BLACK AND GOLD: ANTONY

YIN AND YANG. SUN AND MOON. EBB AND FLOW. THERE ARE NO OPPOSITES IN THE WORLD OF MUSIC, JUST COMPLEMENTS THAT WORK TOWARD A GREATER WHOLE. ANTONY AND SANTI: BRIGHT CONSTELLATIONS IN A UNIVERSE OF ENDLESS SOUND

Photography Inez & Vinoodh

From V Magazine’s Spring 2012 Preview issue, V75 The Music Issue.


PART 1: ANTONY

There’s no rest for the wicked and certainly not for the wickedly talented, in the case of the prolific Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons. Following his groundbreaking show, The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic–a stage interpretation of Abramovic’s life directed by Robert Wilson–at last year’s Manchester International Festival, the singer and artist continues to push the boundaries of beauty, gender, and sound to euphoric new levels.

Before embarking for distant shores for repeat performances in Europe, however, Hegarty will stage an epic one-night-only show in New York City. “Klaus Biesenbach had seen another performance I did in Manchester, in 2009, and he wanted to commission a development of that piece for MoMA,” Antony says about the upcoming collaboration. The result is Swanlights, a visual concert event taking place on January 26 at Radio City Music Hall. “We decided to do it at Radio City as opposed to the museum because I’d always dreamed of performing there,” he says. “It’s like this giant, round airplane hangar and has this wonderful sense of space to it. It’s like a giant planetarium.”

For the show, Antony is collaborating with an impressive lineup that includes composers Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, and Maxim Moston as well as a sixty-piece orchestra that will play songs from all four of the Johnsons’ albums–his self-titled debut, I Am a Bird Now, The Crying Light, and Swanlights–with a stunning visual accompaniment by London-based light artist Chris Levine, lighting designer Paul Normandale, and set designer Carl Robertshaw. “It’s definitely a concert, but with a lot of attention tuned to the set and the environment,” Antony says. “We’re working with lines of light to illustrate the invisible world, the world that I always dream of.”

The scale of the production is less of a concern for the seasoned artist, who grew up perfoming in small East Village venues, than it is something to marvel at. “It’s funny because a lot of the songs are the same ones I performed with a keyboard at the Pyramid Club when I was 20 years old,” he says. “To perform them with a symphony orchestra, in New York which is my home, is really rewarding. Anyone who sees the performance and knows about Marsha P. Johnson [the African-American transgendered activist who passed away in 1992], and knows why I named my band that, is a secret reward for me.”

A consummate performer, a homecoming of this nature is not lost on Antony. “It startles me,” he says. “Especially in light of where I came from and who I am. I can’t help but think about it in the context of my community. Most of the artists downtown don’t even have a doctor. My fortune is a reflection of a great circle of cultural artists and performers, transgender people, and punk women. It shouldn’t be the exception that people are granted a forum. It should be the rule.”

Antony Hegarty in New York, November 2011
Cape Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci
Dress and wax necklace by Antony
Cotton wrap Julius Pants Stina Gunnarsson

Swanlights is at Radio City Music Hall on January 26, 2012. An exhibition of Antony’s illustrations is on display at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles from January 22 – May 13, 2012