Reading the logo for The Artchitects, a female-run production company based in New York, is like that of an inspirational yoga testimonial. Splashed across their website reads “The Artchitects. Breathe, feel, create. Where anything is possible.” The company’s founders, Mursi Layne and Alexis Casson, are standing behind their brand, serving as film directors, sound design, DJ’s, and most recently releasing a popular web series, The Peculiar Kind, a candid show documenting women of color in the LGBTQ community. Afropunk chatted with Mursi and Alexis and asked them about their web series and presence, their views on Frank Ocean and their thoughts on Obama being the first president to openly support gay marriage. They also shared their future plans on connecting with the Afropunk community.
Interview by Whitney Summer
Photo by Phil Knott
The Artchitects team is a melting pot of many different skill sets and talents. With all that you do, what’s your elevator speech?
The Artchitects is a Brooklyn-based boutique production company that specializes in all aspects of film, video and sound design while incorporating eye-catching contemporary aesthetics. And if that's not enough, we also offer DJ services and equipment rental.
Afropunk has featured your new video series, The Peculiar Kind, a Web series focused on women of color in the LGBT community. What were your reasons for creating the Web series?
There's a lack of images that don't perpetuate stereotypes especially in the LGBTQ people of color community. Shows such as "Awkward Black Girl" and "Black Folk Don't" have opened up doors for web-series like "The Peculiar Kind" to showcase those who were once deemed non-existent or going against the norm.
We have been getting nothing but positive feedback from all races, creeds, ages, and sexual orientations. The main purpose of creating "The Peculiar Kind" was to open up the hearts and minds of those who were justifiably "ignorant" to a subculture due to a lack of exposure. Hence the title of the show, QPOC are not that peculiar after all.
What has been the most surprising feedback?
The most surprising feedback we have received is from teenage viewers from around the world who have a real need to see themselves reflected in some form of media. More specifically, the viewers who are treated like outcasts in their communities can relate to the cast members through the discussions and feel as though they have found a safe space.
How do you feel about Frank Ocean's recent decision to reveal that he is gay via Tumblr and about the reactions saying it will ruin his career?
Is he gay? or is he bisexual? or was it just an experience? Nonetheless, Frank Ocean is EVERYTHING! Hopefully one day "coming out" stories won't make headline news. Self-acceptance is a part of life. As far as the negative feedback, we should expect more support and acceptance from a society that supposedly promotes individuality. By the way, who he chooses to love has nothing to with his music.
Did you ever think Obama would be the first president to openly accept gay marriage?
Yes. His decision makes perfect sense. Our government has a history for making exceptions for the term "all men are created equal". However, President Obama is not your typical President (for many reasons). Although we don't believe the civil rights movement is the same as the gay rights movement, we do believe if you want to marry you should have the same rights to do so as any other American.
The Artchitects Web image, branding and colors have a very cohesive vision. When you were planning the foundation of your image, what were you hoping to convey by the design? What were those conversations like between you two?
To be honest, there really wasn't a thought process when we designed our site. We are considering revamping EVERYTHING. As far as the color scheme goes, we didn't want anything too feminine or masculine so we figured teal was the way to go. Ha!
What should people be looking forward to with your collaboration with Afropunk?
We have been following Afropunk for years. When we created our most recent web-series, the folks at AP really liked the series and contacted us about collaborating and contributing visual content to the AP community.
What are the dynamics between your team working together? If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
We work well together, we feed off of each other's creative energy. Because we're known for being able to create for a diverse clientele, the one word we would use to describe the Artchitects is adaptavative (adaptable + innovative combined). You asked for one word so we had to make one up real quick :-)
What do you hope to create from working with the Afropunk community?
We hope to inform and spark conversation within the community as a whole. "The Peculiar Kind" was created for everyone.