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Is this London’s most extreme art performance right now?

‘Transgenesis’ features an eight-hour-a-day live performance for 23 consecutive days

Chris Waywell
Written by
Chris Waywell

A giant octopus with a human torso and arms fills a swimming pool in a disused Belsize Park leisure centre. It’s not some momentary, spa-based nightmare hallucination, it’s a really singular artwork called ‘Transgenesis’, and it warrants a visit.

‘Transgenesis’ is the work of Agnes?, ‘a genderless half-human half-cephalopod creature, multicellular and symbiotic, a liquid entity that takes new forms and shapes, constantly destroying themself to give birth to new life.’ It’s the creation of an artist previously known as Giovanni Vetere. Agnes? is a physical manifestation of the idea of self-destruction and self-realisation, referring to the natural world and human intervention with transgenic species used in pharmaceutical research. 

Photograph: The Orange Garden

Theory aside, it’s also fucking bonkers. Not only is Agnes? a pretty tremendous and frightening presence, but it is ‘performing’ in the spa eight hours a day for 23 consecutive days: a total performance time of 184 hours. No utilisation of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for poor old Agnes? – it’s a proper full-time job. And you can go and see it in all its tentacular splendour. 

‘Transgenesis’ is open noon to 8pm every day, with specially choreographed dance performances at the weekends. If you like the look of Matthew Barney’s new ‘Redoubt’ show at the Hayward, maybe also go and check out this piece that clearly is indebted to his work, but is also going somewhere very different.

Gone off that spa treatment suddenly?

‘Transgenesis’ is at 81a Belsize Park Gardens, NW3 4NJ. Until May 23, noon-8pm daily. Evening performances: Sat May 15 May, 6pm-8pm; Sun May 16, 4pm-6pm; Sat May 22, 6pm-8pm, Sun May 23, 4pm-8pm. Book free tickets for evening performances here.

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More extreme worlds: Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern.

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