Throughout June, RA is hosting four mixes on BBC Radio 1, airing Friday nights after the Essential Mix. Following mixes from AceMoMA, Deena Abdelwahed and Skee Mask, the series finishes tonight with a one-hour club mix from Arca.
In his 1996 paper Standing In The Spaces: The Multiplicity Of Self And The Psychoanalytic Relationship, American psychologist Philip Bromberg suggested the understanding of the human mind was shifting away from the idea that there is a single self, and towards a view of the self as decentered. In his research, now widely popularized, selfhood was “a configuration of shifting, nonlinear, discontinuous states of consciousness in an ongoing dialectic with the healthy illusion of unitary selfhood.” Put more simply, Bromberg believed our sense of “me” is made up of multiple “self-states.”
Perhaps no artist explores this concept more than Alejandra Ghershi. As Arca, the Venezuela-born, Barcelona-based producer and performer has spent the last decade eluding categories across genre, format and identity. With her art and personality, Ghersi does not hold back, resulting in a brilliant body of work built on chaos and contrast. She has produced for mega stars like Kanye West and Björk, while staying true to the digital queer underground. She sings like an eloquent and old world romantic, while producing psycho beat tapes and futuristic noise. She creates cutting-edge performance art for galleries, while filling her Instagram with chihuahua memes.
Over the past year or so, what Ghersi shares has only grown more chaotic. This is because she has ramped up her social media presence, taking to livestreaming as an informal medium to connect with her fans, known as Mutants. On Instagram Live, Ghersi drops new music and gets real about her experience transitioning to being a non-binary trans woman. On Twitch, a channel she started during lockdown, she experiments with all kinds of sensory overload, from ASMR and Final Fantasy streams, to Ableton sessions and hours-long live sets full of unreleased Arca deep cuts. Perhaps most intimate, though, is the Mutants1000000 Discord server, a fan-run community where Ghersi regularly participates as an admin, overseeing channels like #feral-entropy, #identity-philosophy and #español.
None of this comes off like press or performance as we know it. Ghersi’s content is as unorganized and unruly as a teen on TikTok, yet her freeform sense of being incites a mysterious sense of wonder. Even if the content of her glitchy videos can be rambling and uneventful, it is never dull—the thrill is watching pieces of Ghersi’s personality unfold. After all, a personality can be more fluid, absorbing and provocative than the most complex piece of art.
This is important to keep in mind when listening to Ghersi’s new and fourth studio album, KiCK i. Viewed one way, it’s the artist’s love-filled entry into pop, where dissonant sounds and styles rub up against each other at a freaky party, made even more fantastic by its featured guests: Björk, SOPHIE, SHYGIRL and Rosalía. But viewed another way, the album is a story of intense psychological processing and self-discovery. “Speak for your self-states,” Ghersi raps on opener “Non-Binary.” In the lead-up to KiCK i‘s release, we had 30 minutes to chat on Zoom, where Ghersi sat joyfully amid a digital rainbow and went deep on identity, philosophy and the multiplicity of the self.