gets hurt is the grass.” “I fucked with them a little bit, twisted them around,” the artist says, “but the essence you can recognize.”

Made in collaboration with Vic Pereiró (together, Mosquito and Pereiró collectively call themselves Nastivicious), the installation also includes an inverted altar and bursts of electronic sound. Rather than escalating upward, with room for only the preacher to stand nearest God, the square altar extends downward, into the ground. Rows of seating allow for many people to be in the space simultaneously, evoking an immediate sense of community instead of idolatry. On the seats, books rest next to headphones that transmit Mosquito’s meditative instructions: “Write on [the books], whatever you feel this moment celebrates … Declare what you’re in favor of, declare what you love … This space is yours. Not to think. Not to do. To be. We, Nastivicious, dare you to be.” Electronic beats, instead of an angelic choir, occasionally interrupt the room’s silence, furthering the sense of community, as one is compelled to at least smile or laugh, if not break into a small dance.

Enhancing the idea of togetherness, “T.T.T.” also involves a live performance titled I Make Love to You. You Make Love to Me. Let Love Have Sex with the Both of Us. (Part 1 — The Gregorian Gospel Vomit). Two groups of men and women dressed entirely in white enter the Fondazione’s courtyard from opposing directions: one stoically singing Mosquito’s interpretation of the 19th century hymn “Jesus Loves Me,” the other singing the same Christian song but in a livelier, gospel style. Eventually, the separate 15-person groups meet in the middle and find harmony. “I wanted these two iconic symbols of religious singing, these two different universes, to come together and see how they could exist,” Mosquito says. “Then there’s a third presence, which is when they become one.” After joining together, the group leads a procession into WEorNOT, where audience members are encouraged to join in dance and song. “It’s about validating individuals, despite belief systems,” the artist continues.

In September, the exhibition will expand with a month-long presentation of Mosquito’s latest film endeavor, Synchronicity is My Bitch: The Cinematic Experience. “The three things that I’m going to bring [to this exhibition] are all about community,” Mosquito says. “I could have come here to establish my name, but for me, it was a chance to celebrate what validates my sense of joy in life, which is the capacity to establish relationships that have the capacity to surpass my own existence by connecting with other people.”