I’ve followed the work of Katherine Araniello over several decades and recall her pre-Art School days in the mid-90s when she performed as Plastic Anorexic at London Disability Arts Forum cabaret events. She displayed an eye for creating a spectacle and had an ear for a ‘good’ pop song way back then. Her brand of anarchic performance art – honed through years of art-school training – has always been as compelling as it is unsavoury, taking the hypocrisy that underpins pity politics and smothering it in a form of satire that takes no prisoners.
They don’t call Katherine Araniello the Crip Queen, Lady K, for nothing. As she says in the Araniello Show programme notes: “Wing disability, drink disability, wear disability, fake disability, snog disability, f**k disability.”
There is something about the anti-art aesthetic of performance art – it’s mission to present the artist in the moment as it is, without artifice and in an honest communion with an audience that is a perfect complement for Araniello’s ouvre.
She is intentionally sick and twisted, leaving no stone unturned in her bid to take the material of disability stereotypes, whether she’s commenting on perceived dependance, weakness or worthiness in the face of societies prejudices, and taking a sharpened dildo to its hind.
Araniello is a mistress at turning herself and her perceptions of life into Art – as bright and brash as a cold sore turned septic. Whether she’s presenting herself as the subject of force-feeding or mocking tragedy with her Lazy Baby pop video, which chases Abba around the block and back again, Benny Hill-style: (Tragedy/ it’s a cunt / a venereal disease/ won’t leave me alone) – there is a subtle profundity to the profanity that infects everything that she does.
Araniello has often made work with Aaron Williamson as part of the Disabled Avant-Garde but this was the first time I’ve seen her working with a group of performance artists. Chosen for their compatibility with the way that Araniello works, Daniel Oliver, Jenna Finch and Shona Walnen – all brought a dead-pan series of personas to the piece – acting as foils to the various stage identities Araniello inhabits.
I’m looking forward to profiling Araniello further on DAO as she mentor’s emerging artists in a residency at The Yard and have with the artists’ agreement posted a series of comments on The Araniello Show taken from FB.
“On Friday Joy Stanley and I went to see the Araniello Show at the Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick. I was blown away, Katherine Araniello absolutely stormed it! The show was sharply intelligent and brilliantly hilarious.
I found it impossible to watch as a bystander, or observer viewing it from the outside in. I felt swooped up, pulled along and enticed to take responsibility for what I was part of, for the duration of the show and beyond. It was thrillingly exhausting. I found myself wishing that I could have brought along all my friends and acquaintances especially from outside the world of art and performance to show them what live art can be like at its best.”
“The Araniello Show is a variety extravaganza, brimming with singing, dancing, feats of endurance and sharp edged comedy. A mashup of pre-filmed video, live performance and karaoke audience participation, Araniello stage manages the whole production with great panache and an evil twinkle in her knowing eye.
Araniello collaborates with Daniel Oliver and two other on-stage assistant-slash-sidekicks to bring the show to life. Oliver’s role is pretentious interpreter: He loudly explains why he’s been invited, his purpose to act as interlocutor for Araniello. While she describes her “journey” to get to this show, the literal journey through the Blackwall Tunnel versus the metaphorical sob-story, Oliver ‘helps’ by building a sculpture of plastic dolls behind her, in an attempt to visualise her story.
Her dismissive roll of the eyes is all that’s needed to put his character firmly back into his place; this is very clearly Araniello’s show and she is centre stage.
Her larger-than-life Manga-style persona dares (and wills) the audience to laugh at disability stereotypes, angrily sending up cliches and unwanted pity. As one of the show’s karaoke-style videos declaims, for Araniello, she “was born like this…wouldn’t have it any other way.”’
“As beauty is in the eye of the beholder so artistic appreciation comes in the same category. The Araniello Show wiped out a few standard milestones and opened up a whole new vista.
As the artist’s Mother – torn between ‘shock;’ ‘bewilderment’ and admiration – I suddenly entered the world of ‘performing art’ at its zenith. Katherine herself was both compelling and outrageous – completely in control of the ongoing sequences – cleverly supported by her talented team. Daniel, understated, supportive and completely in control. Jenna moving around the stage, a quiet but interesting character, doing her own thing. Then sweet Shona, always participating and fully aware of Katherine’s mind.
Yes it was funny and yes it was using language in its most outrageous and basic form. But it was compelling and the audience gradually ‘got it’ and definitely warmed to Katherine’s humour. Would I recommend it to fellow senior citizens? Well I definitely learned what performing art was about and can still keep my sanity.”
“What a night. Katherine Araniello stormed it. Another show that challenges while it entertains. Thanks Ms A & the cast.”
“I have real problems with the force feeding as I did with the compromised breathing at Cab Mel. I absolutely hate watching actions which not only reference but actually enact abuse but see its place in consciousness-raising performance and would always defend Katherine’s place on the extreme edge, way beyond comfort.
I thought some reviewers missed the genius of Daniel Oliver who seemed to have an Andy Kauffman presence. He was not pretentious so much as zen but there you go as the fantastic Franko would say ‘I project you project’.
Otherwise I think Katherine’s sick bag of silly stuff is worth pushing to ludicrous ends. The accident on the way to the theatre is a horrible hoot at so many layers of hypocrisy and you are the only person I can think of pulling it off like a prosthetic leg.
Bad taste has never left such a good taste. You are phenomenal Katherine and, much as you despise the sentimental, I am overcome with your force and fragility as I weep at your defiance and your brilliance.
Long may you rage over us. With much appreciation and love
Dear Katherine the best funniest clever witty brilliant anarchic revolutionary creative expressive on the pulse insightful genius I know . May this be the beginning of the most profoundly fulfilling and ground breaking period of your work. Big love and respect as always.