Ex Nilalang (From Creature ~From Creation)
Bhenji Ra and Justin Shoulder founded the collective Club Ate in 2014. Both artists belong to the Filipino diaspora living in Australia and navigate between the worlds of performance, dance, and contemporary art, working closely with their queer and diasporic communities. Through their collaboration as Club Ate, Ra and Shoulder blend their respective approaches with social and engaged practices by creating artworks in an institutional context as well as events such as the queer Sissy Balls that envision a form of radical togetherness through community activation. Their work Ex Nilalang is a series of videos that reinstate indigenous Filipino mythologies that were once used by colonial powers to demonize queer identities. The fourth episode on view as part of CAMP FIRES revisits the Filipino original myth of Maganda and Malakas, the first human beings on earth. In this speculative version, the two characters performed by Ra and Shoulder become fluid beings devoid of a clear gender and identity, while their choreography recalls an invocation to the reparative power of forgotten ancient spirits.
This artwork is presented at Shedhalle as part of the exhibition CAMP FIRES curated by Simon W Marin and Violeta Mansilla which is taking place at Last Tango, Zurich and co-hosted by Shedhalle and Tanzhaus Zürich.
Bhenji Ra (b. 1990 in Sydney, lives in Sydney) studied contemporary dance at the Martha Graham School in New York and at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Perth. As a trans person of Filipino descent, she uses her interdisciplinary artistic voice to evoke the entanglement of queer and diasporic identities through dance, video, and club events. She also is the mother of the ballroom house of SLÉ. Her work has recently been exhibited at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2020); the 22nd Biennial of Sydney (2020); Artspace, Sydney (2019); Auto Italia South East, London (2019).
Justin Shoulder (aka Phasmahammer, b. 1985 in Sydney, lives in Sydney) is a transdisciplinary artists working between performance, sculpture, video, and collective events. Phasmahammer constitutes an eco-cosmology of alter-personas based on queer ancestral myth. Shoulder’s practice is often collaborative and aims at building a queer Filipinx futurism through art, spectacular performances, and community activation in the underground queer scene. Shoulder’s work was presented in venues such as the 22nd Biennial of Sydney; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; the Prague Quadrennial of Stage Design; Performance Space, Sydney; the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane.