Exposed to the elements


The first time I saw Gavin Krastin he was naked and vacuum-sealed in a clear body bag. This time, though, he’s fully-clothed. But he’s still fully exposed.

Gavin Krastin speaks about his performance art piece Rough Musik which takes place in the changing rooms of St. Andrews. Krastin has been awarded the Standard Bank Ovation Award for the last three years. (Photo: Cue/Louisa Feiter)

It’s 1pm and Krastin meets me for tea on his way to rehearse for a 5pm performance of Rough Musick.

He needs several hours to warm up after being diagnosed with degenerative disc disease three years ago.

The cartilage in his spine is gradually disintegrating. He demonstrates the effects with his hands.

His nails are decorated with peeling black nail polish. “I’ve had to find a lot of stillness and with stillness comes presence,” he says.

Krastin has been through hell and his work has flourished there. He talks openly about his experiences with the illness, a suicide in his family and discovering his sexuality in high school, themes he explores in his work. “It’s not a show about Gavin. It’s a mode of entry for me,” he is quick to add.

The recent suicide of an immediate family member changed the initial conception of Rough Musick, which involves medieval rituals of public humiliation.

“The idea of a public hanging became real because there was a real hanging in my life,” he says. Krastin stares into space and touches his chest as he discusses his family’s “unravelling” after the incident. “I’m trying to find my feet still.”

With a bag strung across his shoulder and clothed in a hoodie and jeans, Krastin could be a student. He studied at Rhodes for seven years, and it shows. Krastin is intelligent and articulate, and his ideas ooze creativity. “I have mass respect for anyone who just creates.”

Krastin describes his artistic community, where everybody helps each other by bartering their skills and time instead of searching for funding. According to him, this is the way it should be.

“Everything’s compartmentalised and it doesn’t have to be like that,” Krastin says of education and traditional art conventions. “You leave [university] and then you go, ‘Ag, fuck all of this’.”

The amalgamation of Krastin’s interest in fine art, design and drama is evident in his performances. “I really just want to activate the audience,” he says.

He is an integral part of shifting artistic norms. Despite “haters”, Krastin’s performance art has been more than well-received. He has won Standard Bank Ovation awards every year since 2010.


Darsha Indrajith