KISLING: Haunted Spectacles

Visual artist KISLING expresses herself through music. Applying both the sensibility for careful listening as well as the possibility of immersing in the thickness of amplified sounds, she affects the collective of bodies with gloomy allusions to the fading of pop-culture. Against the polished images of today’s self-proclaimed idols, which circulate on social media both in art and trivial culture, KISLING holds up a fractured mirror that calls for a new real. Where does a critical confrontation with aesthetics fit in, when everything obeys and submits to the constant terror of presentability and beauty?

Reaching out to kindred spirits in experimental art and music scenes (Vienna/Tallinn), KISLING’s work challenges the deceptiveness of formal structures and deconstructs the trickery of harmony by developing an idiosyncratic style that fuses new media with odd and outcast feelings. Her audio and video work feature spontaneous collaborations with fellow poets and painters, blurring the boundaries of identity and authorship. Formlessness is the axis for this post-digital artistic practice that spins a dystopian spectacle from disfigured samples and, at times, hypnotically repeated single-line lyrics. Whoever wondered what artists do beyond the ordinariness of visual repertoires, from vintage image filters to glitter effects, will be enlightened by the plethora of possible articulations and artistic dialogues that run beyond the threshold of platform phonies. What had, up until now, been perceived aesthetically as being more real than real proves to be entangled in mimicry—an inflated representation, about to pop at any moment. KISLING offers a glimpse between the cracks that are forming on a seemingly impeccable surface. Her musical and visual work fathoms and reveals the specters that haunt the spectacle of our era, only to reveal the actual hollowness of an age where illusion and false promises have become stable currencies.

In 2019, KISLING released her 7” debut Random Plaza with the record label Serious Serious (Tallinn), setting forth the label’s agenda of low-fi home aesthetics with high-fi audio mastering. In a mix of processed samples and synthetically generated tunes, KISLING involves the listener in an intricate game of hide-and-seek with familiar sounds made alien. Tones grow to sculptural dimensions, only to be harshly sliced and dissected by her sharp cuts. Openly emphasizing the gestural and performative nature of sound, as well as wand-echoing sound pioneer Pierre Scheffer’s idea of singular sonic entities in the objet sonore, KISLING revives this concept in electroacoustics and pushes it further by monitoring the becoming of the sonic sculpture and intervening before it can reach fulfillment. This not only detaches sound from the real, but also from being interwoven with feeling. Her compositions are ruthless sonic arrangements that refuse the intimacy of shared pleasure. At the same time, most parts of KISLING’s visual presentation convey the homely feel and eerie beauty of everybody’s day-to-day banality.

Thinking of music beyond the carnal rhetoric and levelling its power of expression to a prosaicness of life, KISLING’s latest spin-off project Guiding Light I-III (jointly produced with poet and musician Artjom Astrov and artist Till Megerle), shows the backend of music production and the entropy of this artistic process. Amid the global relaunch of acceleration, this documentation shows what it means to be friends and simply do nothing—a provocation to a society so obsessed with self-optimization. Whether it’s the tease of ‘outcast’ tunes appropriated from fallen pop stars, or the relaxing triteness of home video footage infused with the ubiquity of post-consumerist simulacra, it all fuses in the post-pop cultural gloom of KISLING’s lyrics—the imperative of ‘super-yo’ echoing in the cheap shine of petty bourgeois decor (Guiding Light II, 2021).

This blue-collar-avantgarde scratches off the kitsch from our present and develops a non-poesy, alluding to the empty youth of the 1990s that was swept over by the lavish excess of data-streams and broken promises of Capital. Its nihilism emerges from an overload of fragments and the abundance of anything goes. The only remedy might lie in the ambiguity of sound, constructed by a compound of bodies in an infinite state of glimpsed feeling.

KISLING is Michaela Kisling (*1985), graduate and fellow of the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. Her works have been showcased at Kunsthalle, Vienna (2019); SAAL Biennaal, Tallinn (2019); Easterndaze Festival, Berlin (2019); Nu Performance Festival, Tallinn (2020); and Hyperreality, Vienna (2021).

© Lona Gaikis 2021