Peter Hodg­son ex­plores the un­con­ven­tional meth­ods that make Kaki King’s new live show – a spec­ta­cle of lights and sound – so in­trigu­ing.

Australian Guitar - - Contents - PHO­TOS BY SI­MONE CECCHETTI.

Kaki King is a vi­sion­ary gui­tarist, but more than that, she’s a vi­sion­ary mu­si­cian. Lit­er­ally. Orig­i­nally known for her per­cus­sive acous­tic gui­tar com­po­si­tions, King’s style has mor­phed over the years into a more free-flow­ing, ex­pres­sive and ex­pan­sive reper­toire pre­sented with a strong vis­ual com­po­nent. Her cur­rent show, TheNeck­IsABridgeToThe

Body, is as much con­cep­tual as it is mu­si­cal, with dig­i­tal images pro­jected onto King’s all-white Ova­tion gui­tar. An­other re­cent project, Bruises, uses data on King’s daugh­ter’s ill­ness as a jumpin­goff point for a mu­si­cal and vis­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a tough time in her young fam­ily’s life.­

You’re about to play the Ade­laide Gui­tar Fes­ti­val, which is a re­ally in­ter­est­ing event be­cause it’s not just for gui­tar geeks, it’s more arts-based and broad.

I think I’ve done that fes­ti­val in years past and it was fan­tas­tic. And you’re right, I think it’s a much wider draw than just the gui­tar po­lice. I’m very much look­ing for­ward to it. I’ll be per­form­ing The

Neck­IsTheBridgeToTheBody – the mul­ti­me­dia show with pro­jec­tions onto my gui­tar. I’m able to per­form the en­tire piece too, which is great.

You must be a re­ally vis­ual per­son if you’re ex­press­ing your­self in this way…

Ac­tu­ally I’m not! I’m pretty new to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the world in this way. Look­ing back, the im­pe­tus be­hind this show was get­ting laser eye surgery. Be­fore I was 28, I had cor­rec­tive lenses and contacts and it was hard to see… It wasn’t dif­fi­cult to get around and I wasn’t im­paired, but I strug­gled with dis­tance, and look­ing at this wasn’t as in­ter­est­ing to me as look­ing at them.

I have well-trained ears and poorly-trained eyes. And the side ef­fect of the surgery was that things looked dif­fer­ent; they looked in­cred­i­ble. And the con­trast! Black was so black, and light was so light. I started to see the world dif­fer­ently, and sud­denly, look­ing at the world was fas­ci­nat­ing. How I thought of colour and con­trast was com­pletely dif­fer­ent, and I think that was the start of me be­ing in­ter­ested in the world in a vis­ual way.­

I have synes­the­sia, so I tend to choose gui­tar colours that evoke cer­tain cre­ative con­no­ta­tions for me. You’ve kind of taken that to the ex­treme by us­ing a pure white gui­tar and pro­ject­ing colours onto it.

It does look in­cred­i­ble, and even when I walk in and see my video en­gi­neer map­ping onto the gui­tar, I think, “This looks so cool!” So essen­tially, with the pro­jec­tion map­ping, we don’t just project onto the top but we also project onto the belly. We set the gui­tar up on stands so it doesn’t move, and then we take a 3D scan of the en­tire stage.

Then we cut the gui­tar out of that scan and run it back through the pro­gram so that the pro­jec­tor only projects light onto that part of the stage. And then you have to deal with over­spill and un­even stages. It may sound com­pli­cated, but it re­ally isn’t. It doesn’t take that much time. The con­cept is ba­si­cally a dig­i­tal sten­cil, so you just take ev­ery­thing that isn’t a gui­tar out of the pro­jec­tor.

Bruises is a re­ally touch­ing project as well. What can you us about that?

My daugh­ter de­vel­oped an au­toim­mune dis­or­der where the body at­tacks your blood platelets. It thinks they’re a virus, or some­thing else that needs to be re­moved. So your platelet lev­els can drop very dra­mat­i­cally, and that’s what hap­pened to my daugh­ter. One day she was com­pletely fine, and the next day she was com­pletely cov­ered in blis­ters. It was ter­ri­fy­ing. They di­ag­nosed her with Idio­pathic Throm­bo­cy­topenic Pur­pura, or ITP. My son was three weeks old at the time, so he and my wife went away and I stayed with my daugh­ter when she went in the hospi­tal. The project came about when I was work­ing with this artist, Gior­gia Lupi, who takes data and turns it into some­thing very mean­ing­ful.

She likes to ob­serve the way you feel about a cer­tain thing or a cer­tain act – the amount of times you use your left hand, the num­ber of times you look in the mir­ror dur­ing the day, the amount of times you check the clock and for what rea­son... I’d been work­ing with her on sev­eral projects where I was col­lect­ing data and turn­ing it into mu­sic. I knew how to col­lect data, and I knew it was calm­ing in a way.

So I started to col­lect data on my daugh­ter – her bruises, what she looked like – and on my­self; my hopes, my fears… We took that data and turned it into some­thing. It’s 120 days of data col­lec­tion turned into a vis­ual key and an an­i­mated pre­sen­ta­tion that I wrote mu­sic to. To this day, it’s an in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult thing to per­form and talk about, but it’s eas­ier than re­liv­ing the night­mare that was go­ing on and the fear of the un­known, and the fact that my daugh­ter couldn’t get her platelet lev­els up.

It’s def­i­nitely a roller­coaster of a dis­ease, and the piece that we did ended up be­ing more im­por­tant from a care­taker’s per­spec­tive. I mean, she was fine. The dis­ease it­self doesn’t hurt and she was bliss­fully unaware. She’d just turned three and didn’t even have the lan­guage to de­scribe any­thing about what was go­ing on. So is about my­self and what I went through as a parent more than any­thing else, and it’s about tak­ing some­thing hor­ri­ble and turn­ing it into art.

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