Photo by Warren Perlstein
Kao Ra Zen, born Kenya Fulton, hails from Chicago, Illinois. Kao's art practice involves creative writing, spoken word, music, video directing, and performance art. He has also worked on creative projects in the mediums of drawing, painting, acting, modeling, and dance. He has curated events and performed at many prominent venues throughout Chicago including Symphony Center, Links Hall, Dank Haus (German American Cultural Center), Subterranean, Alhambra Palace, and Elastic Arts. In his travels, he has performed and exhibited artwork in Germany, performed at an Open Mic in Guatemala, and helped to install solar panels in El Salvador.
Kao's poetry has appeared in 'Not My President-The Anthology of Dissent' from Thoughtcrime Press, 'Illinois's Best Emerging Poets' and 'America's Best Emerging Poets' from Z Publishing, 'A Love Supreme' (an oral history of Chicago Hip Hop collective, the legendary Nacrobats), Fnewsmagazine, Tuck Magazine, Highland Park Poetry, and 'Gut Check digest' from Shady Pines Radio.
In February 2020, Kao released his first official music video, "Morning in America", a controversial work that would twice be removed from YouTube. Kao would direct the debut music video, "Killing in the Name of Love" for longtime friend and creative collaborator, Dodo Mafioso, first released in April 2020. Following the murder of George Floyd, Kao would team up with another Chicago Hip-Hop stalwart, Ness The God, to release the single and music video, "I'm Tired", on the 4th of July, 2020. Kao would continue to release a string of music videos, "G.O.D. Bless", "Advent", "F.T.A.", "Fight Forever", and "Live Forever".
In 2015, he would earn an Associate in Fine Arts degree from Harold Washington College. A recipient of a Presidential Merit Scholarship, Kao would earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in December 2020. He teaches weekly poetry classes at Hyde Park Academy and is also pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at Chicago State University.
Kao has been recording material for his solo debut album, 'TIME of the SIGNS'; as well as working on music with his performance art/music troupe, The Ungovernables, for an EP tentatively titled: "SUMMER of LOVE".
Kao has been commissioned by NON:op to create a response to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Salvatore Martirano's L's GA. For this project, Kao is developing a multimedia performance entitled 'FATE of the UNION ADDRESS', to be presented in March 2023. Kao has many upcoming performance events and art exhibitions throughout 2023, including a September performance at the Turku City Theater in Finland, and at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago.
Photo by Javier Enriquez