The Way We Get By: Kat Cunning Is Just Letting Emptiness Happen

Taking time to just live has been valuable for their writing.

I feel like this time, for a lot of people, has begat panic. But for me, it’s mostly been a release and an opportunity to be creative. And not just creative in the way that a lot of people are feeling the pressure to create their next masterpiece — I’ve actually totally avoided making what is usually my art for the last few weeks. I’m just trying to take things in that I don’t usually have the chance to. For a performing artist, and especially a musician, the formula is usually, you’re on tour and it’s output every single day. Then when you get back, it’s writing sessions every day and you’re trying to have something interesting to say. I really value this time.

I write a lot from my childhood, actually, because that’s when I had time. The time to live an experience worth writing about is super, super valuable — to let emptiness happen to you so that you have something to say eventually. 

I’ve been taking in a lot of art; I’ve been watching some really great movies. One is The Shakedown, which is a documentary on a lesbian strip club in the aughts in LA in a black community. It’s such an amazing celebration of strippers and nightclubs that bring a sense of community to people, and sexuality being normalized and celebrated is really great. You can find it both on Pornhub and the New York Times. I was yelling at my TV — I felt like I was going out. I really, really miss going out and dancing, so that one gave me a lot of joy.

The other one is unreleased, but it’s really special. It’s called Jumbo and it is about objectophilia, which is where you fall in love with an inanimate object. This young girl falls in love with a tilt-a-whirl, and it’s the most visual, sensual move. It kind of gave me blue balls because there’s no one around to touch, but I guess I have a lot of things in my house, so maybe I could just be one of these people now. It stars Noémie Merlant, who is also one of the leads in Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and she’s just so captivating.

I haven’t been finding myself visiting the regular stuff I do, because I’m trying to watch one movie a night to feel like I’m doing something — like I’m going to the movies, making an event out of it. I feel like it’s really important to be a sponge if you’re given the opportunity to do that. I know some people are working, especially essential workers, and are not being given a break at all. But as an artist, it’s part of my job to take time to take things in. 

I’m living with my partner, who unfortunately contracted corona. We’re just at the tail end of it and she is doing great. So that’s really shaped my quarantine time, because it’s been a cool opportunity to get in touch with my domestic side — which, people who know me know that I’ve cooked, like, three meals in the last five years. It’s not my normal way of being. But it’s been really fun and creative; it’s a cool outlet to make something. Either it goes well or it goes horribly, but either way you’re making something. It’s given me the opportunity to connect with my family a little more, because my mom’s side of the family is steeped with Greek culture, and I found a cookbook from her with all of our family recipes that I never once even read the prologue for. It’s been a cool opportunity to look at things you don’t usually value when you’re putting your career first. What an asshole I was for not noticing it, when my mom first made this for everyone in the family! 

Obviously Zoom is a lifesaver, but also one way people have been using it is,Ryan Heffington, has been leading a workout class on it — it feels so much more human than working out to online stuff. It feels like a party. There’s also lots of really great social distancing dance parties. House of Yes hosts one of them with a live DJ, and Social Dis-dance party is another one. I’ve been putting the word out, because it’s helping me feel like I have somewhere to be.

The coronavirus has hit many people financially, and it’s been especially tough on musicians who rely on touring to support themselves. If you’re able and inclined, check out Kat’s website and order a T-shirt, some vinyl, or whatever they’ve got on offer. Every little bit helps.

Named “One to Watch” by BBC tastemaker Annie Mac, Kat Cunning (aka Katrina Cunningham) is an actor and recording artist with a degree in concert dance. Cunning, who prefers to be gender neutral, made their television debut in HBO’s The Deuce starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, playing Franco’s love interest, Christina Fuego. They currently co-stars in the NETFLIX YA hit TRINKETS as Sabine. TRINKETS will see its second season this year.

A rising voice on the NYC arts scene, Cunning opened for recording artist LP on their sold out North American tour in late 2019, performed on Broadway in ‘Dangerous Liaisons,’ Cirque Du Soleil’s ‘Paramour,’ Punch Drunk’s  ‘Sleep No More’ and was a featured performer in Refinery 29’s sold out 29Rooms exhibit with famed artist Juno Calypso.