Agatha Valkyrie Ice started life in 2014 as a collaboration between artists Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė. Ai (Agatha also has a preferred pronoun) began as a character that the duo created in part through social media. Anyone with the relevant password is able to shape Agatha’s ‘personality’ by using profiles created on, among others, SoundCloud, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, to communicate anonymously and collectively as Agatha Valkyrie Ice. This iteration of the ‘multi-platform, multi-user, participatory, self-performance project’ took place as a part of the Eva Birkenstock curated LISTE Performance Project, which aimed to render visible artistic trends towards post-identitarian thinking.
A small crowd gathered around a clearing in Basel’s Solitude Park for the chance to to see Agatha in real life. Shaded by trees, we stood in a semicircle as we watched the model and actor Lukas Von Der Gracht wander through a minimal set to a bass heavy soundtrack. His costume, which consisted of gathered material that was fixed around his waist with neon orange tape, suggested he could be prehistoric or from the future. As I watched Von Der Gracht slowly move painted stones around the clearing, sometimes hitting them against trees but without any sense of urgency, I struggled to equate the banality of the performance with the plethora of texts written by the artists about Agatha online. Specifically it was difficult to see the character as post-gender, or what could be revolutionary about that, when it was tied to the (albeit androgynous) body of Von Der Gracht.
More compelling was the exhibition at Basel’s artist-run space Oslo 10, where Agatha Valkyrie Ice is named as artistic director alongside Daniel Iinatti. ‘Episode 8: The Lair’ is a follow up to the group show ‘NeverWinter: BorderLands’, in which artists were invited to make work around the creation of an avatar and display it in the gaming basement of a shop in Stockholm. As the title of the Basel show suggests, the exhibition space is dark, mysterious and messy. But it works better when Agatha lurks in dark corners, able to question gender and authorship while remaining a productive site for fantasy, possibility and imagination.