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The Carletonian

Elysia Crampton explores Aymaran abolitionism

<erimental electronic musician Elysia Crampton rippled campus this past Friday, with a passionate afternoon lecture about Andean abolitionism, followed by an evening performance at the Cave that was simultaneously meditative, upsetting, and at times even viscerally affective.

Renowned by Pitchfork magazine as “one of the foremost minds in electronic music,” Crampton invests much of her time exploring and unearthing the traditions and culture of the Aymara, a pre-colonial people indigenous to the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America.

Elysia Crampton gave a lecture Friday afternoon entitled “Echoes of Abolition in Andean Art: The Past as Future or Feeling.” Before beginning her presentation, she warned her audience that her work is not empirically academic, nor is she university-educated; she did not want to surprise any student with her unique fashion of treating research.

“If I appear invalid, if appear incapable, just know that my mission is already completed by me being here,” she said. “It is an honor to be here and hold this space, but my body is the document, as someone of Aymara descent, as someone queer, as someone trans, my flesh attests to this legacy, to the perseverance to this legacy.”

In her lecture, Crampton explored the intersection of her queer identity and Aymaran heritage, explaining that it is necessary to decolonize your thinking to be able to comprehend the indigenous thought. Time has only been seen as linear in many South American countries after Western colonization subjugated the indigenous people to adopt their scientific reason and rationale. Crampton explained that “[The linearization of time] braids into our relationship with the past, it in every way affects how we relate to the broad relation between space and time.”

“I hope I haven’t lost you guys,” Crampton muttered as she put another pixelated jpeg of an Andean book on the projection screen. She presented a number of traditional Aymaran art works and deconstructed them, explaining the various visual references to the Aymaran gods, especially those to Ukurunku, a trans feline deity. These deities had deep cultural connections to the Aymaran conception of time, and Crampton went on to connect her own Bolivian-American history to these mythologies, further attesting to her claim that her “body is the document”.

Transitioning into the junction of colonialism and music, Crampton explained how using music as a means of communication has allowed for survival and preservation amidst oppressive hegemonic power structures. Traditional Aymaran music is a vibrant, verbal tradition that has kept so much of the rich mythology alive within the culture. Crampton herself includes bits of traditional music in her experimental works as an homage to her complicated cultural history, and an attempt to counter the ever-potent effects of colonialism.

“Abolition is not just a matter of getting rid of prisons, ending colonialism, or ending racial capitalism,” Crampton argued. “But it is about reversing the logic that creates these institutions in the first place; the one that creates the criminal, the one that creates a need to isolate people as a means to an answer.”

Friday evening, Crampton took the stage at the Cave and gave a shuddering performance. Her music is known for exploring Latinx culture, queer identity, South American spirituality and the inclusion of samples from varied sources, themes that were all on display in the Cave. Her set began tame, but quickly built into a cutting disjointed electronic sound that was, quite brilliantly, both off-putting and tantalizingly captivating.

Sylvie Graubard, the Booking Manager at the Cave, was very satisfied with Crampton’s presence on campus. In charge of coordinating all musical events at the Cave, Graubard explained why she was drawn to Elysia Crampton as a guest artist.

 “I really appreciate the way she integrates her politics and her identities into her music,” she said. “Elysia isn’t just talking about [her politics and identities], but using sounds, folk songs and her Aymaran culture, she turns it into this electronic music that tells a story that could be interpreted a number of different ways.”

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