Agnes Questionmark: The Art World’s Mesmerising Underwater Performer
The Italian performance artist and former Gucci model Agnes Questionmark describes her work as a trip to a place “where nymphs and mythological creatures exist among humankind”. Many of her performances occur underwater, where Agnes pushes audiences to question the ephemerality of their own bodies. “I have an obsession with becoming inhuman – part of mythology,” she says.
Her artistry stems from a quest to understand her own identity: “I wasn’t yet Agnes Questionmark; I spent my first year looking for this other character,” she says. Her childhood generated an unbreakable bond with the ocean that now manifests in her art. Her father was a boat architect with a passion for sailing; together, they would spend months offshore. “When I began to transition, I understood the water was a place of such meaning and symbolism,” she says. “The fluidity of the sea matched that of my work.”
Earlier this year, Valentino cast Agnes in a campaign posing in nothing but a pair of the brand’s fuchsia Tan-go platform heels, alongside fellow trans artist Nettuno, model Lina Giselle and DJ Charli, looking as if she’s been pulled from a renaissance painting, perfectly complementing her own artistry.
For Transgenesis, Agnes’s lauded 2021 long-duration performance, viewers were invited into a derelict leisure centre, guided down a dimly lit tunnel resembling a coronary artery, with foetus-like latex sculptures adorning its sides, opening into a mirrored chamber with a white-sand floor and glimmering ceramic sea life sculptures. Agnes stood atop a giant octopus-like installation. Mesmerising the crowd, they watched her take deep inhales-exhales in tune with a whale cry-like song.
“I felt completely inhuman, especially as I saw peoples’ faces when they watched me,” she says. “They were seeing something they had never seen before. I felt like a goddess. I wanted to make you think: I am somewhere else; I am entering into a womb towards another state and a new dimension.”
Transgenesis ran for eight hours a day for 23 consecutive days. The first day of the piece also marked the beginning of her hormone therapy. “It was all so overwhelming,” she recalls – but her passion to share her own transformation is what allows audiences to be taken on such a similarly profound existential journey while watching her perform.
With a scholarship to study integrated practices at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute in New York, Agnes wants to delve deeper into her understanding of marine biology to find new ways to push the boundaries of underwater performance. The eventual goal? To host an exhibition in her home city of Rome, showcasing her blossoming into the visionary self-proclaimed “trans-species artist” she identifies as today. “My ultimate dream is to make giant installations globally. Spread Agnes Questionmark to everyone. Spread fluidity to everyone!”
Pia Brynteson is editorial assistant at Service95