PUBLISHED IN ISSUE 18
INTERVIEW BY ELLISE BARBARA
PHOTO BY BOYCHILD
Elysia Crampton is an experimental producer and musician making music that is both challenging and rewarding. It is best to introduce her work, in writing at least, in her own words: “My two main points are that my work be understood as a project of Aymara survival and resistance… and secondly, as an impulse to resist appeals to individualism (marked by colonial law, in relation to bodies and land ownership, as a project of genocidal regulation against Native American people in the Americas). The notion of individualism as a governmental project of extraction and control can be traced verbatim to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.” A diverse, ever-growing group of attentive fans feel forever changed by her contributions.
Ellise Barbara: What do you think of queerness in its modern sense as a political stance, rather than a genuine and simultaneous repudiation of hetero and cisnormativity, manifested in body, spirituality, and lifestyle? Do you think that the queer persona has been expropriated from the queer body, and transmuted into an “alt” oasis for the young and privileged? Does it add up, in the context of commodified disobedience, in response to manufactured disenfranchisement?
Elysia Crampton: Genocidal regulation has been gendered from the jump, regardless of whether that concerns so-called human or animal life, non-life.
What are your thoughts on ideas of resistance and affirmation in the context of Trans Feminism vs. White Feminism? Do you see White Feminism as perpetuating violence at the expense of trans and gender non-conforming folk (as well as men of colour) in the era of intersectional rebranding?
You made my head spin a bit—I’m cautious of using binaries as a jumping point here. At times it’s difficult to see any difference between white feminism, carceral feminism, cis feminism or TERF stuff, Wakanda feminism, and so on. I’m the zero’s zero or, at best, the animal that snuggles up to feminism.
You’ve stated in past interviews that you used to be a sex worker. How do you feel about the way (cis) men treat trans women’s bodies, insofar as we’re reduced to our sexual—and quite often paraphilic—dimension? Do you have any experience being treated like a sex worker while no monetary compensation is on the table? This feels tied to a trope that hinges on society’s obsession with our bodies.
I try to share my experience as a sex worker negotiating agency and economic access via body. Sex work taught me many skills, for instance, how to approach people I never thought I could (or was even allowed to) share space with, let alone hold dialogue or face-to-face conversation with. I applied many of the lessons I learned from sex work in other areas of life, like seeking the routes and resources to communicate and engage with professors, theorists, and scientists in attempts to help my tribe.
Do you ever think your access to artistic spaces and media forums is tied to trending discursive models to the extent of being used? Do you feel that our era incites many to disengage with their “oppressive” identities and develop new ones in order to remain relevant in a system that increasingly feeds on “powerless” narratives e.g. claiming [fill in the blank] to further one’s career? Is it triggering to you at all?
I think I’m constantly split. That fissure is the only constant, which is fine because I need wiggle room. Yes, I must navigate oppressive identities in my movement through life and across the globe, specifically negotiating movement through other nation states for work. We find and pry openings where we can—we need such openings to live, to be free, to be Aymara, to be indians. And we remain storming across the mess because we are irreducible to the violence we face.
Is it possible to have a sustainable music career, in a world that’s become dominated by constant and perpetual information? Have the processes of music production and distribution become so democratic that one’s better off not considering the possibility of their output being remembered and appreciated in posterity?
I utilize the languages I was given, the cheapest ones I could reach and remember, like music, a romance my granddad fostered in us from childhood, playing and showing us the traditional instruments, such as the bombo and wancara, and of course the woodwinds, the sikuri, palla palla, and so on.
You’ve spoken at length about your cultural heritage and how it is an endless source of inspiration for you, and how it informs what you do. You’ve also explained how important it is for artists who are disadvantaged, in the unabating circumstance of artistic appropriation, to speak on our “familial collaborators” and “kindred influencers,” so as to sustain them in the face of systemic erasure and whitewashing. Do you have any major influences most commonly identified as TLGB+ that are also musicians?
I’m more inspired by landscape, by smells, by colour, by movement, and those things are continually breaking down, blurring through, braided together. Perhaps isolating them is unhelpful sometimes.
You have said that you’re opposed to the Prison Industrial Complex. How do you frame thoughts on the subject of reform? Would you advocate for the full abolishment of all prisons considering that poverty is correlated to criminality, and that many countries do not possess enough infrastructure to eradicate such systems? Many are at the mercy of Western Capitalism and all the pillage and plunder it entails.
All prisons and detention centres should be abolished, which involves an end to relying on carceral logic that views harm and exile as justice.
How important is fashion to you? Does it have a role in your activism?
Textile can be a powerful signal, a means of communication. I could care less about the fashion industry, which in the past has mined me for unpaid labour/data more than supporting me.
More from Ellise Barbara HERE.
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