"We have to stay open to new opportunities, pay attention to what is happening and thus see how we can innovate in meaningful ways"
Always stay curious
Music+Tech+Ai, by Rania Kim (Portrait XO)
Rania aka Portrait XO, defines herself as a hybrid artist who experiments with music, technology, and visual arts. She arrived from Los Angeles in 2017 with her project called Freeges. This initiative allowed her to build bridges between issues such as freedom, forced migration, refugees, hunger; and co-creation, art and music. Since then, Berlin has become her home and she has collaborated with artists from all over the world on many more projects and initiatives. Thanks to such collaborations Rania found her current co-founder of her new company SO Lab X, which makes new technologies such as AI, Machine learning and mixed reality accessible to both artists and scientists.
We took a walk with Rania through the charming neighborhood of Neukölln, where she showed us some of her favorite spots. For distance reasons, we interviewed her by video call and turned it into a podcast that you can listen to on Spotify.
I need to be flexible to survive
While attending an artistic residency at Factory Berlin back in 2017, Rania met her current project partner. Together, they founded So Lab x during 2020 in response to a new way of interpreting live music during the pandemic.
Porträt Berlin: How did you come up with the idea of merging your interests and founding SO LAB X?
Rania Kim: By the middle of 2020 all my shows and events had been canceled and that gave me the guideline that I would have to go digital — a big change for the reality of the live music industry. My interest, along with that of my partner Kalam Ali, lies in mixed reality, live broadcasts and games. Consequently, we reached out to motion capture studios, developers, 3D artists and technologists in Berlin who were interested in partnering to develop new ideas for live streaming.
This is how SO LAB X was born. The name stands for “Sound Obsessed Lab”. It's something that came to me quickly while working on the development of my new hybrid arts label and the "Sound Obsessed" collective. My goal is for it to become a showcase and an interesting network of musical artists working at the intersection of art, science and technology, and that in turn SO LAB X can offer them paid opportunities.
PB: What does it mean to be a founder?
RK: For me, being a founder means that, as a creative, I have to be flexible to survive. We need to stay open to new opportunities, pay attention to what is happening and analyze how we can innovate in a meaningful way. Do your research, meet new people who are also walking the road, and work together to create new solutions. We are living in a time of isolation and with a new level of fatigue due to the current state of the world. We have financial, mental, physical and emotional problems, so it is necessary that we work together and help each other, not only to innovate in the sector, but also for our well-being.
For now, success for me is surviving as a creative.
PB: What aspects of being a founder resonate the most with you?
RK: Independence and freedom. With all the anxieties and fears that being an entrepreneur brings, I value having enough creative freedom to work and stay on this risky path. I have slowly gained confidence over the years from many experiments and trying many new things to find out what works for me.
There is no simple answer, but following this path has helped me develop new survival skills that I didn't know I had. Some of those unexpected skills have been learning to manage my anxieties with meditation, taking calculated risks by constantly evaluating myself, learning to trust myself and above all accept failure, because that comes with the risk of wanting to innovate.
Rania speaks to us with passion, convinced that undertaking her own project is almost a necessity, an experience that we should all try at least once in our lives. We find her vision clear and inspiring, because it asks us to consider elementary things that we sometimes leave aside in our daily routines. That’s why we delved further into this topic and to close the interview we asked her about her idea of success.
PB: What would be a definition of success for you?
RK: I think it changes throughout our lives, as our values change. For now, success for me is surviving as a creative and feeling healthy while doing it. I think I'm really lucky to have survived this 2020, it has been a great challenge. Being in a constant state of gratitude is the best kind of success. If someone can maintain that, it means that they can be satisfied with life no matter what situation they are in. I’ve found that gratitude to be especially helpful during stressful times.
PB: What advice would you give to artists (and people in general) to deal with the current situation?
RK: My tips are:
1. Practice gratitude: constantly be grateful (and express it) to yourself, with those around you and with those who have helped you get where you are. If it weren't for my mentors and the support I've received over the years I don't think I would have survived that long.
2. Co-Creation: Real innovation and success occur when diverse talents and people are combined. It also means constantly learning something new. Working with others is very enriching, one can achieve their goals faster with support and this allows us to stay sane and not feel isolated.
3. Stay Curious: No matter how crazy and difficult life gets, the wonder of curiosity will always lead to new solutions. This means that we ask our mind to ask more questions about the problems we are trying to solve and it also allows us to understand what our true interest in them is.
Curiosity allows us to remain open to new ideas and perspectives. As we learn, we grow. As long as we are growing, we evolve. As long as we are evolving, we will live and prosper.
The Berlin market is complex, networks, associations and above all, the generation of new ideas are the skills it requires. And Rania has slowly carved her path to success with her networking skills, and the support of her mentor. After our conversation (including the podcast) we were able to understand why she defines herself as a hybrid artist and above all, how she has managed to stay in a market that she has known for a few years: her resilience, the ability to navigate the waves of change and adapt.
The opportunities are out there, you just have to be prepared.
You can visit her website (which btw looks amazing!) And learn about the different projects she is currently working on.