Adam Christensen
Nele Ruckelshausen

THE ANXIOUS CRUISER

Adam Christensen is a London-based Danish artist whose work combines prose, music and textiles. In April 2019, he performed as part of the exhibition opening of Cycle Music & Art Festival at new residency and art center PAVILION NORDICO in Buenos Aires. Gruppe documented the event and talked to him about the themes of sex, love and anxiety that infuse his emotional performances.

Nele: Your performances are quite overwhelming. You write songs about passion and heartbreak that you perform live with the accordion, and in between read out other personal stories on stage. Can you tell me a bit more about your practice?

Adam: I write songs that I perform with the accordion and I write  short stories. I also create fabric works. I started writing about gay cruising…I thought that would be an easy and entertaining topic to start with, and now it’s lead to all these other things. They’re not for wanking though. The songs and stories mostly confessionals, about the sex I’ve had, breakups, and so on. When I write in English, which is not my first language, I find it easy to cut away all breaks, fillers and emotional signifiers, I try to take away all descriptive adjectives.

I also find it easier to talk about emotional, weighty themes in English language than in my mother tongue, German.

It’s also easier to use words like ‘cock’ and ‘pussy’. Perhaps because it’s easier to detach yourself from the words you’re using. Retelling them in my songs, in English, my personal stories become something else for me. A very dramatic sexual experience can become a quite funny story.

How do your fabric works relate to your songs?

Well, it’s all connected. The fabric works are more an expression of personal feelings, like anxiety, rather than fully narrated stories. They’re also a way to express a kind of camp comedy. And perhaps a little bit of romance.

You also perform in drag. Did you have the drag persona before you played music or did it all come together organically?

The songs came a lot later. The first art performance of mine, if you can call it that, was me performing a pop song written by my mom, and directed at my absent dad, at my graduate show at Goldsmith. My friend played the cello. But before that it was just me reading out the short stories, and trying to break them up with beasts and noise tracks. I only taught myself to play the accordion five years ago, I don’t know any notes.

When did you get started with drag – if you would even call it that?

The good thing is, I don’t have to call it anything. But to answer your questions, all those years ago, I was part of the alternative gay scene in Copenhagen – along with the lesbian DJs, the anarchists, and the other trannies. I was helping them make this half-an-hour TV show called “Kanal Dunst” for Danish TV. None of the others knew how to edit or film but I went to film school, so I started helping them out. The production would happen along the lines of, ‘Alright, we need ten more minutes of programming, so Adam, you just sit here in a wig and really slowly drink this glass of milk’. That’s how I got started in drag. The show got cancelled after the fourth episode. The network said it was too ‘obscene’ but then they filled our late-night slot with actual, hardcore pornography – the suggestion of sex to them seemed to be more controversial than actual porn.

Do you usually wait for inspiration to strike or some crazy story to happen to you before you make art or do you have a regular practice?

The fabric works for me happen like figurative paintings, they’re more physical and emotional. That’s it’s why it’s so hard to talk about them. For the writing, I have to say, writing is really hard for me. I don’t particularly like, and if you write about sex and breakups, it’s hard not to get mushy or self-important. But then I sit down to do it, and I suddenly find it flows quite easily. Now I get a lot of stories out of connecting and retelling experiences that I didn’t think would be particularly interesting at first. I prefer writing actions rather than feelings.

Have you ever considered recording your songs?

Well, I was recorded for an upcoming movie called “The Two Sisters”, where I play a diva at a nightclub, which is now going to Cannes. And I got asked to record an album in Portugal soon. But I enjoy the private and intimate aspect of my performances, and I’m still grappling with how recording them will change that.  

Interview by Nele Ruckelshausen
Thanks to CYCLE & PAVILION NORDICO