Let’s celebrate the spiritual and mystical, the non-human, alien and cyborg! In conversation with Ford Kelly

An interview taken from our new digitial issue. Ford Kelly is an Artist using mixed media to express rage, pain, joy and feelings experienced blackness as a Black Trans queer Alien living in this world. Using an Afrofuturism frame for their digital collages, Ford Kelly is sharing a Blackness reality wrote and made by Black people and reclaiming the basic right to just be.

KALTBLUT: Hi Ford, tell us a little about your creative background, when did you first start doing collages and how did you come to it?

As long as I can remember I have been into art and making things. Some Children found their worlds in books and I found mine in Art and designing. I liked the idea of a being able to see the creative things I imagined come to life whether it was through drawing, making clothes or craft work. I was fascinated with how things were made. It has been the easiest way for me to express myself, find myself within, or merely getting lost inside. Art was the most natural path I felt to take when deciding what to study. I studied Fine Art and then went on to doing visual effects work etc etc. However a few years ago I got into more consistently working with Digital Collages within an Afrofuturist frame.

KALTBLUT: What medium/tools do you feel most comfortable with when creating your work?

You could say that I’m drawn strongly to everything DIY. I don’t feel like I’m bound to one medium or one project,  or even one area. I’m fascinated with many aspects of art and design and want to explore as many areas and mediums as I feel like. But currently for the collages the digital world suits me.

KALTBLUT: Your illustrations refer to politics, gender, race… do you think that as an artist it’s your duty to be engaged? 

I’m not sure it’s possible to create art as a Black (Trans Queer) Alien without this coming up in the work in someway or another. I don’t have the luxury of being able to pick and choose when or how I’m seen by the outside world so these identities become quite present in my day to day life. Sometimes my rage fuels me to keep engaged sometimes my hope does the same.

I think often as Black artists we are looked on to create work that gives room to the personal and political. Art seems to be an acceptable platform in which we can be as candid and confrontational without being deemed too much. 

My art is the vessel in which I use to narrate or start a dialogue and exchange. I find it very cathartic to illustrate these worlds in my head without having to heavily theorize them.

KALTBLUT:  What does Afrofuturism mean to you and how is this reflecting on your work?

I work within Afrofuturism as a way of visualizing the endless possibilities in which we as Black people can reimagine our histories and stories that led to the Now. Afrofuturism for me is a dreamscape and a form of resistance. It can portray a side of the past, present and future that is not only filled with hope but is also about devastation. A way to give space to both the optimistic and pessimistic narratives. Afrofuturism is still an artform that centres and belongs to us as Black People. It’s about linking the diaspora beyond the usual US, dominant narrative, bringing elements of the Caribbean and beyond into focus. It’s about the celebration of the spiritual and mystical, the non human, alien and cyborg.  There is space within Afrofuturism to look into gender variant, queer and Dark skin Black representation. To look into narratives beyond the Black Kingdoms and Wealth as excellence. But also how we can just exist.

KALTBLUT:  How is your creative process, could you take us in the different steps when you start a new piece?

It starts and moves into late night musings…

KALTBLUT: What is the message you want to get across to viewers of your work?

That there is no one form a path of Blackness!

KALTBLUT: You just released your second Coloring Book: The Afrofuturist Coloring Book: The Dreamscape Edition. How did you come up with the idea to create a coloring Book.

I used to work as an Early Childhood Educator and would create my own worksheets and coloring pages for the kids.  It was important for me to have material that was gender fluid and racially diverse. One thing I noticed back then was that most of the material available for kids were very normative even when trying to show a life outside of the box.

Then last year I set myself a project of creating a coloring book for a friend which led me to thinking again about what kind of Coloring books were available for Black Kids and Adults and what kind of book I would have appreciated when growing up.

KALTBLUT: The past few years there is a lot of new conversation hitting the mainstream, Black lives matters, colorism, … As  a dark skin person living in Berlin, did you feel, see any evolution arounds you?

I think it’s mainly going in cycles and trends. Somehow there are now more events and discussions around AntiBlackness, Rest, Rage and Colorism from groups and Organistations who had never touched on the topic. It’s almost like they are catching up with the Black people who have been doing this work for a longtime. I like that Blackness and its nuances are framed in the center and there isn’t room for Blackness to be a second thought. I love that we see Blackness in its darkest hues represented more and more here in Berlin.

KALTBLUT: What do you wish for the future?

I wish for rest as a means of Black reparations

KALTBLUT: What other work/artist do you find really inspiring right now?

Iki Yos Piña @ParchitaPower
N.K Jemisin
Nalo Hopkinson
Paul Lewin
Peng Black Girls – Enny feat Amia Brave
Dj Bone Black @dj.bone.black

KALTBLUT: What is your ultimate goal?

To have a space for Black Queer and Trans people to come together and rest and create.