Back in 2007, she was Bunny Rabbit – it was the era of scenesters, top eight, Internet party photos, seemingly blind vapidness and a generation of millennials desperately seeking a discernible identity. She sang about taking cocaine anally and smoking marijuana vaginally – with backing beats from trans MC and Coco Rosie beat boxer Black Cracker. Her album “Lovers and Crypts” garnered a lot of attention – Sasha Frere-Jones in a New Yorker article dubbed her “the original art rapper.” Today, she is Bunny Michael – after four years of self-realization and a recent sexual revolution she has found a deeper, more meaningful side to herself as an artist and a person. Her recent series of photographs, which are on view now at Alt Space in Brooklyn, are a testament to her evolution and elevation. The exhibition – entitled “The Etheric Double – is the artist’s first solo show and features portraits of the artist and her “spiritual twin” who is manifest as a higher consciousness and a conduit for “kindness, love and acceptance.” In the following interview, Bunny talks about coming out, sexual revolution and the importance of finding your own spiritual twin.
You describe yourself as a “Nature Slut,” and as a “Telepathic Goddess of the Future.” Can you introduce your identity as an artist and explain what those terms mean?
I call myself a Nature Slut because it’s an identity I created. A few years ago, I was writing an erotic poem about having sex with a woman in nature. I realized that what I was trying to get at was the other woman being myself, a higher version of myself, a natural being. I realized that I had lost touch—or I had never been in touch—with the part of me that is Nature. Human beings, we often think of Nature. The sexual part of it is just wanting to be in touch with nature as a sexual being, being a creator. I don’t really see any difference; I think that sexual expression is the ultimate form of creation. We can’t take for granted—as females—the power to create another human being. I feel that there is power in the forgotten past of sexual energy, sex magic… There are multiple layers.
Doesn’t the word slut have a negative connotation?
It’s a reclaiming of the word, “slut.” It’s natural to have sexual desire. It’s not shameful. The shaming of it is what creates a lot of the pain around it. The history of shaming our sexual nature is, in my opinion, the reason why we have so much sex crime, sex violence. It’s because we have repress this energy. And we repress it because we don’t feel free to express it. So, the word, “slut”—I was called a slut a lot when I was young, just being who I was. I didn’t even have a lot of partners, but kids at school still called me a slut. So I’ve always identified with that word, in a way. I want to reclaim it and say, “Okay, fine, I’m proud to be sexual.”
There seems to be a lot of repression in society, especially with women.
Of course with women. The sexual nature of women is an untapped, forgotten power that we have over men—great men, who are attracted to women. I think that’s why a lot of men feel the need to holler at a woman on the street or sexually degrade her. They feel overwhelmed by the power this woman has over them, and she doesn’t even notice them. We can just be walking down the street, minding our own business, but we exude a power that they don’t understand. It’s their way of reclaiming their power.
Where do you think this fear of power comes from?
I think it’s thousands of years of degrading women, ever since the Inquisition. Centuries of the genocide of females. There are villages in Europe that didn’t have any women at all because they had killed them off. There was this whole campaign against women so that religion could have more control. There’s a power that women are more sensitive to, that comes within their natural abilities. I think that’s very threatening to the establishment. We’re living in a time now where we have to bring back the feminine. It exists in both males and females, but I think the energy is feminine, especially with our connection to the earth. We’re living in a time where we’re remembering our power. The old ways aren’t working anymore. We’re getting that, we’re becoming more aware of that, we’re getting more in touch. The feminine is becoming more and more powerful.
What are some ways that we can level the playing field? How do we bring progress? Through art?
I think it’s raising your voice. Whether it’s through your art, through your discussions with your friends. To be honest, I think the number one thing is raising your own consciousness. There are a lot of activists out there who identify as being an activist. But I think it takes looking at yourself first, before you can claim that somebody else is wrong. Part of that feminine energy has a lot to do with compassion and understanding.
It doesn’t seem like it should just be women exploring that. Men should be taking these topics to light as well.
Men and women have suffered from the imbalance. This goes back to the racial thing too. Privilege isn’t always a blessing. I don’t want that to be interpreted the wrong way… It’s our struggles that make us stronger people. It’s the experiences that we’ve had, the worldly ideas that we’ve encountered. I’ve said this about growing up gay. The experiences I went through were hard, but they made me more important. And they made me more in touch with my sexual nature. If you’re living in a world of illusions—you grew up in a rich family, you went to school, you did what your dad did, maybe you have a lot of money… Is that what life is about? Life is about having joyous, fulfilling experiences. I don’t resent people who haven’t been put in situations that test their strength, because those situations help you grow.
Speaking of coming out and your family, did you have a lot of support from your family on your initial journey as an artist, as a person?
Initially, I didn’t really. My mom wasn’t born in this country, and my dad grew up with a lot of cultural influences, so they didn’t quite understand what they should do. They wanted to do right. In their mind, they thought it would be a hard life, so they didn’t want that for me. The crazy thing was that when I was young and coming out, I had a lot of friends’ parents who were really supportive. But on some other level, they were kind of spoiled kids. They got a lot of money, they partied all the time. Even though my parents, since they came from a different culture, didn’t understand that aspect, they understood something else that was very, very important. That was loyalty to family, which was a very valuable lesson. I don’t think that was a part of American culture. That lasted, and we’ve grown together from that. So I don’t regret any of those experiences with my parents. Now, they’re very supportive. We’ve all grown together. But the lessons they did instill in me were invaluable.
You do have to appreciate the positive aspects of what they appreciate. When did you know that you first wanted to make music? Was it music or art? When did you first start exploring your artistic side?
I started exploring my artistic side when I was in high school. I started doing a lot of LSD, and something just clicked in my head. Something literally opened up in my brain, some portal. I started doing a lot of drugs, my friends were all doing them. I was an actress then, too. I came to New York and realized, oh shit, you could do whatever you wanted. I still hadn’t done music, but I was dating somebody who was really good friends with the band Coco Rosie. We started playing around and making music. I started freestyling about a Bunny. They were like, let’s make a record. And the put out my record in 2005. It was called “Bunny Rabbit.” I did all the lyrics, but it was really a collaboration between us and another artist called Black Cracker. We toured a lot, we had a lot of success. But at the time I was very ego. I wasn’t able to really enjoy what was happening, and that’s why it fell apart. So in the past few years since then, I’ve been teaching myself how to make music and learning a lot of life lessons. This is my first solo project.
This is your first solo art show?
This is my first solo art show. The necessity for art came with the music. We made our own flyers, our own music videos. We did everything ourselves. That was a big part of the aesthetic of sound then. Now, I use that as the same mold, the same message. The visual art, the music, everything is connected to the same message.
You’ve been doing a lot of videos on YouTube in which you’re talking directly to artists, but you’ve also been talking about this sexual revolution after experimenting with plant-based medicines. Can you describe this revolution? How has this changed you as an artist?
I used to not be very open about it. I used to want to keep things private. But I’ve been practicing with ayahuasca. I know a lot of people practice with it now. The reason why I bring it up is because I don’t think anyone is talking about it. I had a sexual revolution from it that was totally unexpected. I expected to learn to love myself and all the things I had heard about it. But for me, it channeled all this sexual energy. I looked at my body for the first time and saw that I was this sexual form of nature. I started to really love that, for the first time. And I felt really comfortable in that. I saw that I was this animal, beautiful being. Then, I got really into sex magic. I started to feel very spiritual about my sexual practices. I started having visions during them. I think there’s a whole untapped world in that realm. And it goes back to ancient eastern sex practices. I am, by far, not the first person to experience this. There’s lots of books about it. We have this power within ourselves. It’s the power of creation. It’s not just about being able to create a child. We can manifest anything we want. Also, there’s the issue of the female orgasm and how unexplored that is.
Especially to American society, it feels like a complete mystery. It seems like our viewpoints since the Victorian era have not been that different.
There are still scientists who claim that it doesn’t exist. It’s really crazy to me. So I’m praying and hoping that my work inspires others to feel unashamed about their desires. I want them to feel comfortable in their expression.
I think we need that more than ever right now. Your group show—“The Etheric Double”—is a fascinating concept. Can you describe the idea of the Etheric Double?
On this journey that I’ve been on—which I feel a lot of people are on right now—is a journey of self-realization, awakenings, and awareness of self. Actually, I started going to hypnotherapy. I started visualizing myself doing things in those sessions, and that was very healing for me. So I started to develop seeing my spirit in meditations. She was myself, the form that I see in the mirror. It was very healing for me to know that this higher being, my spirit self, was looking after me. I felt her comfort. She was who I was outside of the form of this body. The way I saw her was as my twin. So then, I made one photo where there was two of me, and something just clicked. It was her. So I kept making these photographs of me and her with a dialogue. Some of the photos are kind of uncomfortable. There’s a push and pull between the two of us. Some days, I wake up and I’m not there; I can’t be the present person that I want to be. And then some days I’m right with her. I think we’re all going through that right now. We’re at this time of really big change, really big awakening. We can feel it about to happen, but we’re not quite there yet. We still have to do more work. So I was trying to illustrate that with the Etheric Double, that story, the domestic story of our relationship to the everyday. Everyday, just trying to do your best.
That’s really interesting. You have a performance coming up in Sweden, in July. Can you talk a little about that?
It’s their pride festival. They asked to play, and I said yes, because a lot of friends of mine have played. Juliana Huxtable is a good friend, and she played there last year. I’m excited. I want to put myself out to the world, do a lot of traveling. I want to connect with people who have different experiences. I’m usually in a bubble, especially in Brooklyn. I’m really looking forward to going overseas.
Especially with last week’s ruling, that’s amazing. That’s a big, big step. My last question is, what do you want people to know about you as an artist that they don’t already know?
I want people to know that I am not about exclusivity. I’m about inclusiveness. The time of exclusiveness is over. It’s time for us to come together and realize what we have in common. We have to work together. It’s not going to be one person doing this alone. If anyone came in contact with me, I would want them to feel totally comfortable connecting with me. If they wanted to send me a message on Facebook, send me an email, whatever, they could. I don’t people to look at my art and see this untouchable thing. I want to be an artist of the people. I know they may not like the particular technique that I use, but I want the energy to be that of inclusiveness. That’s what I strive for.
Bunny Michael's first solo exhibition, entitled "Etheric Double," is on view now until July 12 at Alt Space, 41 Montrose Avenue, Brooklyn. See her music video for Gasolina below. Click here to purchase her 2014 EP Rainbow Licker. Text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE