KALEIDOSCOPE Re-thinking authorship and ownership of ideas seems to be the key to unlocking a relevant cultural discourse today. What’s your take on collaboration?
NKISI Personally, I see collaboration as a way to exchange energies between the collaborators, rather than an individual quest. In my own work, I tend to find inspiration in the depths of my shadows, which can be heavy sometimes; on the other hand, my collaborative projects tend to have a more playful approach. In these collaborative situations, I would say that playfulness is expressed in being quicker in making decisions and using coincidental intuition—a form of intuition connected to the presence of others in that very time and space. The openness that is required from me to be able to collaborate detaches me from my shadows and forces them to be expressed in a kinder way.
K How does the notion of “collaboration” affect your own work?
N I am very thankful I have the chance to collaborate with amazing artists, so my collaborative projects are very inspiring for my personal work, but also for the friendships between me and the people I work with. My most important collaborative works inspire me to think differently about my own practice. In my collaboration with artist Paul Maheke, for instance, I am inspired by the dynamics between sound and bodies, while in my band COLDWAR, I find inspiration in the multiplicity of musical references we bring to the project, as well as our interests in the spiritual properties of sound.
K Would you be able to name three collaborations that you wish could become reality? What about three collaborations that you’ve already developed and that you’re proud of?
N My dream collaborations would be with Souleymane Cisse, House of Kenzo and Rihanna. I am very proud of and thankful for my collaboration with Paul Maheke. We collaborated a few years ago for Paul’s solo show at South London Gallery; it was a great experience and I really enjoyed building the soundtrack to his vision. We are premiering the first chapter of our new collaboration Sensa at Block Universe in London next week, where we explore our obsessions on cosmologies and cosmic invisible forces. We will be presenting Sensa at Performa in New York and at the Venice Biennale at the end of the year as well, so I am very excited.
And, of course, I love working with John T. Gast—we have a band together called COLDWAR. I met John T. when we both performed at a great gig in 2014 in London; we immediately connected and decided to do studio sessions together. He is one of my favorite musicians, and we have similar music tastes, so we look for the same energy in tracks. It is a very easy collaboration, as we seem to be great at improvising; we can get lost in the music for hours, which is mainly how I prefer to work. What I like about the notion of the band is that while we improvise, it is nice to connect with energies outside of yourself. Also, it’s easier to understand when the sound is sick.
K Building a shared network of influences and references is a major driver for collaboration. What’s the process behind choosing your collaborators?
N I’d say friendship, mutual admiration and respect are the main aspects involved in this process. In every collaboration, we tend to spend a lot of time getting to know each other, talking and sharing our respective experiences and dreams. I think it’s a way of finding an energetic common ground that can then be expressed freely in the work. On top of that, I really admire most of the artists I work with. I am also very interested in the human aspect that sharing ideas and life experiences brings. I have my Venus in Scorpio, so I tend to connect more creatively through the depths of shared experiences.
K Do you think collaboration prompts a horizontal and multi-disciplinary approach to different creative fields?
N In COLDWAR, we tend to use improvisation as a way to make the music we like. It is a very liberating process, since everything is possible. The same happens when we perform live acts. So our way of catching this energy is to record all our studio sessions and performances, like we did for a tape we recently released on the London-based label 5 GATE TEMPLE. Listening back is always a surprise.