Julian Klincewicz in Conversation With Ligaya Salazar
Taken from Issue 1 of WIP Magazine – a new publication by Carhartt WIP: Julian Klincewicz in Conversation With Ligaya Salazar. After a year of working on projects for Jay Z and Beyonce, Eckhaus Latta and Gosha, the 21-year-old artist-filmmaker-photographer-skate-musician needs some downtime.
“I'm sure I'm forgetting some stuff,” says Julian Klincewicz, having just reeled off what he’s been up to over the past 18 months: he went to Cuba to work with Kanye West, made films for Gosha Rubchinskiy, put on a fashion show in San Diego, moved to New York and exhibited artwork there, shot for Calvin Klein under the direction of Raf Simons, and most recently went on tour with Jay-Z, creating live visuals for the jumbotron screens that loomed over the Hip Hop mogul's stage.
He was forgetting some stuff though: an exhibition in Tokyo, releasing his own music, shooting for brands, Acne Studios and Eckhaus Latta. And then, there are the projects he has in the pipeline, but can’t reveal at present, having signed non-disclosure agreements. Right now, however, the thing Klincewicz is most excited about is a little bit of down-time, he says: “seeing other people’s art, having conversations with people, travelling, and having a little bit of solitude.
Julian Klincewicz, aged 22, is a kid of his generation — an archetypal millennial poly- math simultaneously juggling several projects. He started out skating and shooting videos on an old video camera he found in his grandma’s attic, before doing a little bit of everything: photography, art, music. What sets him apart from so many of his peers is just how good he is at whatever he turns his hand to. As a filmmaker, his films have evolved from a lo-fi skate-influenced style into delicate and intimate vignettes. His music carries a similar charm, evocative of the early work of The Durutti Column. And his photography is bold — bright silhouettes, candescent like a bulb filament set against a black backdrop.
When I first interviewed Julian in 2016, I was struck by the range of references he had for someone so young. His cultural references range from Sam Shepard to the cinematic techniques employed by American design duo and auteurs, Ray and Charles Eames. As high-brow as those might be, Julian and his work carry no pretense. He’ll pursue his own interests, irrespective of whether they’re “cool” or not. (One of the photos he supplied for this interview was him on a unicycle, a talent he picked up during his time spent in a local circus between the age of seven and fourteen.) Unlike many of his peers, Julian’s work isn’t created out of a desire for affirmation or cultural kudos, but to create something that genuinely resonates. There’s an honesty and authenticity present in everything he does.
Ligaya Salazar first met Julian two years ago in his hometown, San Diego. Like him, she has the impressive ability to flit between different disciplines with consummate ease. Currently, she is the director and curator at London’s Fashion Space Gallery, which sees the work of nascent artists displayed alongside established cult figures. Between 2005 and 2013, Salazar was the Curator of Contemporary Programmes at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, overseeing to a mesmerizing retro- spective of the work of Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, and “Memory Palace,” an exhibition built out of the fictional writing of author Hari Kunzru, through a series of commissioned works by renowned illustrators, designers and typographers. For each of these exhibitions, Salazar also penned or edited accompanying books. She writes regularly, about fashion, art and culture, while also working as a contributing editor at Varoom magazine. I’m sure I’m probably forgetting stuff here, as well.
With a dodgy Skype connection – that seemed particularly intent on cutting out at the mere mention of Jay-Z – we asked Salazar to speak to Klincewicz. They discussed eschewing categorization, pop culture as a medium for art, their work, and the importance of not working.
Ligaya Salazar — I think people still find it very fascinating when people are not bound to one thing, and don’t have the fear of doing something else. Maybe you can tell me a little bit about how you do that, or why you do it? What drives you?
Julian Klincewicz — Maybe it’s not so surprising anymore, but for a long time it was bizarre to me that you wouldn’t just do everything. A place where that comes from, for me, would maybe be skateboarding. It’s something between an art form, a sport, a dance, and then it also encompasses all this other stuff.
For example, a really integrated element of skateboarding is filming. So, I think there’s already just this sense of multiple mediums being connected through this one thing. I don’t feel like I ever made a conscious decision to be like: “I want to do a bunch of different stuff,” it was just really natural, until people started pointing it out.
I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I’m totally cool with anybody else labelling me as this or that — it’s up to them — but the parameters I put on myself are to try and be interested in whatever is interesting... whatever that thing is. And to try not fight where that interest goes. Since finishing the Jay-Z tour, I realized that I am kind of starting to feel a pull away from video. It’s just not as interesting to me as it was, and I am sure it’ll cycle back, things always do, but right now I’m just much more interested in writing.
LS – I guess I am maybe a little bit similar in the sense that I like to follow my gut instincts, and sometimes they can’t be justified in normal ways or by professional norms. It means that I can work with people who come from all sorts of different perspectives, and try to bring them together or do things with them that aren’t confined to their disciplines either. As you say, it can be a very brave and freeing thing to do – to de-shackle yourself from the confines of a discipline. There are so many historical examples of creatives who did everything, and they always worked together with other creatives, and they all experimented. I feel that, in a way, art and creative historians have been writing those details out of history a little bit. I think experimentation and working together has always been a big part of creating a great thing.
JK – Yeah, I think also right now it’s just much easier to do anything you want to do. The resources are just really affordable and there, so I think it just becomes more apparent. Just like you said, I think there are very few people, creative types, who just do one thing. Most people I know are doing at least three things at the same time.
LS – I guess it’s more democratic now, and there’s more channels to get to people. Sometimes that is helpful, and sometimes it’s not. What are the characteristics or traits of people you work with, that attract you to a project or working with someone
JK – One characteristic I think would be an inherent curiosity, and a feeling of self-absorbed selflessness. I think most artists who I am lucky enough to work with, are people who really are able to use themselves as a conduit – a microcosm for the macrocosm. [They] use their really personal experiences to say something about the world. That’s what I think a lot of good artists do. Those people that I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with, it’s really just an underlying curiosity. It’s like a craving for some kind of knowledge and, at the same time, this internal need to bring that to other people. To be like: “Hey, this is what I’m going through, I am trying to learn from it, and this is how. This is the form that my trying takes, and are you trying too? Does this make sense to you?” It’s just this inherent curiosity about a thing and wanting to know if somebody else is curious about it. “I think this is important, do you think this is important?” A natural attraction towards exchange. Does that make sense?
LS – It does. I think openness and curiosity are the key to being able to communicate about creative work. There’s a willingness as well as a drive and an interest in something – that’s a good starting point for sure.
JK – I’m interested in the medium of pop culture. I think that a lot of the people I work with are really within that realm, and for me it creates a weird tension. I have this internal battle of wanting to make work that is conceptual, it has ideas behind it, it speaks to things, to the past, the future, the current day culture. But the realm that I get to work in right now is pop culture, which... I don’t know, I struggle with a little bit. Just because it is pop culture, and there is a perception of it being very watered-down and not necessarily smart.
But at the same time, pretty much everybody I work with is super-intelligent, and they have this sense that the way you can affect most people is through pop culture, basically. It’s through these almost simplified versions of really informed, conceptual, reference-heavy ideas. You just take all this information and put it into a simple vessel, like a song or a piece of clothing. I think that’s something I am intrigued by, and I see that as a common thread between a lot of the people that I collaborate with.
LS – It is a funny thing, pop culture – it’s often something that is quite simplified and a little bit disposable, to an extent, but I do think that you can carry a lot of meaning through it and reach a lot of people. We have both visited Cuba recently, and what I noticed there was that whilst a lot of information is still very controlled, in terms of news, the one thing that they get unfiltered is music videos. They are very much pop, pop, pop – aspirational, consumption kind of videos. But those messages arrive loud and clear there, and people want all these things although they don’t get to see them elsewhere. Pop culture is a very powerful vehicle. I can imagine it’s a great one to have access to as a creative. What are you most excited about in the next few months?
JK – I’m excited to rest a little bit, actually. This year I’ve taken on a lot of projects within the realm of pop culture. A lot of “commercial jobs.” I don’t even want to call them jobs because I don’t view them like that – I never take a project just for money or because it’s work. I take them because they’re actual collaborations and I pour whatever I would pour into my personal work into them. But I also didn’t leave time to work on the projects that are just for me, that are for friends, that have no end goal or a set finished product... Just pure process. I feel like now I need to replenish my life and curiosity, to be able to bring something that is meaningful. I am excited to find a bit of a balance, be a sponge. Seeing other people’s artwork, having conversations with people, traveling, and also having a little bit of solitude.
LS – I think that’s really important. But also the notion of having time to see other people’s stuff is a really big one. I get so little time to do that, and when I do, it is the most luxurious thing.
JK – It is so important and so easy to pass up. I moved to New York last year and I spent so much time in my own world, working on my own thing, doing projects that are literally dreams come true. But I spent 95% of my time doing that, and I spent 5% of my time actually engaging with the community. I look back at the year, and it’s cool that I did all this stuff, but in a lot of ways I didn’t fulfil the role of a human being. Likewise, the role of the artist – which is to engage with the community around you and to be part of the conversation, and to push things forward. That for me was a weird thing. Now that I recognize that a bit. That thing of not making work is just as important as making work and being in your own world. I found that I need to remove myself from my world to be able to do work that is meaningful.
LS – I see what you’re saying. So, you were saying that you are currently quite interested in writing. And is that something that you feel might be something that you’re going to do... that could be part of one of your next projects? I know you’ve already done one book, didn’t you?
JK – I did a book of poetry that was part of a different project, and this long essay as part of Journal, the Moscow photobook I did. I’ve done those two. I think what I’m attracted to in writing is the quality of time. Most things, you know, you get a spurt of inspiration, and then you have a big breakthrough, but you spend a lot of time perfecting it to be its truest form. I think with writing, it takes time to realize what you actually want to say. I think right now the world is just so fast that the most attractive thing to me is like thinking about writing a movie script that’s going to take two years.
I deleted Instagram a week ago, because everything is just so fast and overwhelming. I feel like we’re at this place where the quality of slowing down is new. Everyone is hyper-productive and they put out a lot of content and work. Going through an Instagram feed, I see all these really cool people whose work I love, and their work is really good, and I know it’s smart and informed, it feels cool and relevant. But there is so much of it, that all of it loses a bit of the meaning it should have, for the amount of work that people put into it. I just kind of hit a wall. If that is now the ubiquitous thing, to be hyper-productive and constantly do a million things, it’s much newer and interesting to go back to slowing down. I think I’m just attracted to slowing down because I’ve been working a bunch. For myself, [it’s about] letting go a little bit of the fear of not being hyper-productive.
LS – It is luxury these days, isn’t it? To have that time. But I guess also for you, having the ability to just following your own rhythm, and not following other people’s rhythms. You did a fashion show in 2016. What attracted you to the medium of clothes and fabric? It is a very different thing to lots of other things that have to do with visual culture. It’s such a thing unto itself. I was curious whether there was something specific that attracted you to working with clothes and fabric?
JK – I think the interest in clothing really just comes from a sense of community. After I graduated high school, I took a gap year because college was too expensive. I felt totally lost, because all my friends had just moved. I ended up finding this community through Gosha [Rubchinskiy], clothing and skating. And for whatever reason, clothing seemed to be this underlying thread. It permeated all the cultures that I was interested in, whether that was music — all the rock stars you like, dress cool — or skating, where everybody has their own style. What I saw in San Diego, was this general interest in clothing, in fashion, and especially within my generation of people who basically grew up on Tumblr. You’re constantly exposed to this world of fashion. But in San Diego, it’s just not really reflected anywhere.
I kind of felt like after I got to work with people like Gosha and Kanye [West], that it just seemed really interesting to have the information of how that world works a little bit, and to understand the people around me who have this inherent interest for it. The main thing is that it served a purpose. Symbolically, doing a runway show, is to say you can do anything. The thing that you want to do that doesn’t exist: you can just make it happen. That was like the biggest takeaway for me. I felt so inspired and I was lucky enough to have resources to follow through on my inspiration. [In working with Gosha and Kanye] I experienced first-hand that dreams totally can come true. I want to bring that and give that to a bunch of people who maybe don’t even know that is possible.
LS – How was it received?
JK – Artistically, I think it’s the most successful thing that I’ve done. We had 500 people show up to it. I was expecting 100 people, maybe. There was a line that covered the whole block. To me, that just spoke to the idea that people were really interested in this thing... I don’t even think just fashion, but they want a place to go and a thing to do, something to engage with, and a community to be inspired by.
LS – Is that something that is really important to you? Speaking to an audience?
JK – I think so, because I think you need the conversation. Again, I think it’s about saying: “Hey, I am trying to understand the world, and this is what makes sense to me. These are the universal themes that I see, and do you see these too? Are these true or are these false?” That’s actually something I was curious and hesitant about for a long time, because there’s so many... I’ll just call them rock star artists, or whatever, who are like, “Fuck the audience, who cares what anybody thinks?” That is perceived as really cool. To me, that just doesn’t feel true at all, because it’s all about the interaction. I think you need to care about what people think, not because you want validation, but because you need to care about other people. If you are actually interested in the world and making some kind of discovery, which is usually what the artistic process is [about], then you need to engage.
Models: Erica Buenconsejo, Chris Urik, Sebastian Alvarez, Irie Jean Calkins, Noah Calkins, Daniel Huynh – Special thanks to 30ECB Boys & Girls, Edwin Negado, Gym Standard, Christy Klincewicz, Mike Neff, Irie Jean.