Alive and Present

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For the poet: verses.
The oil painter: brushes and blades.
The photographer: an old lens and a steady grip.

No matter the medium, every artist has a fine tool to share their voice.

Some are either lucky or bold enough to find theirs in multiple art forms. As an actor, rapper, poet, and musician, Saul Williams has lent his existence to a voice without fear or hesitation. A new project due early next year, MARTYR. LOSER. KING. is a multimedia experience that taps into the hacker culture as a means to breach into a social landscape we’ve been dying to avoid.

Your body of works includes rap and poetry. When writing, is there a point when you think “This is a rap,” or “This is a poem?” Does that even matter?

It doesn’t fully matter. All poetry has its musicality. If it’s extremely musical and I enjoy the recitation of it, then it usually finds its way to music. If not, maybe it’s perfect as it is. It’s usually pretty clear, but often that isn’t something that goes on in my mind. I’m just inspired by music. I yearn for the musicality, since I’ve been working with rap longer than I have with poetry.

Your new project, MARTYR. LOSER. KING. is a multimedia project. How’s is that process?

I’m just using mixed media like collage artist, connecting the headlines around us and using a hacker’s screen name, MARTYR LOSER KING, as a means of communicating the story primarily because that’s the way I’m learning it: through these devices. It just makes sense for the device to be a character. And when you talk about things like social media and surveillance, the shift from old world to new world . . . we’re no longer shocked by espionage.

You’re more surprised if it’s not happening.

Yeah, like “What the fuck, that’s not going on?” We’ve seen too much James Bond or whatever to not inspect that shit. But now that we’re in this state of transparency, there’s all these things that are coming to light. “Oh, the police is fucked up.” What, you didn’t know that? This is some obvious shit that’s come to light, but now it’s just harder to deny.

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So I think someone who’s savvy in the digital realm can have a lot of fun right now and, I’m interested in fun. Especially when it’s rebellious or devious.

If the artist’s role is to be alive and present in the moment, then how are you alive? How are you present?

I’m present in my intimate world. I have a couch in my house. I have children, family, a wife. A world that I am willingly a part of. And that’s what keeps me present. All these things that come out in my work comes from my discussions at home. And if it’s not from home, it’s the things we choose to bring home. “Guess what happened today.” It provokes more an more.

As an artist, how did you find your voice?

Through theatre initially. Theatre and rapping. It wasn’t the goal when I started, because I didn’t think like that. But I found my voice in using it. It’s an experiential thing, but the more effort you put in it, the more directions you can take it. I’m a big fan of standup comedy for example, and I may have at one point thought that was the direction. You think I’m more serious than that, but that’s what I thought!

But it also comes from silence. From listening. Listening and finding a voice.

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Christopher Tuazon

Hong Kong Correspondent

Teacher, student, and believer in the lifelong learner. Also trying to find my place on the other side of the world I grew up in. I write to share stories and the lessons within them.