In their performance ‘Venus 2.0,’ the LA-based interdisciplinary artist explores the relationship between the body, raving, and outer space

Described as a “multidisciplinary immortalist” by the performance artist Kembra Pfahler, the CalArts-trained, LA-based artist Tyler Matthew Oyer approaches music, performance, photography, and video with a queer sensibility. Their new dance performance, Venus 2.0, which ran from April 26 to 28 at Chinatown’s Human Resources gallery, was over a year in the making. Set in a dreamlike, futuristic light and sound installation, the piece draws inspiration from Oyer’s sonic repetition and chaotic lighting of nightlife spaces. Choreographed and performed by Oyer and their collaborator Kevin Zambrano and set to Oyer’s own BERLIN ALIEN, one of their six musical albums, Venus 2.0 references, through movement, the orbital patterns of Earth and Venus around the sun, drawing a connection between the constellation of dancing bodies in nightclubs and the way planets orbit one another in a cosmic dance. Bringing together visual finesse and audio oddity, the project represents a thematic extension of the artist’s past endeavors, which range from documenting the backstage energy of Rick Owens to live festival performances in Mexico City. It is, in their words, a gesamtkunstwerk: a total work of art and compilation of all before it.

In a conversation with Document shortly after its final performance, Oyer spoke of the conception of Venus 2.0, interstellar influences, and operatic intentions.

Colin Boyle: How does the show fit into your practice as an artist?

Tyler Matthew Oyer: I’ve made a lot of different kinds of performance over the years, from experimental theater recreations to architectural interventions and site-specific performances as well as touring as a musician. I feel like Venus 2.0 is an amalgamation of all of the performances I’ve ever made, because it contains theater in the choreography, sculpture, scenography and costume design, all set to the soundtrack of my original electronic music. I’ve been calling it my gesamtkunstwerk. It feels like a milestone for me.

Colin: Walk me through the inception of Venus 2.0? What served as immediate inspirations?

Tyler: In the summer of 2022 I made a techno album in Berlin called BERLIN ALIEN. Because this music isn’t driven by vocals, it presented a certain challenge: How do I perform a techno album for an audience without simply DJing at a party? I was thinking a lot about time and space travel, and how techno music and clubs offer spaces to play with this reality through sonic repetition, chaotic lighting, and of course, mind-altering substances. So I knew this piece would have a sci-fi element. Venus has been in my vernacular for many years because it is the only female planet in our solar system, and the way that it orbits the sun creates a five-petal flower or a five-pointed star. I love the poetry of this imagery and how un-human it is.

Colin: There are immediate visual comparisons to nightlife and club spaces. Are there any specific memories or moments that you reference in your relationship in nightlife?

Tyler: The concept for this performance began with two bodies orbiting each other, and how our human bodies do that in clubs and social spaces, as well as how we move around the planet. I often think about my life as a constellation of people and things, which is very human-centric. But also how Earth orbits other planets in a kind of cosmic dance. In the performance, [co-performer and choreographer] Kevin Zambrano and I orbit each other both as planets in the solar system. We are individuals meeting and sharing an exchange in a techno-nightclub fantasy. I wanted to recreate moments I’ve shared with individuals on the dance floor. Sometimes these moments only last for a few minutes, and sometimes they become friendships and relationships.

I realize it might be a cliche at this point, but Berghain is still one of my favorite places to dance. I got so lucky to work with Veslemøy Rustad Holseter, who does lights at Berghain and Panorama Bar regularly. She was able to transport us through her lighting design. I love the idea of imagining this performance happening on the Berghain floor, surrounded by ravers.

Colin: On that note, BERLIN ALIEN serves as the score for the performance. Can you describe that project for those who are unaware? Was any part of Venus 2.0 conceived at the time of the album’s recording?

Tyler: Techno is sacred to me. I was in Berlin for an extended amount of time, away from LA, away from my studio, so I found myself wanting to create something new. And of course I was participating in the Berlin party culture. That’s how BERLIN ALIEN was born. When I started making the album, it felt extremely cinematic. This excited me because it lent itself to imagery. At the end of the day, I am an image maker. I’m a visual artist. I wasn’t sure exactly how the performance would manifest as I was making the album, but any time I make music I’m always thinking about how it will be presented to a live audience.

“Queerness is all-encompassing. It isn’t didactic or binary. It is a spirit.”

Colin: The name of the piece recalls the planet Venus, of course, but also a sense of connection between objects inherent to our universe. What compels you about space? How did you channel these elements of astronomy into the performance itself?

Tyler: I heard McKenzie Wark speak last year, and she said something like ‘Techno music isn’t human music.’ It’s more alien and machine. This stuck with me because when I’m in the club and I’m dancing to the repetitive rhythms of industrial and electronic sounds, it often feels primal. So many bodies together dancing, sharing the sensations of the bass as it vibrates their internal organs. It’s like being in a mega-womb. I named the album BERLIN ALIEN not because I felt like an alien in Berlin, but because I feel like an alien on a spaceship floating through space. At the end of the day, that’s actually what we are. In the performance I wanted the audience to feel as though they are zooming in and out between the human level and the celestial macro.

Colin: Your work often transcends the reductive definition of queer, focusing instead on what it means to live in opposition to the norm. Can you walk us through how you’ve channeled queerness into this singular performance? How does Venus 2.0 evolve your understanding of queer art?

Tyler: I feel like my relationship to queerness is very natural. I guess most queer people would say that, but when I’m making art, I don’t necessarily try to make it queer or try to make it have some kind of queer agenda. It just happens. Historically this has pushed a lot of people away from my work, because along with queerness comes a political position that can be confrontational or alienating to some folks.

This piece is more of a dance piece in its presentation. It doesn’t utilize language as much as my other work, and I think that it opens up spaces for people to dream and feel in their own way, which is very queer. At the end of the day, queerness is all-encompassing. It isn’t didactic or binary. It is a spirit. I’ve often written about queerness as a kind of spirit that passes through us and during our time on earth, we are the stewards of it. It is an ancient feeling. I’ve devoted my artistic life to manifesting ways of sharing queerness through imagery, music, performance, images and objects, writing, and photography.

Colin: Within the past few years, you’ve furthered your work in other spheres, including photography and fashion. Has any part of this interdisciplinary exploration informed the way you approach performance?

Tyler: This is a great and timely question, because right now my photography has almost eclipsed my performance work. But they inform each other. I think I make compelling portraits because I know what it’s like to be a performer; to be seen and to want to be seen. My goal is to make my subjects feel comfortable, powerful, sexy… whatever their fantasy is. That’s my goal to capture.

My bachelor’s degree was in sculpture, and one of the critiques I often received was how they read more as images than as 3D objects. I guess this comes from the stage, thinking about mise en scène and tableau. I would love to continue producing multimedia and interdisciplinary experiences beyond my own work and to collaborate within fashion, music and beyond. Perhaps one day, I will even conceptualize and mount an entire opera. I love making things. As an Aquarius, I think it is my spirit to explore and challenge myself, regardless of what form it’s taking.