Kalup Linzy

06.15.09

Left: Kalup Linzy (Photo: Danielle Levitt). Right: Kalup Linzy, SweetBerry Sampled, 2009. Performance view, Imperial Theater, Tampa, Florida.


This June, in addition to participating in the second Athens Biennale, video and performance artist Kalup Linzy released his second album, Sampled and LeftOva. He teamed up with fashion duo Proenza Schouler to create two music videos from the album, in conjunction with the designers’ pre-Spring presentation in Florence on June 18. In July, Linzy will embark on a upcoming project at P.S. 1 in Long Island City, New York. Here, he talks about his hot summer of collaboration.

I SHOT TWO MUSIC VIDEOS FOR PROENZA SCHOULER, basically responding to the clothes, and we’re doing a photo shoot. This is my first time working with high fashion. I’ve been researching photographs and looking at models; it’s all pretty edgy, so I don’t think the relationship between my work and Proenza Schouler is as distant as I originally thought. I’ve seen some pretty wild, risqué stuff in fashion photography. Now the question is: How can my work flow and meld into that?

I wasn’t planning to shoot as many videos as I shot for my first album, SweetBerry Sonnet. I was more interested in developing a live performance, but when Proenza Schouler came to me and asked me if I wanted to collaborate, the idea for the videos just came to me.

At first, the video for the album’s title track was going to be in color, but then I looked around and the clothes were mostly black-and-white, or high contrast. I’ve always responded to old black-and-white movies. I watch them all the time. I also love The Twilight Zone. I wrote an episode for my series “Conversations wit de Churen” titled Guiding Twilight, which is a cross between The Twilight Zone and Guiding Light. I haven’t produced it yet, but I think about those ideas and the way that made-for-TV science fiction looks. There’s an episode of The Twilight Zone in which the mannequins come to life. I think of Liya Kebede, the supermodel who appears in the video, as a talking doll or as one of those mannequins, leaving her pose and coming to life.

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Kalup Linzy, All My Churen, 2003 (excerpt)

I was also thinking of how the videos would play in Italy. The title Sampled and LeftOva is about a relationship gone wrong, but also about playing around with clothes and history. With many of the shots, I’m thinking about paintings––the Mona Lisa or the Birth of Venus—and trying to get some of those poses from the Italian Renaissance. I’ve done it before, like in my 2008 music video, Ignorant Oil, which references Gauguin, but the references have been subtler. Since the new video was going to be shown in Italy, I wanted to bring out the historical elements more this time.

The second video, for a song called “Fuck You,” is in color and is kind of a sequel to Ignorant Oil. It stars me as my recurring character named Taiwan, and the same male lead, plus the actress Chloë Sevigny. Proenza Schouler made all these custom outfits. They made a new leotard and a dress for Taiwan. He’s singing, and it’s as if he’s finally become the star of the soap opera. He’s moved up in the world. The audience doesn’t yet know how he got to that place, but there’s room to develop that backstory.

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Kalup Linzy Performs Ignorant Oil, 2009

I’m also really excited about another project later this summer. P.S. 1 is giving me a studio––three rooms that I’m going to turn into sets. I like the idea of the studio being my set; it feels like I’m doing The Bold and the Beautiful. People will come in and tape their scenes, and there won’t be all this lugging of equipment from apartment to apartment so there’s more freedom. I’m making Melody Set Me Free, 2007, into an episodic series that will follow the character Patience. She’s a singer, and after the talent show in the first Melody Set Me Free video, she joins the record company started by K. K. Queen. K. K. Queen is a character who’s been heard offstage but never seen, so I’m going to get to develop a new look, for her. She’ll be the matriarch, like they have on soap operas, and a little like Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada. She’s going to be more fashionable than my other characters. She’s fabulous, but she’s kitsch, too, and a little grotesque.

And K. K. is my nickname, so it will be hoot for my family and close friends.

— As told to Cameron Shaw