“The time of revolution is now”, opens the deep masculine voiceover introducing the music side of a series that comes in two parts by Elysia Crampton. Running at South London Gallery on October 26 and 29, the Friday night performance presents the La Paz-based artist, producer, thinker behind a sound desk, obscured by her audience and a cloud of dry ice. She’s playing her famously horror-fuelled audio collage of dread and intensity. The projection behind her for ‘Dissolution of The Sovereign: A Time Slide Into The Future’ travels through pictures of people in traditional Andean clothing, photos of queer and trans identities, among images of violence and destruction. They’re framed and sometimes obscured by changing video game border animations, often representing the bars of a jail cell. The music carries on an insistent pulse of dissonance, urgently pushing forward through its beats and oscillations before occasionally dropping into a synesthetic blur: heavenly views of a universe outside of earthly perception with the ambient musical insertions to match.
It’s hot and it’s overwhelming in this sold out space of a hundred-or-so people, offering a very intimate insight into Crampton’s personal relationship to humanity’s recent colonial past. Presented by London’s SLG with thirty three thirty three and Berlin-based label Janus, her ongoing studies into the “disanthropocentric relationships” of existence Crampton attested to in an interview with aqnb in 2015 are present in these visions of the cosmos and the recurring appearance of depictions of trans deity, Ukurunku.
“The subject faces the past and has one’s back to the future”, says Crampton into a microphone about the relation to time of the Aymara, a pre-colonial people indigenous to the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America. She draws on her own maternal heritage around the Pacajes area of Bolivia, and precedes her ‘Dissolution of the Sovereign’ live performance on the Saturday with an illustrated artist talk called ‘Silver Mouth Of The One Called Ukurunku’ on the Wednesday. Carved into stone or fired onto ancient ceramics, the depiction of the flying feline – with the body of a jaguar and wings – represents the legacy of the indigenous and queer history that Crampton, also of Aymara heritage, identifies with on a deeply personal level, one that she’s only recently rediscovered, lost to the trans- and homophobia of Spanish conquest until now.
“It’s like a privacy thing, right?” Crampton says, opening a packed folder of images on a wall projection of her computer desktop; a collection of low-resolution jpegs of this disappeared guardian of “those of two genders”, also known as Chociquinya and Ccoa. The ‘Silver Mouth Of The One Called Ukurunku’ presentation and Crampton’s music production practice as a whole draws heavily on this research, one that looks to this lost past. It was partly retained thanks to the Seventh-day Adventist Church support of indigenous autonomy, offering the Aymara people education in exchange for conversion. Crampton’s own experience being brought up in the Evangelical faith continues to inform her work in other ways. She brings up a series of audio signatures, the sound of running water, on her home screen. Playing through them – some softer, some louder, heavily layered, distorted – Crampton says they’re based on her old Pastor’s description of Golgotha, the site where Jesus Christ was crucified and “the drain hole of the mortician’s sink”.
“The darkest hour!” repeats another Blockbuster movie voiceover near the end of Crampton’s roughly half-hour Saturday night ‘Dissolution of The Sovereign’ performance. It follows rumbling bass and deep, scary organ lines that descend into blood-curdling screams, bombs, explosions. It’s a similar rage that Crampton expresses through clenched teeth in a live rendition of a Timur Si-Qin–commissioned poem and sound piece for the Berlin-based artist’s ‘Recent Horizon’ (2015) video. “…A teardrop that was a rose, that was a blade, a body, a city”, she growls over the ambience of police sirens, tender piano keys and a persistent-though-wavering synth chord. The work evokes the same tension as the simple gesture of being given a long-stemmed rose. Warmly seeing her audience off from ‘Silver Mouth Of The One Called Ukurunku’ with a box of them at the door, free for anyone to take, Crampton’s work is much like the flower. Delicate and beautiful, it also has thorns –an evolutionary deterrent developed as self-defence. **