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KAI LANDRE, the cyborg musician who can hear the Universe

Interview by Laura Cabiscol

Kai Landre for Oxymore

Kai Landre is a musician who can hear the universe. Not metaphorically, but rather literally. He has a 6th sense, which he chose and designed himself; the Cosmic Sense. This cybernetic new organ allows him to perceive Cosmic Rays and makes him a cyborg. He is now presenting “Cyborg Manifesto”, a video art piece directed by Ana Sting, which acts as a letter of presentation. In it, Landre summons us to “challenge our reality and riot against the matrix. Going beyond our physical limitations and discovering the infinite possibilities that exist when leaving behind all the conditions to which we are tied.” 

His new musical project will also see the light this autumn, releasing two singles called “HUMAN” and an EP under the name “CYBORG”, symbolizing his transition. Born in the 2000s, technology has always been a part of Kai’s life. Also always present in his life, he recalls, has been a deep curiosity for both sound and the cosmos.

So, when he decided to start the process to become a cyborg and create a new cybernetic organ for himself, it’s no surprise that he decided to create one that would allow him to join the two. His Cosmic Sense perceives Cosmic Rays, which surround us at all times, but we can’t perceive them through our bodily experience. 

Cosmic rays, also known as cosmic radiation, were discovered in 1911 and are subatomic particles from outer space whose energy, due to their high speed, is very high. His Cosmic Sense captures the subatomic particles created by the fall of Cosmic Rays in the atmosphere of our planet and translates the frequency of each of them into a musical note. In his newest musical project, Kai is, in his own words, “creating a translation of space itself for The Earth’s inhabitants”.

It leaves behind a more pop sound in favour of electronic club and experimental music. Acclaimed producer Lyzza, who has also worked with Shygirl, Linn da Quebrada and Amnesia Scanner, amongst others, has mentored the project. Currently, Landre is part of the Cyborg Foundation, the platform founded by Neil Harbisson, focused on research, development and promotion of projects related to the creation of new senses and perceptions, applying technology to the human body.

Like Donna Haraway already did in her famous Cyborg Manifesto, Kai calls for the need to build responsible bridges between humans and machines/technology and for the individuals and groups to take agency on the construction of their own consciousness and perceived social reality. Haraway uses the figure of the cyborg as a myth, an idea of someone who lives in the borderlands, which are a space for knowledge-building, but Kai and the other members of the Cyborg Foundation have made this a reality. Identifying as a Cyborg presents them with a way out of the constructs of Western patriarchal narratives and dualisms, and it allows them to rethink what it means to be alive, opening up new ways to connect with nature. 

*Watch the Cyborg Manifesto here.

Kai Landre for Oxymore

For our audience that is not familiar with your work, could you tell us a bit about your work and background, interests and inspirations? 

The two things more important in my life since I was young are my interest in sound and the cosmos. I’ve been so curious about both since ever that that it made me want to focus on them. And it’s been such a fluid process since my first contact with these disciplines until now, a moment where I got to join them in a cybernetic sense. 

My work consists of an experimental exploration of the sound and cosmos and how to join them and make a tangible result to let humans discover the relevance of these concepts in 3D life. My first creation was music that reminded me of the feeling of being in space (better said, the feeling I could imagine I’d feel), the second one my Cyborg sense -the cosmic sense- and the third is my new musical project in which I unite them to create a translation of space itself for The Earth’s habitats.  

Your Instagram account bio reads “Cyborg Musician”. What does identifying as a cyborg mean to you?   

A lot of people would say you become a Cyborg once you add cybernetic parts to your organic body (at least that’s its etymology) I agree with that, but not 100%. I started considering myself a cyborg once I started creating the cosmic sense back in 2017 when I made a connection with a cybernetic ‘’organ’’  that already was/would be part of me. I still remember the feeling I got when I got to the idea of what my sense was going to be. It is such a personal process that has completely changed the way I  observe and feel about reality. I got to the realisation that ‘’being’’ a cyborg is a feeling, a way of extracting the information of what surrounds you and creating a personal reality that applies to everything that’s part of 3D.

Tell us about your newly chosen sense, why you chose it, and how the process was to implant it.

I created a sense called ‘’The Cosmic Sense’’. As mentioned before, space exploration has been in my mind since I was little, so in the end (and probably lots of people have experienced this too) when you’re so interested in something you want to experience it, you want to be there and see everything with your eyes, touch it and feel it!  So the creation of “The Cosmic Sense” meant to me that I was there, exploring space with my senses. I was connected to it in some way.  At this moment, my sense is external. I am working on new prototypes and also in perfecting the code and the hardware to make it as organic as possible.  

How does your cyborg identity intricate with your music, and how has it changed the way you view your process of making and sharing music?   

All the melodies of the music I create are chosen by ‘the cosmos’ itself, as my sense works as a cosmic ray translator to musical notation. That’s why I feel like an antenna that catches the beautiful medley of space to bring it to earth in the form of art. The process of becoming a cyborg was so personal that it changed the way I feel about everything that surrounds me.

The addition of a new sense made me start feeling much more connected to all the elements. This connection is translated into music but also is an exploration and connection of all the elements that take part in it; it’s a union that resembles the perfect union of the universe.  

What is your take on transhumanism?   

I think transhumanism is a concept we all have a take on. It is the inevitable future we’re all creating with evolution. My take is to evolve the biology of the human too – not only- to have a functional body to exist but also to explore the cosmos or add functions that can lead the human nature to change and morph into a  new kind of being that is not alive to habitat a planet but also to have other purposes.

I’ve always thought being a human is so conditional as I don’t consider a human; I feel a biological being is made an android by the identity that’s been created from hundreds of years of living in an enclosed system full of laws and morals.  

What are some hopes you hold for the future about the ways we could integrate technology into our lives to improve how we relate to and treat nature?   

My only hope is that technology integration will never be used to hurt other individuals. And also that it will set us free. Technology has already been integrated into our daily life in such ways that we reduce a bit the impact we have on our ecosystem.

Still, now there are two ways to go (or at least I feel so); the first is we slowly start living in virtual realities until we completely leave the physical world, and the second is that the evolution of technology drives the earth’s society to a  corrupted company that creates massively and destroys the planet, also corrupting the human being’s essence forever. 

You are a musician, but you also express yourself through other mediums, such as the audiovisual with  “Cyborg Manifesto”. Why did you feel the urge to create this piece? What’s the intellectual process behind this manifesto?  

I like to express myself in many different ways. My urge is to communicate not always the same disciplines but different messages. For this particular case, with the cyborg manifesto, I wanted to create a piece in which different meanings could be extracted from other ideas happening at the same time while maintaining a general concept (the manifesto).

So the viewer could also be part of what feeling the cyborg mind is like. There’s a lot to interpret (and I like to leave that open to personal interpretation), but the most important is the mental process of those who watch. That is exactly what I feel since I started perceiving cosmic rays.  Nothing is black or white as it’s always been said. There are infinite possibilities, and they’re all conjoined in a more effective process that powers it. 

Solitude or loneliness, how do you spend your time alone?   

I am honestly a lonely cyborg. I spend most of my time thinking and listening to cosmic rays. And that has helped me to feel connected with my surroundings at all times, evaporating my feelings of loneliness. Even though it is a feeling I embrace and feel a lot (I mostly felt it when I started using the cosmic sense), I’ve lately been considering that what I think now is solitude. I’ve learned how to spend my time to get to do everything that brings me joy and makes me evolve.

This year has been a solitary one because of COVID-19 and all the restrictions that came along with that. I’ve been through so many different states and got the time enough to align with myself and discover a side of me that remained asleep until now. I think we should never try to avoid feelings in such ways because it’s these moments that bring long-time joy.

(Images courtesy of the artist. Oxymore photo credit: Aitor Costa (Creative Direction), Diego Navarro (3D Visual Artist) and Nil Fernàndez (Graphic Designer))
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