Survive & thrive: House of Kenzo are counting their blessings while looking past the pandemic toward a new way of thinking

, 9 April 2020
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“We dared to puncture and infiltrate whatever market as we pleased because we are cunts,” write House of Kenzo via email from self-isolation at their San Antonio base. In identifying Kenzō Takada as their namesake, the Vogue-inspired multi-disciplinary collective align their ‘bleeding edge’ approach to dance, music, art with the renegade Japanese designer who “audaciously snatched the fashion industry” by boldly subverting convention.

House of Kenzo (2020). Photo by Rosei Matcek. Courtesy the artists.

House of Kenzo currently operates under the charms of self-described ‘active angels’ Ledef, Brexxitt and BobbyBearz. Their collaboration runs longer and deeper than their six years as a Texan ballroom house, co-founded with periodic members Grapefruit Gonzalez and Flo, while adopting ‘many children’ into the fold since. Recent appearances have crossed over from enriching the San Antonio creative community into disrupting the more institutional realms of global music and art culture. They appeared as part of Houston-based Halcyon Veil-founder Rabit‘s ‘Magna Surgat’ at Krakow’s Unsound in 2018, and blew up the dance floor with peak hedonism at Vancouver’s New Forms Festival last year.

Together, House of Kenzo were set to bring more of their raucous unpredictability to Berlin’s Traumabarundkino this Saturday, April 11, alongside other comparatively brutal and dynamic acts like Authentically Plastic, Bonaventure and Endgame, but the universe had other plans. So, while the world is under lockdown in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, their European tour is cancelled until further notice. That hasn’t stopped House of Kenzo from carrying on tapping into the “collective sissy consciousness” they’ve helped build and sustain in their over half-a-decade of operation. With that in mind, the group shared their thoughts on the pandemic-driven cyber renaissance we’re currently experiencing, being soft on yourself in this time of self-isolation, and why Texas is the Wild West of nightlife.

**You’ve talked in past interviews about how you’ve subsisted on day jobs, how are you managing right now during isolation and lockdown?

House of Kenzo: This has been a good time to relax, rejuvenate and rebuild. It is no surprise that the system is failing all the people it has never served. They don’t care about me. They don’t care about you, and they don’t even care about themselves. The only day jobs that are palatable are those that serve the community.  Up until America’s recent isolation, three of the five members were continuing with day jobs but unfortunately only one of us works remotely from home—for a legacy bilingual newspaper.

House of Kenzo (2020). Photo by Rosei Matcek. Courtesy the artists.

The remainder of us are focusing on streamlining our art business. We are optimistically finding peace and sense of worthiness in both one another, collectively but as well as individually—as in our own hobbies/ selves/ spirituality/ family of Texas art dolls. It all informs one another. We are translating what we do on stage to a virtual community. After the recent passing of Genesis P-Orridge, nothing was ever the same. We are fulfilling the 2020 prophecy.

**It looks like you’re quite committed to supporting your local community by organising a lot, can you tell me some of the stuff you do and have done in the past, and is the city somewhere you think you will stay for the foreseeable future?

HoK: Being super homegrown and coming up grassroot we had to engage the community to foster a scene of hard experimental femmes and electronic divas that we wished to see in the world and participate in.The first immersive events we threw were actually a trilogy that took place in the summer of 2016 called fuckwave. We did marketing on Craigslist (now Doublelist) and it got interesting af.

We began throwing more hard rave theater warehouse experiences, community dance workshops: creating a nest for the eggs. Texas will always remain a hub, But we are all very free dolls and love to travel. Seeing how we can enrich communities abroad inspires us to enrich the community here. San Antonio is home because our abuelos [grandparents] live here. This is our legacy.

**Has this perspective shifted at all in light of recent developments?

HoK: We have always been very digitally-oriented but I think this highlights the space, infrastructure of online material, and methods of interaction that should be explored a bit more. This period has gotten us all in a video game sphere developing our own OST. The lore has gotten much deeper.

**The work you do is so clearly predicated on ‘live-ness’ and IRL communion, how are you handling this moment now and how do you think we could survive and thrive in this current moment?

House of Kenzo (2020). Photo by Rosei Matcek. Courtesy the artists.

HoK: We thrive on a live performance. We miss it so much, but the situation that we’re set in now, it’s honestly pushing us to do more music and produce songs. We have been trying to capture our live sets in the studio for a while now and there is so much to learn. We strive to push any boundary given any circumstance or moment. So how will we connect? Thank you, cards, 3D renders, live audio reactive visuals, digital zine. Stretching the use of any platform is something that excites us. The cyber renaissance of this moment is something that is a necessary and fun frontier for us to carry through. We have been hosting live streams forever and it’s fun looking for something else. The innovation right now is astonishing and we are soaking it in, appreciating the analog and the satellites.

**What does life look like for you now?

HoK: Life right now for HoK is a bit slow some days, but we are all in this together and we still have lots of work to do. We are in the studio and working on our post-pandemic bodies, looks, and music. The concept cloud never stops so we are creating more ways to push the button. We are polishing the archives and reflecting on the stacked CV. We are blessed and want to share our blessings.

**Can you walk me through a little bit about how the scene looks like where you are, and how things have changed since before and after you began, as well as at this present moment?

HoK: Texas is really fun and special. After traveling so much and seeing a lot of the world and interacting with many scenes, we are enamored with what makes Texas special. Renegade children pulling looks and being super interactive with the space and music. It truly is the Wild West of nightlife. There’s so much space to create and build.

House of Kenzo, Authentically Plastic, Bonaventure, Endgame & Ledef (2020). Event flyer by Airmax ’97. Courtesy Traumabarundkino, Berlin.

**I see that self-care and discipline are key principles of House of Kenzo’s ethos, what advice do you have for people going through quarantine and isolation right now?

HoK: Be soft to yourself. Provide proper maintenance to your body and spirit. Listen to your self, then your Higher Self, then your ancestors. Everybody has that thing, idea, little project they should have done years ago. We’re comforted by the words of a late studio artist whose name escapes me: “as things sit in corners, tucked away, they absorb energy in everything that has happened.”

Be soft to yourself. Sit with yourself and get to the bottom of what paralyzes you. Design a world you want to live in, because this one needs some help. We will get through this and come out in another dimension, which is simply a new way of thinking.**

House of Kenzo was scheduled to perform Berlin’s Traumabarundkino with Authentically Plastic, Bonaventure & Endgame on April 11, 2020. All dates are postponed till further notice.