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“This Is Getting Hot”: Arca and Rosalía Remember the Before Time
As with most great avant artists, it’s easier to describe how Arca makes you feel than what it is, exactly, she makes. In her work as a record producer, DJ, singer, and songwriter, the nonbinary Latinx transwoman transmits such a heady confluence of ideas about love and pop and machines and mortality that they are as likely to result in orgasm as they are anxiety. The Barcelona-based performer, who was born in Venezuela and whose name is Alejandra Ghersi, makes live shows that taste like metal, videos that feel like the release of chaos, and songs that smell like the deepest, dankest parts of the earth. Arca has come out with four studio albums, including this summer’s KiCk i, her most accessible offering to date, which featured appearances by Björk, Rosalía, and Sophie. Conceived as a tetralogy, Arca is set to unleash three more installments of KiCk into the universe, which is why we’ve split this piece into three distinct conversations, with the artist Marina Abramović, the musician Rosalía, and the actor Oscar Isaac. This is part II: Mind.
ROSALÍA: What’s on your mind? It seems like you’ve been inspired.
ARCA: It’s hard, but I always try to look for the positive side of things and make it a learning experience.
ROSALÍA: During isolation, one can bring a different approach to the creative process. That’s happening to me.
ARCA: That’s it. Pressure creates diamonds. You’re playing with the alchemy of music. But come back soon, we’re waiting for you with open arms.
ROSALÍA: I have faith that we will be able to travel soon.
ARCA: We were talking about faith the other day. It’s nice to have that in times of doubt.
ROSALÍA: Right? Things are going to change. They have changed, and they will change again.
ROSALÍA: I’m very excited to listen to the mix you sent me on WhatsApp.
ARCA: I hope you like it. Sometimes you send me feedback and I’m like, “Approved, approved, approved.” I love collaborating with someone who has an idiosyncratic vision.
ROSALÍA: I miss doing this in person. I’m so happy to talk to you, but it makes me nostalgic. Do you remember when we met? You said something to me that no one had ever said before. You said, “The ego is flexible. It is something that contracts and expands.” Artists have to be in touch with that expansion and retraction. There are times when you’re presenting a project and it’s not the same as when you’re creating it. There are times when your ego has to contract. I think about it so much. Since your music is so radical, do you think that you, personally, are like that?
ARCA: That thought was transmitted to me by Björk. My first album had just come out, and I was asking her for advice. That alone was insane— imagine being able to ask her for advice. Anyway, there was something eating at me. I’d do my concert and I could feel the strength—the dramatic exaggeration, the ferocity—that I had on stage. But then I also knew how I felt back at the hotel in bed, alone. They were two extremes. She told me, “Calm down. There is going to be an oscillation. There are times for the ego to expand and transmit things through art. But don’t stay there because if you never come off it, you can’t enjoy it.” Performing is like technology, you know? We use technology to express something human, but the technology is not us.
ROSALÍA: You can’t forget your humanity.
ARCA: So, now I’m constantly checking in with myself, asking, “Where am I today? How do I feel in relation to my ego?”
ROSALÍA: Every time I hear your songs, it’s as if you are humanizing technology. Finding that purity is so difficult for me. You find pure emotion in things that are so radical and technological and electronic.
ARCA: But isn’t it ironic that when you were learning the theory of music or studying an instrument, the technique you were taught was to sound more perfect, like a robot?
ROSALÍA: I’m always looking for the imperfection so it feels human. If something is too perfect, it doesn’t speak your language. If it’s imperfect, I understand it. When I talk to you or listen to your music, it’s as if something moves inside me. And that’s so valuable. There are a lot of people I can have fun with, and we do that—we start dancing, we play the fool—but then there is always a purpose. I always learn something. Do you want to talk about how we met?
ARCA: Of course. Let’s tell that story.
ROSALÍA: We were in a house and our friends were there dancing in thongs. [Laughs]
ARCA: They told me that maybe you were going to be there. I had seen your show at Sónar [music festival in Barcelona]. I remember that we were both very shy in front of, and curious about, each other. Then you started to play reggaeton, some songs that not even my friends knew about. And I thought, “This is getting hot.”
ROSALÍA: We had a random reggaeton party. I didn’t know you and I remember thinking, “Will she like what I’m playing?” I was thinking, “Arca is one of my favorite DJs, and I’m here playing YouTube.”
ARCA: And suddenly everyone took off their clothes.
ROSALÍA: For the record, it wasn’t an orgy. It was that people wanted to dance and it was very hot. We’ve been friends since then. What do you think about this year so far, and what do you want to do next?
ARCA: I’m seeing things in terms of possibilities. There are certain things that are different now. I’m trying not to plan or be in control, because I feel like things are changing so fast. But I have my eyes open, always looking to transmit, communicate, and connect.
ROSALÍA: I really like how you think. I’m in Miami, and I have the illusion of making music, if god allows me to.
ARCA: I love Miami. I spent my birthday there once.
ROSALÍA: Bitch, get over here now. Come and let’s go on the Jet Skis.
Hair: Xavi Garcia, at Salon 44
Makeup: Vincent Guijarro.
Set Design: . Cito Ballesta.
Photography Assistant: Aaron Serrano.
Fashion Assistant: Isabel Greece.
Set Design Assistant: Malva Sawada.