Text: Juule Kay
The world is changing, and with it, a new generation of trailblazers is taking over. In our monthly series E-MERGING, we introduce the people adding to the cultural moment with their creative minds, new ideas, and unique approaches. It’s a glimpse behind the scenes, a way to dig deeper and look beyond the picture-perfect outcome we’re swamped with every day.
“Sometimes I feel like an old person in a young body,” says Damsel Elysium with a smile on their face. In fact, the London-born and raised artist creates their very own universe filled with nostalgia and an undeniable longing for things from the past. Whether it’s their current obsession with mediaeval chants or writing personal little scores for their loved ones, Elysium is drawn to bringing back the old but turning it on its head.
It’s a creative journey that started with learning how to play the violin at the age of 6 and over the years, continued with various forms of art like filmmaking, acting, and photography. There is no this or that, no right or wrong. Most of their ideas bloom in notebooks or field recordings before an audience comes in. “For me, the act of performance is about entering a specific state of mind and navigating space,” the FKA twigs-approved artist explains. “It feels a bit as if everything is resonant and crystal clear – almost like a ritual, a form of ceremony.” Witnessing Elysium tell one of their captivating audiovisual stories makes you feel so present that you forget about everything but the here and now. “I want to create performances where the audience is as much a part of the show as I am,” they continue. “It’s not just doing gigs; I’m creating realities.”
While performing feels like speaking and reciting a diary entry, Elysium’s creative process usually starts with thinking. “One day I’ll see something passing on the train, and it’ll start a thought process,” says the avant-garde artist. “It could be that I’m reading a bit of poetry and something sparks – a word or a phrase will put me into a different world,” they say, zoning out. Each idea is random yet part of something bigger. “I guess it’s the ultimate reality kind of thing that exists outside of what I know,” they conclude.
Fascinated by alternative forms of communication, Elysium’s EP, Whispers from Ancient Vessels, which is set to be released in the beginning of next year, started with the idea of communication on a level that isn’t dialogue – whether that’s through touch, sound, tree whispering, or the energy and emotion objects hold. “When I first had my violin, my mom was the one to acknowledge this personality in the instrument,” they remember. “She was like, ‘Oh, when you don’t play, can’t you see it’s crying?’ or ‘Oh, it’s so happy when you play’.”
While their fans are eagerly waiting for the release, Elysium is already onto the next big thing: an album that explores more instruments, collaborations, and voices – even crying. “Everything for me is about studying the world through my eyes, ears, and body,” they conclude. “I’m trying to make sense of my thoughts, and it comes out in the form of sound, the way that I’m seeing the world, or the way that I feel things.”
If your hands aren’t playing an instrument, what are they most likely doing?
Fidgeting. I have to have something to play with.
What’s a word that sounds or feels good in your mouth?
What’s a sound you never get sick of recording?
I love trains and the way they interact with metal.
If you had a secret language, what would it look or sound like?
Exchange of objects or things like shells, rocks, or leaves, which means that you’re constantly passing things.
Tell me what random words are going through your mind right now.
A stream of consciousness.
You only know what you want when it’s ready.