Beyond Club Culture part I – Meet Chaz Aracil

Emerging from the depths of their original stomping group of Rhode Island, Chaz Aracil, better known by their artist name ÁZA ascends. A Berlin based, multidisciplinary visual artist whose talents sprawl across dance, fashion design and djing. We have a chat with them about how Berlin has shaped their work and their hybrid dance style which they are able to perform with visceral conviction.

The Beyond Club Culture photography series is an ongoing project by sustainable fashion brand, Not Too Sweet. By exploring the diverse plethora of talent that lurks extrinsic to Berlin’s infamous club presence, we meet Berliners in daytime mode and chat about how they’ve honed in on their art form and the role Berlin has played during their metamorphosis.

KALTBLUT: Hey Chaz, can you tell us about your art?
Chaz: My given name is Chaz Aracil, artist name is ÁZA (pronounced like ey-zuh). I am a visual artist, fashion designer, dancer and DJ/ musician in the making.

KALTBLUT: You are definitely a multidisciplinary artist. What made you fall in love with dancing in particular?
Chaz: I’ve been dancing since I could walk, when the body was able to move, it learned to groove ;) Since I was 5 years old I would do dance performances at family functions. I would get all dressed up, gel my hair and have my brother press play on the track. That’s when my family knew something was up… My mother took me to see my first real concert, Janet Jackson at age 6. This changed my life to be honest. The high energy and choreography left me star struck, and I learned a lot this night about the body and its potential. In awe of its ability to completely get possessed and go allllllll the way off! I remember we screamed every word together!

KALTBLUT: I’ve seen your dance videos on Instagram and your dance style is very unique. How would you describe it?
Chaz: I am a self taught dancer/ performance artist. While growing up, I was pushed to pursue sports and athletics, but (not so) secretly wanted to always take dance classes. And now, I’m starting to even teach them. I would describe the genre of my dance style as a hybrid between contemporary and vogue influence. It’s heavy metal-glitch witch-hair flippage meets high energy-body possession and goddx ascension. Dance is an experimental platform for me to tell a story, a narrative with my body as the puppet, the avatar, the ghost in the shell.

KALTBLUT: Berlin has seen a huge influx of creatives and artists moving here from abroad. What made you decide to move to this chaotic yet welcoming city?
Chaz: After I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2015, I showed my thesis collection in New York Fashion Week. Shortly after, I moved to Berlin with a friend from university in 2016. Like many of my artist friends, I came to Berlin to visit at first and ended up falling in love with the city, it’s artist community, its iconic nightlife and decided to stay.

KALTBLUT: You mentioned that many of your friends also spontaneously decided to move to Berlin after a visit. What do you think it is about the city that magnetises artists like you?
Chaz: I believe there’s a wide spectrum of reasons. Creative identities from all over collect and relocate here; some to start a new chapter of relief and renewal after trying out a different major city, and others to escape their native political climates and now have the privilege to express themselves authentically and freely. Even though no place is perfect and I’m not denying that Berlin has a lot of room for improvement and development in specific areas, however, its projected fantasy of freedom draws some of us in with a cosmic magnetic force. It leads us to discover our most authentic selves along with our aligned queer siblings. For many as well, Berlin is a safe in-between space to explore, a moment in time where artists and creatives can reevaluate their path and decide what they actually want to do with their lives and practice before moving forward.

KALTBLUT: And how does the creative community in Berlin differ to back home in America?
Chaz: Berlin’s creative scene is super unique on a global scale. From its experimental music, to its abstract drag scene, to its alternative visual artists and designers; Berlin is starting to get recognized for its ability to encourage you to scream your ideas and not hold back. A lot of art and design in America is generated with a commercial & capitalist condition, seeking an answer to the big question, “but will it sell?”. Where as in Berlin, there’s an unapoligetic passion behind and at the root of our expression that yells “Fuck you! It is what it is, I am what I am!”

KALTBLUT: You’ve been living in Berlin for a few years now. How has the city influenced the evolution of your dancing?
Chaz: Berlin has really served as a platform for me to familiarize myself with my body and its abilities. Like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, he just needed a bit of oil around the joints to move better. I started to see how my body could move, how it could get possessed by both spirit and the beat. Dancing in Berlin has also helped me conduct a lot of personal research on ancestors, past lives, sexuality & gender ambiguity and how to access the goddx from within; how to become an empowered 500 ft tall woman, how to navigate space and realise my connection to it and within it.

KALTBLUT: If you could give advice to someone who is young, queer and afraid to be themselves in fear of judgment from their family, friends and society, what would you say to them?
Chaz: SURVIVE & THRIVE!! You have one millisecond of existence on this planet, and don’t waste your time giving the power to others over your own agency to live authentically! If possible, go where you can grow when time and circumstances allow it. Don’t be afraid to take those risks and to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Interviewed by Lisa N’Paisan @lisa.kuro

Artist: Chaz Aracil @oh_aza_
Photographer: Julia Lee Goodwin @julialeegoodwin
Stylist: Chaz Aracil @oh_aza_
Make-up artist: Estela Suarez @estela.suarez
Production: Lisa N’Paisan @lisa.kuro
Clothing: Not Too Sweet. @nottoosweetvintage