Nisza Zine 06 is here featuring Montreal, Canada based visual artist, Kid Xanthrax. Read the conversation below!
I'm interested to know more about your background. What is your connection to graphic design or visual culture?
Drawing has always been at the crux of my creative instincts. I've been drawing since I could create memories... it's my way of processing the world. I recall being quite young and designing a whole cast of characters for a cartoon I wanted to make, or illustrating books I'd write. Another distinct memory for me is admiring graffiti art as my mother would drive around my city. My mother's a teacher and my father frames houses and both are wildly creative in their own ways, though of course, neither practicing artists. I studied animation in my hometown but dropped out after a few years because I never felt my work was understood or respected by my instructors, and I have little interest in being an industry cog for the next Disney remake. I was always more involved in community and subculture than school, though I wasn't a bad student. Music subculture was really where I found my footing in artistic community and I've carried that with me all the way through to today. I've worked in many practices; animation, street art, music, digital design, etc. but behind all of it has been an intense compulsion to communicate this surreal inner world I inhabit.
In one sentence how would you describe your aesthetic?
Swaglord deconstuctionist erotic figurative analysis through the lense of a horny 40-year old half human half pig hybrid infant on psychoactive substances yet to be invented.
You often work with deformed objects, faces, and bodies. Where are you getting your inspiration from and what are you trying to insight in the viewer?
Obscure or forgotten 90's children's cartoons tend to be a major source consciously or not (as I was a 90's kid). There's something intriguing to me about indirect appropriation. Stealing a visual cue rather than a whole character, I suppose taking the entire character feels cheap to me. The cartoon that comes to mind is JJ Villards King Star King, one of my favorite pieces of art to this day. He is referencing He-Man without ever really admitting to it. To me there is a boldness in it, reaching one arm into the past and the other into the future at the same time. Regarding the deformities, I think I became bored with drawing things or people proportionately. Cartoon characters are always deformed in a way... I suppose I just take that one step further. I've always loved medical drawings and body horror films and artworks, especially artists like Dado, Giger, Witkin, Cronenberg, Kricfalusi and Van Minnen.
What motivated your choice of working with the colors green and red? Don't get me wrong, you are using a diverse palette of colors, but I feel those two stand out.
I don't really place any mystical meaning on colors, they take on meaning only in the context of the colors surrounding them. Also, I find creative decisions like this are rarely if ever consciously motivated for me.
As an artist who creates work in the algorithm era, would you say you work is inherently political?
If anything I'd say that the political power of artwork is waning in the algorithm era. We all work for Instagram, Spotify, Amazon etc. but only a few of us have managed to get paid for it. All of our creative labour trickles up into the black box at the top and the architects of these apps have little knowledge or investment in the actual source of the content, the context in which the art is created. I think a return to community oriented subcultural organization is one of the most radical things we can do at this point. I'm a slave to the algorithm and I wish I could drop out, but the reality is, like all of us, I don't have much choice.
When you look at fashion for example you can always notice that certain styles or colors are getting very popular. Is there a specific style in graphic design or visual culture that has gotten very popular or from your perspective very relevant at the moment? If so how do you feel about that?
I try to stay in touch with what's trending, but I'd like to keep my work at a distance from this. If you're always changing aesthetics based on what's trending it's difficult to form any real sustainable identity or career at that. I also think being oblivious to what is popular is unwise. Lately I've been noticing a very potent movement of off-site exhibitions, wherein artists inhabit spaces not normally aestheticized. I'm not sure this counts as a trend though.
Has your current place of living or your country of birth affected your work in any way?
Inevitably. My cultural or national identity is probably not as strong as others since I live in a country which is a product of colonization and mass genocide, I hardly feel proud to be Canadian. I will say however, my hometown is quite beautiful in a subtle way. Windsor is a small somewhat anonymous industrial corner of the world which felt like a homogeneous cultural vacuum. Me and my friends growing up (many of which are still quite close artistic contemporaries) had little cultural reference, or access in the same way that you might if you were growing up in Toronto or Montreal. Even with Detroit being across the bridge, a 5 minute drive, the spillover really wasn't there. I liked to spend as much time in Detroit as possible, but growing up in a time of increasing isolationism, crossing the border was never fun.
What are you working on right now? Upcoming releases/projects? Whats next?
I just arrived home from the Czech Republic where I showcased a comprehensive exhibition called "TFW Too Intelligent" and premiered a short video piece to supplement it called "Alive, But at What Cost (In Bitcoin)?" I always have several projects on the go, but in 2020 I'm planning on delving more into exhibiting my work in the physical, specifically sculptural installation. I'm looking for ways to escape the digital a bit I think.
Wanted to take a moment to thank Nisza Zine for their time, and give a warm shoutout to the friends and family who give their unrelenting support. Much love and let's take care of eachother.