On Tyler Matthew Oyer’s VENUS at Roter Salon

Venus. The hottest planet in our solar system. Immortal. A non-patriarchal icon for the artist Tyler Matthew Oyer. The path of this luscious planet as observed from Earth draws a pentagram—a five-pedal flower, a star. Text by by Göksu Kunak.

A big black pentagram lies on the floor of the Roter Salon (Red Room) of Volksbühne, the renowned theatre of Berlin. The quote-unquote cool Berlin crowd is confused and stays away from the stage to respect the star, so as not to step on it.

On stage, a sculpture turns into the costume of the artist. A stiff black shiny material, reminiscent of a heavy damask, whereas it’s only the light that acts as an ornament. It is like dried petroleum, leaking. Later I learn that Tyler Matthew Oyer calls it a shroud—I don’t know what it means: “a length of cloth or an enveloping garment in which a dead person is wrapped for burial” says the dictionary. I stop for a moment. Then, I realized: that considering the shapeshifting that happened in the performance/concert VENUS in April 2023, and many characters appeared and disappeared on Tyler’s skin and presence, the name of this sculpture makes sense for the opening scene. In this entity, decay allows new becomings, and the shift of songs tell stories in fragments.

Oyer begins inside the shroud, revealing their face in the hole, becoming their own sculpture, a vampiresque, dark character. The cliche comes to my mind: a silky voice. The artist sang in a gospel choir for ten years, which is completely apparent in their vocals. Now the space pulses slow, like almost a failing heart, until the artist walks centre stage to the microphone stand. Beginning with mysticism and spell casting and chanting—later on we’ll be dancing—the space metamorphoses into a club with an increased heart rate. We’ll be dancing on the Pentagram with Oyer’s invitation, in what was almost considered the holy space at the beginning.

An alienesque Klaus Nomi from 2023—Nomi is the ancestral artist for Oyer. 80s glam and clownish attire; pop, wacky, but all these characters are sleek. Throughout the time the chant transforms into techno and pop beats. Although the 80s Berlin rolls into a party in LA, the performativity of the beginning, the chanting like Klaus Nomi-characters still linger in the air. Towards the end, the beginning stayed. That’s the performer’s skill, to keep various textures without dropping the previous characters. Instead of the pants on the floor, the new pants that are worn are re-designed and stitched together. Layers. It’s a dramaturgical choice as well.

Most of the songs were from Oyer’s unreleased album VENUS; a project that Oyer generated at the Rupert Residency Program in Vilnius in 2021. Is this a performance or a concert? Oyer is a multi-talented artist; they paint, make sculptures, perform and produce music. They studied opera and performed in clubs. The presence of the artist, and all the the words in their rich vocal pattern combined with the vigorous performative abilities, as well as the visual aspect (costumes as worn sculptures), recalls Leos Carax’s fantasy film Holy Motors (2012), in which the protagonist’s job is to perform as a variety of freaks. Similarly, Oyer’s performance is like a fruit with layers, diligently peeled off. They create an absurdity, chanting in a holy manner, turning the stage into a masquerade with a tight red dress, long black latex gloves and a headpiece; black leather harness and a black bodysuit; shiny see-through dress, and the make up accompanying (the face covered in white, big black wing-like shape around the eyes). Well, say, each character is a sculpture, singing.

Performance by Tyler Matthew Oyer / tmostudio.com / @tmostudio
Photography by Sven Gutjahr / svengutjahr.com / @svengutjahr
Text by Göksu Kunak / guccichunk.berta.me / @goeksu_kunak
Location Roter Salon Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz / volksbuehne.berlin / @volksbuehne_berlin
Booking by Primitive Agency / @primitiveagency