We met the equally enigmatic and magnetic Miss Beige at the Barbican Centre in London, for a photoshoot with the talented Emma Zarifi. These unique brutalistic settings are symbiotic elements with the sober character of Miss Beige. A self that resists to be pigeon holed in a world that doesn’t allow for label-less existence. It’s human nature that we need to understand and explain everything so we don’t see it as a threat.
In times where issues of equality, reproductive rights and perception of womanhood in society are heavily discussed, Miss Beige dismantles female beauty to a different kind of aesthetics that are ruled by God knows what but the male’s appreciation.
The symbolism of dressing in beige, a colour that blends and never offends, contrasts with always carrying a hammer in her handbag, just in case. Eating and spitting sunflower seeds is also one of her treats. This really gets on some people’s nerves as a disgusting habit and sometimes intrusion of personal space. However in Spain eating, and spitting, sunflower seeds is an old custom, specially in villages and small towns. Seeds on pavements are a fond testimony of community life.
Miss Beige is the creation of the Spanish revelation in performing arts Ana Esmith; an actress, journalist but above all, a performer who loves making people laugh. Esmith came to London in 1999 to train with the celebrated master clown Philippe Gaulier. Since then, she has prolifically worked with English and Spanish theatre companies, however she has always devised her own material. Her life toggles between Spain and UK, regularly performing not only in London’s cabaret scene but also other notorious cultural hotspots such as Vienna and Madrid.
Esmith defines her work as “stupid, funny and a bit sassy” however we see depths in her characters which are rooted in appearances and behaviours often seen in dear extended family members, and in suburban culture.
At the end of the day I am happy if I make you laugh. As an audience, it is up to you how far you want to go when you are being provoked.
JM: Who is Miss Beige?
AE: Miss Beige, the anti-selfie, is my latest creation and partly an exploration into non-verbal work. I have been performing a few times for La Juan Gallery and a month long residency as the sole walkabout character at Palace Gaviria both in Madrid, also at Chrom-Art TRIBE16 Festival in London.
She is a character who challenges you to be brave .Her look, plain beige, and her attitude, a stern dignity, turn her into a disruptive figure in any environment. She provokes not without giving you food for thought. Her look will turn the one who looks into the one we all looked at.
JM: What does Miss Beige and Ana Esmith have in common?
AE: A dark and wry sense of humour
JM: Where do you get the inspirations from your characters?
AE: A mixture of common people plus some oddity.
JM: Is there a message behind your art?
AE: Most times I devise characters that have something to say from a female point of view, but at the end of the day I am happy if I make you laugh. As an audience, it is up to you how far you want to go when you are being provoked.
JM: What drove you to train to become a clown?
AE: I didn’t know when I moved to London to study with Philippe Gaulier in 1999 that he was THE CLOWN GURU, the master of the put-down (no internet on those days I am afraid) .All I knew was that he was great and the school would change my life so I went. Obviously I was stupid enough to fit in, but it was hard. You cry a lot when you train as a clown.
Women are brought up to laugh at men’s jokes and be “wonderwoman”. In cabarets, women do burlesque and men do comedy
JM: Is life as performer harder when you are a woman?
AE: YES even if it still sounds a cliche, but when it comes to female comedy is even worse. Women are brought up to laugh at men’s jokes and be “wonderwoman”. In cabarets, women do burlesque and men do comedy. Saying that, it is true that women still have more issues to play with their image and be free with it .So it is about time to give voice to heroines that don’t just wear capes or tight clothes to move on from the sexual innuendo.
JM: What kind of collaborations fit your art better?
AE: So far, live performance is a new approach for me. I am used to being on stage so being in a gallery is fascinating and challenging. The audience comes and goes and it is about engaging every 5 minutes.
JM: Miss Beige is known for getting around. What are her favourite thereabouts and where should we be expecting to see her next?
AE: She likes being near the ones/things nobody shows any interest in: parking meters, emigrants, butchers, common people, urban art, (…). In a near future she would like to approach “symbols” such as football, bullfighting or the parliament to create a bit of controversy.
JM: What are you currently working on?
AE: On a booklet where you could plunge into her world through a photo album called: “MISS BEIGE TAKING THE STREETS”. It’s on the prints at the moment, ready to be presented at Justmad Emerging Art Fair 21-26 February in Madrid, but fans will also be able to buy it from Facebook. Now everyone can carry a Beige in their pocket!
JM: What are your artistic plans for the future?
AE: Dunno, but at some point I would like to combine my artistic skills with my journalism training. I think humour is needed to face what’s happening in the world .At least, that’s what I do to keep up my spirit.