Culture //

Gillian Kayrooz: $kimmed Milk

Soo-Min Shim explores how Gillian Kayrooz presents youth culture in contemporary society.

What is contemporary? Should it continue to be understood as a reference to the now? And could it perhaps have a distinct aesthetic of its own?

Multi-disciplinary artist and current Sydney College of the Arts student, Gillian Kayrooz, raises these questions in her portrayal and deconstruction of  youth culture. Her focus is on millenial vernacular and suburban identities, which she explores in her video work $kimmed Milk (2017). Markers of Australian youth, like sneakers, skateboards, goon sacks and Adidas jackets, dominate the screen. Yet, in Kayrooz’s universe, sneakers are used as phones, faces of ostensibly relatable young characters are distorted, and there is no real sense of place, with the background covered by garbage bags. Kayrooz mutates what is known into something bizarre and surreal, insinuating perhaps that the contemporary itself is constructed.

$kimmed Milk combines the banal with the extraordinary as everyday behaviour and responses are exaggerated to the point of ‘transgression’. But what constitutes ‘everyday behaviour’? When do certain actions become accepted into the mainstream and consolidated as trends? Who has the authority to dictate what becomes ‘socially acceptable’?

Platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook, are unique to our generation and in their sway over us. The ubiquity of the moving image in everyday life shapes youth culture too, from purchasing Fenty makeup to the latest Tide Pod rage. Citing mumblecore, R&B and hip-hop as major influences, Kayrooz adopts and subverts the music video form. After all, white Gucci low-top sneakers exploded in popularity after Frank Ocean donned them in his album cover Chanel last year.  In $kimmed Milk electronic music is warped, mirroring the distortion of reality that occurs online and in music videos. Kayrooz’s characters consume bread and milk in highly stylised ways. They regurgitate the bread and in a low electronic voice they claim “I love wheat”. Their exaggerated chewing is repeated over and over again on a never-ending loop, leaving us in the world of hyperreal absurdity.

This absurdity lies at the heart of neoliberal capitalism—as it commercialises even the most basic needs and constructs a stylised reality based on material performance.  As a Western Sydney local, Kayrooz is particularly concerned with the mass commercialisation of her home town’s lifestyle, particularly its street fashion. For Western Sydney-siders, street style is a fact of life. However, through the internet and high-brand fashion, it has become a commodity, perversely transformed into a luxury. She states “people wore sneakers just because they had to… Now they’re worth hundreds of dollars.” Indeed, being a hypebeast has never been so expensive. The dollar sign in the title of the work not only references rap, but represents the focus on wealth, power and status in a capitalist system.

Kayrooz’s video distortion further represents the state of affairs in a post-internet age, a world where the internet is the dominant cultural force. Her over-saturated colours, edits, and graphics evoke the sensations of being besieged by the spectacle of the internet, and of capitalism. The excess of Kayrooz’s visual motifs reflect current state of inundation of brands and labels. Materialism and visibility have never been more important: as Bella Hadid stated, the type of sneakers you wear determine if “homeboy’s going to like, get it”.

Kayrooz is conscious that she is a young artist operating in the the post-internet movement. She comments on the highly curated nature of many artist’s Instagrams. Their online presence and personas are a method of advertising their own artistic practice, as art and capitalism increasingly intersect. By appropriating and recreating internet motifs, Kayrooz hints at the misleading nature, and overwhelming power, of the images we consume, whether it be through music videos or through art. They contain the information that shapes our society, its people and our way of thinking.

Perhaps Kayrooz provides a tentative definition of contemporaneity: what is contemporary and what is now, will always shift. As images transform, so too will our reality, so too will the present moment that we occupy.

Find full $kimmed Milk video below.


Kayrooz is completing her honours year of a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) at Sydney College of the Arts. Her works have been collected by AIRspace Projects, Verge Gallery, the National Library of Australia and the Sydney College of the Arts Library. She has exhibited at Dedspace Gallery, AIRspace Projects, Sydney College of the Arts, Verge Gallery, ES74 Gallery, Gaffa Gallery and Mils Gallery. Kayrooz’s video art was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney in 2016. Kayrooz has recently completed a residency at the Chengdu Academy of Fine Arts in China where she exhibited her work. Kayrooz is currently completing an artist’s residency at Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville. She will exhibit there later on 29th March.

Upcoming exhibitions include:

Red Rattler Residency Exhibition 29th March 2018

Yves Lee’s Love Letter: I Do 6-28th July at 541 Art Space

Yves Lee’s Love Letter: I Do Pink Ribbon Fundraiser 21st June 2018 at Gaffa Gallery

Favour Economy contributor 1st July 2018 Online