Multimedia archival work is essential to the existence of contemporary diasporic connection through art and creation. If we do not support and give shine to the members in our communities creating work in this exact moment, what are generations after us going to have to look back on? So much non-Western, non-white history is left unknown and untold because of social inequity and silencing.
CLUB CHAI exists as a curatorial platform centering queer and trans artists, DJs, and producers as well as a multitude of diasporic narratives. Founded by multidisciplinary producers, DJs and visual artists, Esra Canoğulları and Lara Sarkissian, this party was always intended for expansion into various art mediums that would embrace their ideas. Both founders, Canoğullari of Turkish descent and Sarkissian of Armenian descent, expressed the importance for them to make room for cultural conversations extending beyond their own roots.
“For some people it’s hard to understand what, exactly we are. ‘Are you a label? Are you a party?’ We can be all of that. We kept it this way so we could expand into different spaces within the world, including film and music, just to show people that this kind of thing is still connected to all these different mediums. Like a story that extends beyond a party, CLUB CHAI reflects not only our practices as interdisciplinary artists, but the practices of everyone we already work with,” explains founder, Lara Sarkissian.
In conversation with Canoğulları and Sarkissian, we discussed the constant feeling of needing to commodify our own cultures, creating some sense of digestibility for the masses. This is a present issue with the way people consume the bodies of work non-white artists create, without understanding a culture beyond a popularized reference point. Their platform has created the opportunity for travel and connection with global music output, situated in contexts far different than what the US has to offer. Curations by Canoğulları and Sarkissian, are layered with homage to queer and trans DJs, whose performances took place before egoism and Internet recognition were normalized. Contemporary “DJ culture” centers the DJs fandom and visibility, and not necessarily the sonic story being told. It is apparent how important navigating this reality is for the founders of CLUB CHAI. They are creating an environment in which people feel included in the soundscape and not separated from a person behind the gear.
“I think DJing is inherently about an archive and always has been. That’s why a lot of interdisciplinary artists gravitate toward that medium. It’s something that you can tell stories with and talk about with time, using the past, the present, and thinking about the future; to create these really transcendent moments that aren’t just about you. It’s about having this dialogue with the crowd, to create what you want the future to sound and feel like—what you’re excited about,” Canoğulları continues.