Hanging Out With... Vinson Fraley Jr
On the second night of Browns Berlin, dancer Vinson Fraley Jr treated a rapt audience to a mesmerising routine of song and dance, performed within art duo OrtaMiklos’ sculptural installation. A New Yorker by way of Atlanta, Vinson’s work has already seen him featured in Interview magazine and Self Service, alongside a recent Frieze collaboration with photographer Collier Schorr. Catching up with Vinson after his performance, we spoke to him about art, expression, and creating work with a uniquely “Vinson-ish” twist.
Where are you from and how did you end up in Berlin?
I was born in Statesville, North Carolina and am currently based in New York City. In 2016 a dance company I was with was invited me to be a part of a festival in Berlin called Tanz im August. I fell in love with the city, made some friends, and now find myself here often for creative work and to escape the States.
How would you describe what you do?
I would call myself a performer, researcher and player. I think the root of what I do stems from play and curiosity.
Where did you grow up and how has your background influenced your work?
I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, which is an extremely vibrant and creative city. There’s so much culture that has been shaped by artists and makers from Atlanta. More than anything, my background has given me the tools and drive to keep trying new things and pushing past conventions.
How did you get into dance? Did you experiment with any other career choices?
In high school, our gym credit could either be taken as an introduction to dance or a regular gym class. I ended up in the dance class and fell in love with it. Shortly afterwards I started attending a dance studio outside of school. I was then accepted into Tisch Dance at New York University. Meanwhile, I had a strong desire to get back into voice and drama because those parts of me came even before the dance. I started singing and recording music about two years ago, and some very exciting things have started to develop from that.
How did your relationship with OrtaMiklos begin?
We were both involved in a festival in Burgundy, France. I had come prepared to perform my solo in an empty room within the castle, but to my surprise there was an art installation inside. I ended up finding a way to incorporate the pieces into my work, and it really resonated with both Leo [Orta] and I.
What is it about their work that speaks to you?
I really enjoy the fact that their work embraces many forms and textures. I can’t really pin down what exactly I’m experiencing and I like that. I’m not so interested in things that I find easily identifiable.
What themes were you aiming to communicate in your Browns Berlin performance?
A few things that came up a lot were ideas around creation, migration, environmental degradation, sensuality, fluidity, violence, chaos, pleasure, and blurring the lines of feminine and masculine energies.
"I spend alone time moving and singing almost every day, often documenting to observe my habits and to hold on to moments I’d like to recreate."
When you’re performing, are you aware of what’s going on around you or are you lost in the moment?
A little bit of both. There are moments of trance-like states, but there’s also a great deal of self-awareness that has to go into keeping track of what’s happening and how the audience is responding.
Do you have any rituals?
I make bacon and eggs almost every morning. I love really long, hot showers, so I tend to do that before performing. I spend alone time moving and singing almost every day, often documenting to observe my habits, and to hold on to moments I’d like to recreate.
What’s been your most memorable career moment to date?
I’d say performing my work alone this summer in Burgundy. I’d never shared something in Europe that was my own creation, where I was onstage all alone. It really gave me reassurance in my artistic voice and faculties.
If you were to describe your hallmark as an artist, how would you describe it?
I’d say my ability to mix styles and forms, and reinterpreting that synthesis in my own "Vinson-ish" way.
What was the last thing you bought?
A plane ticket to see my family down South.
What was the last thing you lost?
My Loewe fanny pack. It pretty much had my entire life inside it.
I recently became obsessed with an old silent film by Jean Cocteau called Blood Of A Poet.
I’m constantly inspired the work of my friends.
Go-to spot in Berlin?
I often start my mornings in Berlin at a spot called Tante Emma.
Favourite item of clothing?
I just got these Rick Owens boots that I’m pretty obsessed with.
If you were a fictional character who would you be?
Maybe Nightcrawler from the Marvel Comics… he seems fun!
Watch the video below to discover Vinson's Browns Berlin performance.
Photography by: Jonathan Middleton
Styling By: Emma Hagardon
Interview by: Georgia Graham