The Exchange is a periodic in-depth look at the artistic motivations of musicians and collectives. We try to approach this from a more cultural and societal perspective, aside from the necessary musical one, because we cannot deny the influence of modern age bringing ideas from all over the world which broaden our horizons. It is a fact that we can learn a lot from movements that are foreign to us.
Kris Vango, Berlin
“Camp sees everything in quotation marks.”
Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp
Queer identities are still lacking proper, recognized, non-violent, and non-exploitative visibility in our institutions, including those of contemporary nightlife named ‘clubs’ and ‘art spaces’. Where pinkwashing is happening all over and supposed allies are inviting themselves to celebrations that were once protests, being anywhere else on the lgbtqi+ spectrum, like being non-binary or otherwise non-conforming, is still far from being accepted in our society. Queer spaces have been havens of safety, which we need to continue to build and maintain, at times with a forcefulness that is more alike a wink or a hug, showing care in the battle against the seriousness in the straight space outside the quotation marks.
Kris Vango, hailing from Australia but recently found home in Berlin, has made it a point in their work to incorporate healing space. This includes elements that go back to the root of the feminine motherly symbolics, crossing over to the various knowledges the body can understand. In this Exchange we speak to Kris Vango on the foundations of sensuality, love, care, and femininity in their work, and contemporary art as the forefront of this understanding. This Exchange is coupled with a podcast titled ‘For Blooming’, a beautiful mixtape crafted by Kris Vango.
Z – Thanks for this interview, happy to Exchange with you. To start, what are your personal inspirations on this artistic journey? It is for example noticeable that you derive many references from ancient mythologies and cosmic patterns, perhaps you could give insight on why this resonates with you?
I am inspired mostly by the interplay of the physical and the non physical and any explanation, exploration or idea that explores this relationship we have between what we perceive to be real and reality and what we feel (dreams, intuitions, myths and spiritualities). That our existence is linear but also helplessly non linear and that this is undeniable. All of this resonates with me on a deep level because I am searching to understand who I am, as not ever feeling man or woman, of a binary or linear nature and often feeling outside of gender and sexuality completely at times I have had to explore beyond the physical, beyond sex, expression and go deeper.
I feel that our current intellectual debates around gender and also most topics are so stuck on the intellect and physical expressions, which to me become about ego (my opinion vs your opinion)… and unfortunately don’t answer my deeper confusions about how it all transmutes within us. I believe the external is only a reflection of an infinitely deep internal dimension that remains unexplored in comparison to what we know about the physical, especially in what we call “the West”. Mythologies and spiritualities of past and present for me are just clues that bring together a bigger picture. As an artist I feel that it is my duty to use my powers of creation to bring forth patterns I see in the chaos, experientially explore the non linear and to hopefully help others who are confused, lost and suffering to make more sense of our paradoxical nature of being human by bringing forth that experience in some tangible way. For me this is music. As I feel sound is the language of whatever we can call god, or creation. We can’t make music intellectual – it has to be experienced and for each Individual the frequencies resonate differently. That is why to me it has such immense power to shape our perceptions.
Z – Often these myths have a very particular surrounding and ambiance. Channeling this to music and visuals, what spaces of care do you portray with intention?
My main aim with my work is to explore all the planets in our solar system as soundscapes. I am writing an album for each planet and ending my artistic vision of Kris Vango with Pluto (which symbolizes in astrology death, rebirth and reincarnation). It seems fitting for me that I am on a journey in this life through our little community of planets set to bring forth artistic pieces that bring together mythologies, sciences and astrologies for each. Also creating spaces to inhabit when listening to them, as if traveling to them – not just looking at their physics but feeling their inner soul and personalities.
I don’t think aliens exist, I think the cosmos is one big alien, an alien inside an alien inside an alien. So I also believe the planets are alive, like us, they have consciousness and our consciousness just exists inside theirs and so on. Like the bacteria that lives inside us and is dependent on our life. Our planets and stars are also the centerpiece for every religion, mythology and culture. Time itself as we experience it is measured by these planetary cycles. As I explore each planetary body I use genre and soundscapes to try and express them – what do they sound like and what do they have to say. In terms of music and visuals and spaces of care, I don’t want to answer these questions I want to bring people into them experientially… so they can decide for themselves what it means. We all have a piece of the puzzle of truth and I am just doing my part to bring mine… or at least bring together some I perceive. But ultimately I believe we build truth together so ultimately I want to facilitate a space where we can share our truths. And maybe also do some inner space travel!
Z – In your body of work, we notice collaborations with left-field artists. What disruptive power does collaboration have in your eyes?
Collaboration for me keeps me away from the trap of ego as an artist. I feel like being an artist is always being at the friction point of ego and dissolving the ego. It is either like sandpaper or supernovas. Generally I work with artists who have given me inspiration, value and who have come into my orbit organically. I don’t search or choose people to work with. In terms of disruption, I guess it would be to disrupt my ego, or to break my sometimes controlling nature of needing to do it all myself. Collaboration is honestly what I will remember when I’m old, not how many plays some random song had. It is the experience and the beauty of sharing creation at a soul level that counts. In the end all the numbers and who listens or not is meaningless as the only truth we can say for sure in life is that everything is impermanent. I think they are left field because I am just hanging around a bunch of crazy witch queers hah!
Z – Many of these collabs explore themes of gender and sexuality. How have your statements on these recurring themes evolved in your work so far? Has every collaboration taught you something new?
I would say coming to the vision of making planet albums is where it all led to. This only came together 2 years ago but it is clear now the path has been forming for about a decade. Gender and sexuality have been my struggle most of my life so it is only logical it became the platform for deeper searching for meanings. Moving from it being defined by physicality (sensuality and sex) to non physicality (spiritualities and feeling). To the second question… Yes, every collaboration has given me love, challenges, growth, wisdom and respect. Right now I just finished producing an EP for Mikey Woodbridge – a fellow Berlin queer who transcends gender/genre in their own way and this journey completely changed me. Our different experiences of the physical and the non physical just bonded in such a powerful way that I only have pure gratitude for being able to experience this. I hope people hear this in the music when it finally surfaces and adds some more fuel to the idea of “trans” being about transcending gender and not being limited or trapped by it… something we can all decide to explore, a shared experience and not at all exclusive to some specific group or categorization. I think transness is a lot broader and nuanced than we currently define it and we need to open this space more, as well as protecting those who define it as more of a purely physical experience.
Z – In other projects, you also explore the ranges of vice and virtue in contemporary culture, questioning these lives we lead in between the real and the virtual, especially focused on the experience of the individual. These questions are quite innate to our generation, what is your specific flavor of existential “fear”?
Haha hard question… my fear I guess is like us all at the deepest level. Trying to find meaning and purpose in a world that is constantly changing and is impermanent by nature. That I am doing the “right” thing, or being a “good” person. Or at least working on my karma in this life in a positive way and being true to my experience as an individual and speaking as much of my truth as I see it without fear of being judged as I can. To inspire others to do the same and sending my inner love into the collective. It is a daily battle! But to everybody reading this please speak what you feel is true, even if it sounds crazy. Only when everybody does this is when we can perceive a truth less diluted by dogma and fear.
Z – Looking back to your latest work ARD (released early 2019), we see these post-human tendencies morph into a more organic, fluid, statement, connecting different scales of experience. Could you shed some light on the evolving of the idea and the involvement of this project?
Ard is meaning earth in Arabic or more closely soil/ground. Which I feel the Arabic word perfectly sums up this idea of our planetary body we name after an element. Also this Arabic regions through history connect the East, the West, India, Russia and so much mythology and cosmology. Many Stars in our sky have Arabic names. The purpose of the album is to work with the 7 chakras of yogic sciences. Starting with the title track “Ard” (ground/root) through to “The Karman line” which is the exact point of earth and space in science. So it is essentially a launching pad for the whole project and also a journey through our bodies mapped to the earth body – like a tree rooted in earth and reaching to the stars. So Ard is my earth album. My next album ‘Mother Moon’ is coming in a few months via Honest Electronics label – which has 12 tracks, one for each astrological sign and explores emotional landscapes, subconscious energy, the mother, womb, water and all that the moon governs and symbolizes. Our light in the dark. I’m a Cancer in astrology so it is a deeply personal one for me!
Z – Finally looking forward, what excavations of care and sensuality might we expect from you in the near future?
‘Mother Moon’, which is literally my inner mother coming out to give some deep sonic unconditional love and cosy loving sonic spaces. I actually made it to shield me a bit from the harsh Berlin winters so when I have it in my headphones I feel like I am in a protective womb. Right now I am in India collecting samples from ashrams, sadhus on the streets and spiritual places to use for my Sun album, which I will write when I get back and also release on Bandcamp and give any money earned back to India somehow, maybe a charity as it feels wrong to steal their sounds for my artistic pleasure. I also have Venus and Mars which are going to dissect the feminine and masculine sonically in the works. I am excited to share them, it is such an amazing journey to make my life about bringing forth these themes into sound and documenting them. Being in India I feel the sun so strongly here and am soaking up the energy of what will be the album – everything is about consciousness, awareness and the sun energy is bursting everywhere. But yeah, I like the idea to just release all these albums on different labels and places so anybody who finds me has to use the internet like an astronomer to search for the planets. Everything is too easy these days, I want to use technology artistically… I think there is so much potential to do this but we are still stuck in formats of physical albums and singles etc.
Thanks for the questions, really amazing and speaking deeply to my thoughts and experiences. I hope the mix speaks to people about blooming expansion and possibilities.