With a New York base and a resumé including titles such as DJ, installation artist, film maker, creative director, and fashion writer, Kristian Kirk is one to watch. With clients such as Eytys, Kim Shui, and Lærke Andersen, Kirk is steadily expanding his unique vision fusing art, fashion and youth culture. DANSK has talked with the successful Dane about his tour from small town Odense to New York and the work that made it possible.
How did you make it from Odense, Denmark to New York, USA?
I arrived here almost four years ago: I was super young and honestly didn’t really have much of a plan. At the time, I didn’t speak a word of English and initially didn’t even know where to stay the night I arrived from the airport. My plan was to survive, I guess: I just wanted something different to happen. Back home, my life was very settled at a very early stage, with a clear career path. Something inside of me just wanted to change direction. I always been very creative in my own way, so I wanted to follow that before I was known as something else.
The natural choice would have been Copenhagen, but at that time I was just not so inspired by it and didn’t think staying in Denmark would be the big push I needed. My first year in NYC was about networking and getting a decent know about this new place, learning how to be a New Yorker and learning how to play the game.
Soon, I made I some very good friends and found myself in the underground that was very optimal for what I wanted to express and do. During the weekends, I would work at Henrik Vibskov and DJ at night. After a little while I started getting work making videos, creating art installations, jobs for magazine editorials and fashion brands. Around Brooklyn, there were all these empty buildings nobody really used, so I would create my own site-specific installations in them. The jobs got better and better, as did my reputation in the scene I was hanging out and working in. Realizing that my name had some weight, I used that inertia to begin representing myself more as a brand, ultimately assembling a team. Very quickly, we began concepting and producing projects such with Young Thug at Miami Art Basel and Kelela in New York. Our content making capacity grew, creating for clients such as for Eytys, A-Cold-Wall and other magazines.
How do Denmark and the New York respectively influence your work?
I’m international citizen, which highly influences my work. I’m honestly so tired of talking about what’s Danish and what’s American and what’s whatever. Our borders are becoming more and more strict, but we as people are more and more international. Of course, there is some history and with that history comes baggage, people in New York refer to me as Scandinavian, whatever that means, but my universe is distinct and raw, characterised by the off-kilter and uncanny visual sensibilities. My interests are in the body and movement through performance, video, editorial, and installation work that is confrontational, intense, and industrial. The minimalist way to think feels very Scandinavian. I like to go surreal, playing with strange identity, but balance it with clean delivery. Using the visual language of highly commercial ads, and I retain familiarity by utilizing that conventional environment, but infusing it with identities that are more New York. When it comes to casting, I prefer utilizing the looks of the people on the street and in the subway.
A lot of your work centres around limits/boundaries/social control, especially regarding identity – how come?
I love the uncanny and unexpected and find myself most inspired by unpleasantness in the body, environment, sound and moments. Often identity is the centre of the piece, questioning it, it’s construction and overall existence. I think that’s why I love New York so much: you have all kinds of genders, colours and religions. Everyone is their own stranger. In Denmark, everyone talks, thinks, acts, looks the same, which make it difficult to pinpoint what their true identity is. Over the past two years, I’ve been lucky to be resident DJ for this party called Club Glam, which is held at a Chinese restaurant after it closes right across the street from the World Trade Center. I never have experienced so many different kinds of human beings than on those nights we are hosting Glam. The transformation of the body inspires me so much, there is nothing more beautiful than people creating their own bodily limitations, regardless of societal pressure. Club Glam has never been called officially called a LGBTQIA party official, but the parties have always been very, very glam.
Why do you use the narrative of the body? What can it tell us?
In a lot of my new work, I transform the body and photoshop it to play with the meaning and viewpoint of normal. The focus on identity and the body inherently go hand in hand, forming how we see and create stereotypes. Taboos, repulsion, anything that makes us consider ourselves in relation to our form is something I am interested in exploring. I like to think of the body as a live sculpture, in video, motion and installation performances.
What do you aspire to achieve with your work?
Moving and removing lines, borders and taboos. Staying political while following and supporting important movements in my own way through the KK universe and aesthetic. As an artist, I’m excited to be in Denmark over the summer and fall to created new installations and sculptures. There are many things going on in EU – both good and bad, which makes it feels like a perfect time to be present there with my work in order to comment. From an agency perspective, it is also nice to be more global with myself now being located in the EU and the team still working in New York. So far, we’ve been centred on developing that market, but I hope to expand and work with more European brands and creators. I’m happy with the way we’ve been able to work with clients who are interested in how we interpret and rethink conventional platforms and objects, then make them relevant in our digital age. I want to continue developing in this direction while in Europe. As a creative director, there are many avenues for collaboration that I want to be involved in and experiment with.
Words by Mathilde Nielsen
For more infotmation, see KRISTIANKIRK