David Kagan

“I have lived on the LES for over a decade, and there’s nowhere else on the planet I’d rather call home.”
I am a multimedia performance artist, fascinated with identity construction. My interests are twofold: all the experiences that enable and give rise to the sense of self; and the bridge between personal and collective experience – ways that an individual’s deeply private subject matter can be co-opted and found relevant to other people’s lives. Using myself as test subject, I document quotidian occurrences – social interactions, email exchanges, day dreams – and insert them into aesthetic structures for the purpose of analysis. In the past, I have utilized the Western pop-cultural genres of the Hollywood film and television sitcom; currently, I am exploring the formats of music and sound art, as informed by my recent travels.My focus on autobiography is tempered with an interest in the immediacy of a life in the moment: the places traveled, the people encountered. Earlier this year in Ghana, I collaborated with traditional African musicians to compose a music album. With me, I brought lyrics and melodies based on a mixture of personal perspectives as well as impressions of West Africa from a previous trip. From this starting point, ten musicians and I worked to craft music in various popular Ghanaian styles – highlife, hiplife, Afrobeat, etc. At times the subject matter of my Western mental paradigm stood in stark contrast to the African music; in other instances I was able to temporarily assume the viewpoint of a Ghanaian and the lyrics and form met seamlessly without friction.

As of late I have been working in Korea, utilizing the structure of p’ansori, a traditional operatic form of folk music. Co-opting the device of a solo performance combining spoken word and song to convey a narrative, I am integrating into it found sound and beats sampled from the urban industrial environment of Seoul; my hope is to create something intimately autobiographical, yet simultaneously belonging to a culture other than my own.