September 2 2014

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The Can’t-Miss Funeral Of The Season


The annual Whitney Art Party always lures a strong contingent of the fashion crowd, and this year should be no exception. If there’s a bit more buzz than usual, chalk it up to the evening’s entertainer, performance artist Kalup Linzy (pictured). A friend and collaborator of James Franco—who’s helped to publicize him and his work—Linzy has also been embraced by the fashion world, creating a video for Proenza Schouler’s show at Pitti and getting fitted personally by DVF. For the Whitney, Linzy will be bidding adieu to one of his longtime characters/alter egos, Taiwan, with an elaborate funeral. (Original plans called for a casket procession through the city.) In honor of the occasion, checked in with Linzy to talk about the end of Taiwan (live, at least; he’ll live on in video), the beginnings of his new character Kaye, and why design is best left to the designers.

I’ve heard that Wednesday’s performance will include a funeral procession and Whitney Houston songs. Care to fill in a few blanks?
It’s not going to be a funeral procession, per se, but I am paying a tribute to my character Taiwan and I am performing most of the songs I composed. But because Whitney is one of my favorite artists, there will be Whitney songs played too. There will be a video playing the whole time and in the background there’s a casket. That will be closed until the ritual happens, but something does happen during the performance. When I started my proposals like a year ago, they wanted to have the casket literally driving through the city.

For those not keyed in, tell us a little bit about the origins and evolution of Taiwan.
Taiwan is a soul singer. He was part of my thesis video in 2003 and then I started performing him live. The first live performance that got a lot of attention was at PS1 in 2006. Other big highlights were the performance in New Orleans with the Art Production Fund and then the videos for Proenza, then T, then working with James Franco.

He’s been a big part of your body of work. Why are you putting him to rest?
Taiwan was just an avenue that I would tap into but I don’t feel like going on stage and being like that anymore. For now, I have done all I can to stay true to the character. I could force it but I don’t think it would be the same, emotionally, as what people were getting before. Now I want to do something lighter. I feel like the stuff that drove Taiwan is not there or in the same place anymore.

Clothes and fashion play a very big role in your work. How do you see fashion in relation to your art?
The clothes help define each character—it’s an essential part. Even thrift store shopping, I find I am imaging them. It’s an emotional, visual response to what each should have on. Personally, I am really a T-shirt and jeans guy, but I think fashion is a type of performance art. Designers come up with clothes with a particular character. These days, they [don't want the models] to have personality, but back in the day the supermodels had personalities that went into selling the clothes, too.

And what will you be wearing for the performance?
He has a curly wig and a black suit from Theory they sent me yesterday. And I don’t know about the shoes yet.

Kaye, your newest character, features into the new film you’re working on. Will you be collaborating with someone on a collection for him?
Kaye is a fashionista but I don’t know if I want to have someone pull clothes or work with a designer formally because that can take forever. I have been talking to Cynthia Rowley about doing a full-on collab, but really I am focused on the film right now. It has crossed my mind to do my own clothing collection but it would probably be a hot mess. I studied art, not fashion, so I wouldn’t have that point of reference that real designers have. I can’t really transcend if I don’t know the history and I don’t want to imitate, you know? I trust designers with that.

Photo: Courtesy Photo



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