Not many artists can say they have been working consistently since they were in third grade. But Kenzo Digital isn’t exactly your typical artist. “I have had very untraditional career trajectory,” says Digital, who started out as a grade school graffiti artist, went on to study visual art at Carnegie Mellon University, and then catapulted from deejaying to directing.
The former Wieden + Kennedy creative director is perhaps best known for his experiential multi-media productions, in particular, Beyoncé’s stunning performance of “Run the World (Girls)” at last year’s Billboard Music Awards. He teamed again with Bey, and agency Droga5, on “I Am Here,” a live event/video and part of the UN’s World Humanitarian Day campaign. He has also directed commercials, including the Jordan Brand Dwyane Wade vehicle, “Dominate Another Day” campaign out of Wieden + Kennedy, experimental films (such as “City of God’s Son”), and a documentary, “Jamel Shabazz: Street Photographer.” Oh, and he is the video director at artist Nam June Paik’s studio.
Digital recently signed with United Talent Agency and RSA Films, Ridley Scott’s production company, and says he is developing features. “I like playing with different mediums to arrive at a core message.”
We speak with him here (view his work in the slide show above).
Co. Create: How do you describe what you do?
Kenzo Digital: In a nutshell, I’m a director and an artist. I dabble in a lot of different things, everything from filmmaking to music. I like jumping around to different mediums. I truly believe that different mediums are best suited to different kinds of storytelling. The thing that interests me the most is the convergence of video games and films and highly interactive storytelling taking place outside of the normal screen.
Is Kenzo Digital your real name?
Kenzo is my real name, but “digital” is my artist name. I don’t look up to many people, but I look up to RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan because he creates work that transcends different genres and mediums. His career trajectory spans music and film. I didn’t name myself after him exactly, but he used the name Bobby Digital in his work.
Also, as an artist, I’m obsessed with how people and humans interact with technology. “Kenzo” represents me as a person and “Digital” represents me digitizing myself and my expressions and how I choose to work.
Can you talk about the role music plays in your work?
I was always inspired by the music I grew up with–hardcore punk rock, hip-hop, high-energy aggressive “fuck the establishment” music was my biggest inspiration as a kid. As an artist I am always trying to produce the same sort of energy.
What was it like working with Beyoncé?
Beyoncé is a great artist and arguably the world’s best performer. She’s definitely always looking to push the boundaries and has great vision. She also has an incredible work ethic. Sometimes she would work alongside with me until 3 or 4 in the morning.
Video artist Nam June Paik is your great uncle. Did that influence you creatively?
He is the father of video art. As a kid, I had the privilege of hanging out at the studio with him and other artists and being exposed to how art and technology fuse together in an organic and meaningful way. We live in the world that he prophesized in his work. He coined the phrase “electronic superhighway.” We now have an umbilical cord to the Internet.
What’s your vision of the future?
As a species, we are beginning to migrate the human experience into a digital world. So that down the road, we will be able to control and create our own personal customized versions of reality.
You’re very productive. When do you find time to sleep?
I go through periods when I don’t sleep that much at all because I’m so wired and excited and then I go through periods when I try to gain that time back. Sleep can be so boring sometimes.