Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
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Conversation between Kunst and Olivia Ramos.
KUNST: Hey there Olivia, it's Kunst.
RAMOS: hi Kunst, we finally get to chat, really happy to have you
Yes we do! I'm happy to be here
tell me a little about your performances
I'd say that my performances for me tend to facilitate something of a phantasmagoria. From my music selection to my costuming and makeup, I try to carefully curate an experience; an experience that I hope to make totally immersive. Deafening and sublime in their totality.
you mention in your BIO that it should resemble a terrible dream... why is that and not a nice dream?
I think that for me a lot of my performances walk the line of remembering the feeling of having a terrible dream because of the grotesque qualities of my work. I try to make it inherently visceral, perverse, and subversive. That's the terrible part; my work can make you uncomfortable. My makeup is intended at distorting the features of my face. And I think that as I move through a space, this orientation I have towards discomfort manifests itself in all the experiential aspects of what it means to occupy a character position that is fully animate within that space. I think nice dreams are too illusory for me. I never remember my nice dreams - I always awake from a terrible dream remembering those things that made it bad. Never in their entirety, however - only just the feeling of that experience.
It is deff easier to remember the bad things, the terrible dreams, the negative aspects of most things. Where do you think that comes from?
I think it's because that in the dream state it's our anxieties and our fears about the world that lies just beyond our selves that manifests itself within our dreamscape as those terrible things. Those are the things that strike directly at the core of our self. It lifts the illusory veil of ornamentation and curation that is carefully and precariously developed and fleshed out by the individual. But those moments in a dream never appear as entirely intelligible, it's just the disjointed bits and pieces that coalesce in our memories of those moments in sleep. I think that's what fascinates me the most.
don't you think that also happens in a conscious state? we hold tight to all the negative events of the past, all the negative circumstances of the present and most of all the fear that is to come. Dream state or now, we hold on to the things that hurt us.
I certainly agree. I think that at all times we carry with us things that strike us. Especially the traumatic or the hurtful; those memories tend to be the most visceral and bodily. They make our skin crawl, they churn our stomachs, they chill our bones. But I think that in a dream state, the phantasmagoria that arises when those disparate constitutive elements coalesce is what precisely fascinates me. A surreal arrangement of traumatic or shocking or fearful things that is persistently shifting and moving; not always intelligible or arranged with reason, but somehow feel-able and knowable. It's that preoccupation with that aspect of it that I think textures my work.
what is the intention then in sharing this state with an audience, particularly an awake (or perhaps semi-awake) audience?
The intention is catharsis. All of my performances tie themselves to feelings or memories of feelings in my life that now in retrospect must be reconciled as I move through my emerging and developing queerness. In particular, that underbelly of queerness that is situated in the abject. Providing this moment to the audience as a phantasmagoria, in that dream like character, makes it consumable. Because, I think, that in its rawness it can be choking; which is a quality of queer experience that I think a lot of queer people can connect to.
would you elaborate a little on why this experience, the rawness, the choking impact of it, is specific in the queer community?
I think that it is a particularly relatable experience for people that fall within the bounds of queerness because of the inherent qualities of what defines the 'queer.' And it's here that the differentiation between queer and more broadly understood of as LGBTQ+ is pertinent. Queer and people who identify beneath that signifier can understand the experiences that put them there as loosely definable and intelligible. Queer and queerness lies outside of the easily categorizable and understandable. That's why some of those things can be raw and choking. The phenomenology of those queer moments can find itself, often, outside of language and indescribable. And it is those precise moments of queer experience that I try and capture with my work and present to an audience. Queer people, often, when it comes to trying to make sense of their experience(s) face a disparity in the language and tools that we have available to us to talk about and process them. That's why I think that those moments and feelings translate so well into performance. Because performance doesn't need to be speaking in language or intelligibility. Performance can be just symbolic and visual.
I have never thought of it that way, I must admit I've tried to understand in past conversations and it has been difficult. However, it makes a lot of sense for the need of an entirely new form of expression - at least when words are not enough to articulate certain types of existence.
and it seems like the beginning of a language at the beginning of a species - does it feel that way?
Yes! For me words are never enough. Our language is always failing. At any moment that a word tries to capture the meaning of a thing that meaning shifts and the word can only signify so much then. And when we group words and codify their collective meanings through grammar and syntax and contextualize it with a vernacular, I think we need to understand that it's functions then as a reflection. Where, what is being reflected on the construction of that language is the dominant values of the culture that develops it. This is why I think for queers, the persistent failure of that language to be able to be employed to understand things, experiences, and our selves is felt more deeply.
It certainly feels like that a lot. I'm always moving through the world looking for ways to develop a new words and new tools to make something understandable and rekatable. Whether it's with my close social circles or more broadly across platforms on social media or in venue spaces, the development of this new language is apparent. I see it within myself and amongst those that I interact with. Now that queerness is becoming a species, no longer just behaviors, a new vernacular develops with it.
I am blown away by the thought of a new species and the opportunity that it can bring to the world, from every aspect. Everything that comes with it is novel, even... you mention vernacular, which I associate with architecture, but even new forms of social and physical infrastructure.
It seems as thought the conversation, or lack thereof, is very much still in it's performance stage
is there such a thing a movement towards all the other things that surround a species?
I'm having a hard time with words now
It's exciting, isn't it. I think that the development of a vernacular and of queerness as a more definable identifier, or species, works intersubstantiably. They move together and for each other; and only exist in relation to each other. And as they develop so will the social and physical infrastructure. New was of socializing and understanding our desires and our wants, our hopes and our dreams. Along with finding new ways to contextualize those selves within public space; how we affect the world and how the world affects us. The things then that surround a species, that compose our ecosystem (social and public spaces, etc) will surely change, arise, reform, and/both develop from this inertia as well.
Now you know my struggle, this hard time with words is my daily strife!
I will give it some thought. Would love to imagine what queer architecture might look like. .. a city.
But that's my own thing.
Regarding the work.
Is there an intention within the community to isolate? My question comes from the nature of the "terrible dream", do you think because only the queer community can truly identify, that it keeps others away?
I think that queering physical infrastructure like that is a burgeoning realm of thought. In the queer theory epistemology we already look at physical space in that way, as an attempt at deconstructing it's underpinnings to understand how it is used by queers already. The next logical step would be then to develop that queer poetics of space!
I don't think so at all. I think any potential isolation arises out of the problems of employing queer with other identifiers like gay or lesbian, for example, interchangeably. The magical thing about queerness is that it's accessible by anyone. The purpose of a queer identifier lies directly in its potential for proliferation. Every person, in some way or another, is queer.
that makes a lot of sense from a scientific standpoint, all new species have come to be after many phases of mutation of an existing species - therefore it is likely that humans have some kind of queer component, some are more developed than others.
do you see humans moving more and more towards that direction?
or will there be two species at some point
I think that at some point, there will be nothing. That the proliferation of labels and signifiers will burden our symbolic system of language to such a degree that we will be forced to find some other way. At least, that's the hope. I hope that in some way, at some time, the significant value that we place on this semiotics of sexuality, of gender, of class, and of race will fall away. That all individuals will be free to move through the world comfortable with the identifiers they choose. But, reflexively, that assertion I just made is a vague and unclear one. It's hard to speculate what lies beyond what we have right now - because we don't have the language to do so. I think that's the crux of any post-modernist project. I think that right now we have queerness and all that lies within its murky depths. We have only just scratched the surface of that potential for shaping and contouring the lived human experience.