“My name is Danai Anesiadou. My name is Danai Anesiadou.” Exclaimed over and over again, these assertions have begun nearly every one of the artist’s performances to date. (Describing those performances is impossible, but think: part enacted conspiracy theory, part stylized séance, part metaphysical conjuring, part Dada spectacle, all made coherent by the magnetism of their central protagonist and creator, a certain Greek-Belgian, born in 1977, who goes by the name of Danai Anesiadou.) It would be easy to dismiss the declaration as the confident assertion of an identity, but there was such persistence to it, such emphasis and recurrence of the line, that to take it at face value would be to miss it as an avowal, addressing whoever listened—as much as recalling for herself—that she existed at all.
Like few other artists I know of, she is, and always has been, her art. This is not art blurring into life, this is art as person, as name, as embodied energy. And to anyone who knows her, you know that both she and her work are flamboyant, oracle-like, and utterly charismatic, which might make any description of her persona as being elusive sound like a contradiction in terms. Yet I can’t help but think of her once recounting that, as a child, she repeatedly tried to will her own evaporation. Or, of her once answering the common schoolteacher’s question, “What do you want to become?” with a concise “Ether,” as if it were a career path. For a 2015 exhibition, she packed the entirety of her worldly belongings—books, clothing, computer, water bills, candles, hair products, kettle (everything … you get the idea)—vacuum sealed them in plastic bags, and displayed them as an installation. Visitors marveled at the contents of a “life” rendered public through the strange poetry of her highly aestheticized constellations. But even more telling was the negative: the air that was sucked out, extracted in order to compact an entire life’s traces into a set of transparent carrier bags.
To be “in the wind” is to be fugitive, unable to be found. The colloquialism is appropriate here. Will her work appear at documenta 14 in a form recognizable as art? To see it, you may need to look beyond the mere matter that would seem to represent her. Because her name is Danai Anesiadou, and she might just be in the wind.