Words by Tania Peralta. Photography by Erika Paget.
Styled by Lauren Brock Martin.
We expect artists to give us their all with what they create–their passion, their fire, their tears, and their joys. All so that we have a place and a story to resonate with, to feel normal, and to know that we aren’t the only ones going through a feeling or situation. Yet many of us also expect this sort of perfected and packaged behavior from those same creators. It’s an assumed and wrongfully expected responsibility we place on them for being in the public eye. Evidently it contradicts what makes their art meaningful in the first place–being imperfect human beings one can relate to.
For many artists, including 24-year-old Kilo Kish, creating art is a life learning process in addition to an emotional battle of how much of yourself to share. Living in the digital age has provided us with various ways to connect with and get to know artists of all kinds. At times, they expose us to parts of themselves that are only there as a result of fabricated packages based on who is sponsoring their latest artistic endeavor. Other times they expose parts of themselves that are tender and sacred only to get dismissed or turned into a trending topic. It’s within these generational obstacles that artists today find themselves battling with and learning how to give their all into their art and narrative, emotionally.
Ultimately, artists seek a sense of freedom from their work. I spoke to Kilo Kish about what the freedom looks like to her and the steps that she is taking to get there.
TANIA PERALTA: Art is the hardest thing you’ll ever love. In one of your recent tweets you mentioned the slogan for an art institute, how did its slogan resonate with you?
KILO KISH: This commercial for an art institute came on and its’ slogan was, “The hardest thing you’ll ever love” and I think that goes for all art in general. Making art is a lifelong process that makes you grow if you keep at it and want to get better. It’s basically a process where you learn your self. To be able to grow as an artists you have to grow yourself as well. You’re learning your self to get better with your art. I think that’s one of the hardest things you can do. Sometimes I think people go their whole lives without mastering themselves. It’s something we put to the very last because we think,”I have to make sure that I’m fed, that I have money, that I have a house, that I have someone to love me, that my kids are fed, that I have a job, that society isn’t bothered by me.” We have to think of all of these things, but are we truly mastering who we are inside?
I don’t think people usually get there. But when you make art, it’s one of those things that really tests who you think you are, in relation to other people, and how you’re going to treat yourself and be persistent and determined–all of those things are self mastering and I think it’s a forever process. I don’t know that you’re ever really done learning and mastering yourself.
You have to love creating and be willing to tough it out during hard times in order to achieve that kind of self mastering. When did you begin approaching your career with this concept?
I wasn’t really thinking this way until after I was 19. When that financial issue happened where I couldn’t go back to school to Pratt, my mom was like, “Okay, just come back for a year and we’’l figure everything out.” At that point I was like, “No, I have to figure everything out for myself.” I was going to stay and whatever happens happens. “I’m gonna stay here in New York as long as I can or until I run out of money or I can’t figure out how to live,” I told myself.
I think when you’re young you don’t really worry about much, but the older you get, the more society is pressing on you to get your shit together by a certain time.
Figuring out how to get through this tough time really helped me to feel like I was able to be a human in the real world by myself, and I think once that happened there wasn’t any situation that I was in that I didn’t feel like I couldn’t figure out. It’s nice to have times like that, especially when you’re making art, when you’re doing interviews, or [when] a brand’s identity is matched with your identity, because it reminds you to remember who you actually are and what you’re actually capable of. You’ll get a lot of “no’s.” You’ll get a lot of people doubting what you can do. It’s important to remember the essence of the person you were when you decided to start this in the first place.
One of your fans approached you on Twitter about a background noise you can hear on your song “Age + Self.” What did you mean when you said, “you get what you get?”
What is more real than the actual moment that it happened? It’s all in the perspective of how you see things. I think the perspective in the digital era has gotten so crazy that people just assume there is so much content. “Come see the behind the scenes of me shooting my video,” and it’s literally them just smiling and chilling. No one ever sees anything boring that happens. They don’t show the meetings, no one’s seeing you at the rehearsal, no one’s seeing you when you go to make your website, when you meet with your lawyer. All you see is the fun, packaged stuff.
It makes people think that celebrities are these human entities and they’re not, they’re just people,especially with all the stuff that’s been going on. They (fans) have to put in perspective that people are just people pursuing different passions, and your passion might be being a doctor or a writer. For an artist, it happens to be in the public arena. I love the internet but I also think it’s one of the worst places in the world. It’s this weird thing right now. I think bringing some of the reality to it would make it so much more enriched and a safe place for people to actually get a true gage of what people actually are and how these jobs are pursued. A lot of the sugar coated concepts, like “let’s do a day in the life of you and let’s set up as much stuff in one day to follow you around” don’t have any depth. Anyone that is truly creative is slightly insane as well.
How much is too much in art?
The way I think about music comes from a designing background. I put a lot of effort and time into designing the themes around the project, and so now I’m getting to talk about things in interviews that I actually want to talk about. I constantly fear if people will get it or not, like how much is too much in art and how much is too little? How much personal things can I do that will be able to resonate in others peoples lives? For me, it’s an experiment and it’s been a lot more accepted than I expected, but people have been able to put themselves into the songs.
Is that how you approached the production of “Poem A?”
“Poem A” is mainly about embarrassment. The record got made and all these roller coaster of emotions happened in that year. It was like every single thing was happening at the same time. Towards the end, when you’re kind of figuring out that you didn’t necessarily have to go through that whole process and that you could’ve just gone about things differently, it was kind of like, “Oh my god, maybe I’m at fault. Maybe I could’ve been better.” It’s the embarrassment with the thought that you could’ve saved yourself some time. To me, it’s really hard to face yourself. It’s like what I was saying earlier, it is really hard to objectively look at yourself and be like, “Could I have done a better job?” Everyone, if you’re honest enough and ambitious enough, could say that. Everyone could say, “Yeah, I could’ve done a better job. I could’ve not been so distracted.” “Poem A” is like, “Shit. I fell flat on my face, did you see it?” It’s jumping up like nothing happened and it’s the moment of not staying down long enough to fix the problem. You left like you didn’t have an issue, but you have to stay through those down times to progress.
Giving your all can bring you a sense of freedom. What are you trying to accomplish when you give your all into your art?
My main goal is to have 100% freedom, but is that even possible? One hundred percent freedom is not having to care for what anyone thinks about you. It’s my lifelong goal and I was more personal this time (with Reflections In Real Time), and that was a big step towards to that freedom. My supreme goal is to change the way people feel about things and push the culture in a direction where people can be honest without worrying that they’ll end up as a meme or trending on Twitter.