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Interview: Gaika on Black subculture, futurism and immersive experiences

Image credit: Gaika photographed by Wunmi Onibudo

In the track ‘BarksGaika refrains “Fuck you I’m a do what I like, listen what we say…” and this strikes you immediately as someone with an opinion that perhaps we might really want to hear. So, it’s with great anticipation Run Riot talks to the multi disciplinary artist about their upcoming projects.

Firstly, Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) wants to help us reimagine a new world with 'We Are As Gods', James Cousins Company’s first large scale immersive experience. For the event BAC will be taken over, it’s Grand Hall, rooftops, secret nooks, crannies and stairways will all be filled with recorded written texts, live dance, local food and drink and a euphoric after party hosted by Gaika.

With the support of (this is quite a list) Arts Council England, National Lottery Community Foundation, Cockayne's Grants for the Arts, London Community Foundation, The Ragdoll Foundation, and the Fidelio Trust this epic, immersive experience was made possible. The James Cousins Company have pulled together creative pioneers from multiple disciplnes: written texts by British-Egyptian poet Sabrina  Mahfouz, sound design by Torben Lars Sylvest and choreography from James Cousins - all colluding in this gloriously heady mix, offering something for cultural novices and afficiando's alike. There's even culinary treats to tantalise the tastebuds. Salivating yet?

Gaika Tavares, better known simply as Gaika, will be closing the event taking the helm in the grand finale of jubilation in the Grand Hall and I took a minute to talk to the critically acclaimed auteur from South London to capture the essence of what ‘We Are As Gods’ or it’s imagined new world looks like.

And, secondly (continuing the theme of 'new worlds') I quized Gaika about his upcoming project at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) - Channel B by Nine Nights - an audio-visual exploration of black futurism by the black-owned art, music, and creative education project. Let's lean in and shape tomorrow's world, folks.

Jayson: We Are As Gods looks at “celebration of a new world” - what does a new world look like to you?
Gaika: It depends on the day. I really hope a new world will be a fairer, kinder place. A more hopeful place. Sometimes I just think we are descending into ourselves and I’m just gonna wake up in a pod.

Jayson: Immersive works can sometimes appear staid, in We Are As Gods it feels like the combination of food, music and dance will elevate the experience. Do you agree?
Gaika: Yeah, I think I’m concerned with works you actually feel rather than observe. It’s all about presence for me - are you really here, as opposed to watching something. This work really encourages you to live in it. That’s what I love about it.

Image credit: dancers from James Cousins Company, for We Are As Gods at Battersea Arts Centre. 6-10 October.

Jayson: The event climaxes with you hosting an after-party in the Battersea Arts Centre grand hall - what should we expect?
Gaika: The return of raving. Just good times. I’m making a lot of dance floor heaters for this and looking forward to it immensely.

Jayson: The recorded text of writer Sabrina  Mahfouz sounds exciting, are you familiar with their work?
Gaika: Yeah Sabrina is an incredible writer.

Jayson: You have another show at ICA too centring on Black Futurism - how do you interpret Black futurism?
Gaika: I don’t think it’s a thing to interpret. It’s a thing that is. I think all too often we are presented as people without a timeline. No history and no past. It feels like a psy-pop this inbuilt precarity of existence. I’m simply here to say we will be here, alive, forever.

Jayson: Who are some historical Black Futurism pioneers or icons for you?
Gaika: I’d say it’s kind of a cyber punk hall of fame. Coxone, A Guy called Gerald, Skunk Anansie, Ruff Squad, Goldie, Roni Size, Mala, Drexciya, and all of the scientists I grew up around.

Image credit: Gaika, Channel B at the Institute of Contemporary Art, 11 October 2021 -  30 January 2022

Jayson: Black culture has driven movements, styles and sounds - do you think we have had agency over our creativity?
Gaika: Yeah. I think we have agency over our creativity because I think we encode it ourselves. We got the sauce. I don’t think we have agency over the business of our creativity. That’s my issue.

Jayson: Why is it important to put on a show centred around Black Futurism?
Gaika: Why isn’t it? I think I’m fairly done with public immolation for profit or any more things centred on us dying rather than living. I’m also done with some false Black joy narrative. Channel B isn’t the historical record, which is super important to document. It’s our opinions, feelings and dreams with all the nuance kept in - personally I think I wanna show people a complex vision because then it becomes real. I think a lot of speculative art is based on maintaining white supremacy. I think it’s good to counter that.

Jayson: What does it mean to you when organisations like BAC and ICA provide space for artists like yourself?
Gaika: It means they are doing what they should.

Jayson: Describe each of the following in 3 words:
Gaika: I’m not very good at this!
Jayson: We Are As Gods
Gaika: beautiful poignant powerful

Jayson: Channel B
Gaika: Be here Now

Jayson: Gaika
Gaika: Just some guy

James Cousins Company: 'We Are As Gods'
6-10 October
Battersea Arts Centre

'Channel B' by Nine Nights
11 Oct 2021 - 30 Jan 2022
Institute of Contemporary Art

Image credit: Gaika, ICA

Image credit: dancers from James Cousins Company, for We Are As Gods at Battersea Arts Centre. 6-10 October.

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