Arca mit "@@@@@"

Arca mit "@@@@@"

Nominiert als Bestes Experiment 2020

For the past eight years we’ve watched Arca carve a blazing path through the zeitgeist–a shapeshifting celestial body, streaking across the cultural firmament. Every time we laid eyes on her she’d taken on some new form–noise sculptor, diva, philosopher, fashion plate, party girl. Every time it seemed like we had a grip on her she slipped right past our expectations, protean and elusive.

That liquid nature has allowed Arca’s talents to thrive in unexpected places. Outside of her own music, and producing for Björk, Kanye, and FKA twigs, she’s composed for MOMA and a retro gaming console, DJed Frank Ocean’s PREP+ party, performed with the Labèque sisters at Riccardo Tisci’s Burberry Autumn/Winter 2020 runway show. She’s a painter who’s created her own album art, a model who’s signed to Elite, a tech innovator who’s co-designed some of her own unique instruments. Seemingly disparate things that in retrospect add up to one astounding, ever-growing holistic work.

But it’s the transformation itself, more than any one particular element, which has been her real work to date. A symphony of self-creation encompassing a childhood in Venezuela, a coming of age in America, a flourishing in New York fashion nightlife, and a transition into nonbinary gender identity. A constant becoming, a constant act of manifestation.

And it’s always been clear–at least to those who’ve been paying attention–that this metamorphosis was building to something big and new. Now the final veil has dropped, the chrysalis bust wide open. A new queen is born, mutant and splendorous.

This new Arca first made her bow onstage at The Shed, where her multifaceted performance piece Mutant:Faith helped christen the gleaming new hub of global art with a musical stripper pole and a dirt covered stage, inspiring founding artistic director Alex Poots to call her “a glimpse of a future I hope for.” Then came the 62-minute single @@@@@, an expansive survey of the breadth of the sonic landscape that Arca now inhabits, sprawling from synesthetic ambience to dystopian nightcore.

Now she spreads her wings fully with KiCk i, the first in a series of works, each composed around its own theme. For the first installment, the experimentalist turns her attention to pop. KiCk i is unabashedly pleasurable, and it’s no surprise that it comes after finding new love and a newfound centeredness within her identity where her nonbinariness and her transness–as well as her gender and her Latinx heritage–can coexist without conflict. “It felt like everything was galvanized,” she explains, “and I was able to jump off a cliff without knowing what would happen.”

KiCk i is a celebration not only of the happiness Arca’s been able to find, but the sometimes arduous journey it took for her to find it. Her struggles to reconcile her Venezuelan heritage and her trans identity emerge as reggaetón and Latin pop. She transmutes the challenging process of transitioning into dance floor liberation. “How,” she wonders, “can something tied to gender expression be tied to the pursuit of pleasure and dignity, as opposed to a correction of a glitch?”

It isn’t just a pop record, or just an experimental record, or even simply a mix between the two, but rather all of them at once–and so much more. Depending on where you drop the needle you’ll find bubblegum, harsh noise, electronic psychedelia, balladry, bangers–sounds and ideas that don’t simply blend together, but coexist simultaneously in quantum superposition. Zoom in on “KLK (feat. Rosalia)” it becomes an apocalyptic reggaetón for Collapsitarian club DJs. Flip to “Mequetrefe” and it’s club music that shimmers with trippy fractal beauty. Take a step back and the entire work resolves into a crystal lattice of disparate musical concepts resonating in multiplex harmony.

“I don't want to be tied to one genre,” Arca says. “I don't want to be labeled as one thing.” Where she is now, being nonbinary doesn’t end with her gender identity. It’s become a mindset where no one thing has to be just one thing, where multiple meanings, multiple realities can coexist in superposed balance. In this space between states, where one thing is the other, Arca has discovered a vast field of untapped creative power. KiCk i is the sound of her plugging in.

Foto: Hart Leshkina